How does my age affect my skin's health?

By: Susan Sentry

A multitude of skin problems can result from aging.
A multitude of skin problems can result from aging.

As you approach your older years, no matter how young you might feel at heart, your skin probably isn't feeling as youthful as it once did.

As you age, your skin loses its elasticity and strength because your body produces less of the proteins collagen and elastin with each passing year. Collagen gives your skin its firmness and strength, which in turn helps prevent fine lines and wrinkles. Elastin, as the name suggests, is responsible for giving your skin its bounciness or elasticity. As elastin loses its ability to spring back into shape, your skin will wrinkle and droop [source: WebMD].


But that's not all. The outer layer of your skin -- the epidermis -- thins out as you get older, and you have fewer but larger melanocytes [source: University of Maryland Medical Center]. Melanocytes are the cells that produce pigment, giving you that vibrant and youthful look, so your skin will look paler and more translucent as you lose them. You might also notice darker patches, often known as age spots or the misnomer "liver spots," appearing on skin that has been exposed to sun over the years.

And if you notice that your skin is flakier and itchier, you're not alone. Because the epidermis holds less water in older skin, dryness is a common problem in aging, especially around elbows, lower arms and lower legs. Applying heavier moisturizers will help, as will bathing less frequently and using warm instead of hot water. Be especially careful and kind to your skin if you live in a dry climate [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

Aging also increases your chances of experiencing problems with your skin. These problems don't necessarily affect your skin's health, although they could be signaling another problem.

If you want to learn more about how signs of aging on your skin may be warning signs about your health, continue reading on the next page.