You may have noticed that some older people have skin so thin that it almost appears translucent. It's not just your imagination. As you age, your skin really does become thinner, revealing more blood vessels and other internal structures that younger, thicker skin conceals.
In some communities, evidence of very thin skin is easy to spot. If you've ever visited a nursing home, you may have observed a high number of residents sporting bandages to cover healing sores. In many older people, skin becomes extremely thin, to the point where it actually seems fragile and almost papery. It's as delicate as it looks. A simple scrape that younger skin would repel with relative ease may actually cause a tear in thinner skin.
Thinning occurs partly because your skin loses some of the fatty layer that lies below the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of skin. Less fat means less cushioning, and thus, your skin breaks and bruises more easily. Slower skin cell regeneration is another major cause of thinning.
Some people seem to have a genetic predisposition to especially thin skin. Other people experience health problems specific to the skin that leave it thinner than normal. And medications, especially certain corticosteriods applied over long periods of time, can result in weaker, less durable skin, too.
Sun exposure, which is the cause of many skin issues, breaks down collagen and elastin fibers in your skin. Elastin is a protein found in connective tissues that lets skin and muscles regain their original form after you move. With less of these supportive components, your skin becomes more fragile and loses its elasticity. Routinely using a sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 15 will help maintain overall skin health. Applying skin moisturizer regularly will also help keep your skin healthy and may help reduce thinning.