Aging can have some great benefits. You can gain valuable life experience, make some wonderful memories and maybe even spoil your grandchildren one day. But one downside to aging is looking your age — changing skin is an unavoidable part of growing older. However, you can slow — or sometimes even reverse — the signs of aging skin with a few simple changes to your daily skin care routine.
As you age, your skin loses its elasticity, becomes more fragile and appears thin and dull. Wrinkles, fine lines, age spots and growths, such as skin tags and warts, can also become more common [source: National Institutes of Health]. Changes in your skin are a natural part of aging, but you may be looking for ways to slow this process and keep your skin looking young and healthy.
The good news is that there are many ways you can help prevent the signs of aging by altering your skin care routine and making some simple lifestyle changes. Certain environmental factors increase the signs of aging, and learning how to modify your daily routine to avoid these conditions can help your skin exponentially [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
Although you can't stop the clock, you can slow it down, so read on to learn what to expect from your skin as you age.
Mature Skin Characteristics
Even if you had perfect skin as a young adult, no one is immune to the changes that skin undergoes as it ages. The first thing you may notice as your skin matures, is that it's no longer as firm as it once was. As you age, your skin loses both collagen, a protein that keeps skin firm, plump and wrinkle-free, and elastin, a protein that gives skin strength and allows it to stretch [source: Bouchez]. Exposure to free radicals and the sun's ultraviolet light can cause further damage to collagen and elastin. Without the high concentration of elastin you had when you were younger, you may notice that your skin begins to sag, stretch and tear more easily [source: WebMD].
As you age, dead skin cells don't shed as quickly and skin may not regenerate new, healthy cells as easily, which can cause skin to appear rough and dull. As the epidermis flattens, skin also becomes more transparent and fragile, and it can bruise more easily as blood vessels begin to thin [source: WebMD].
Other changes in an aging body can also affect how your skin appears. Fat loss, normally a welcome occurrence, can cause facial skin to loosen and appear more sunken in, and bone or cartilage loss can affect the skin around your mouth, nose and ears. Also, mature skin tends to dry out more often than youthful skin — sweat and oil glands deplete with age, depriving the skin of some of its natural moisture [source: WebMD].
Women experiencing menopause may also face some unique skin challenges that can make them feel like teenagers again. Read on to learn more.
Mature Skin Problems
Skin goes through a lot of changes as you age — while you may not have had acne, dry skin or skin diseases in the past, it's possible to develop these conditions as your skin matures.
Menopause can make women more prone to breakouts — pores enlarge during this time, making it easier for them to become clogged with sebum and dead skin and cause acne. Women with naturally oily skin may experience more breakouts during menopause than women with normal or dry skin. Hormone fluctuations during menopause can also cause an increase in facial hair in women, which is harmless but may make women feel self-conscious [source: Poirot].
Dry skin can also be an issue for people with mature skin, especially in the winter. Itchiness and dry skin patches are a common occurrence — about 85 percent of older people develop a condition called "winter itch," which occurs when dry indoor heat or cold outdoor temperatures make skin particularly dry and itchy. Using an intensive moisturizer may help ward off dry, flaky skin [source: WebMD].
Skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea and keratoses can also develop in old age. In fact, there are certain types of eczema that appear only in people between the ages of 55 and 65 [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. If you have concerns about your skin and any new textures or growths, talk to your dermatologist.
Mature Skin Care
As your skin changes, so should your skin care routine. First, daily skin care should involve protecting your skin from sun exposure. UV rays accelerate the signs of aging by damaging the elastin and collagen in your skin, so it's important to apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 15 daily — even on cloudy days. If you're going to be outdoors for an extended period of time, wear a hat and protective clothing. In addition to regular protection from UV light, be sure to check your skin for signs of skin cancer, which can become more evident as you age [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. Wearing sunscreen every day can also help prevent age spots. Although the name may be misleading, age spots aren't caused by aging — they're caused by the skin releasing pigment to protect itself from the sun [source: Hertzig].
Because dryness and itchiness are common characteristics of mature skin, you'll need to moisturize regularly. Certain soaps can further dry your skin, so avoid scented, deodorant and antibacterial soaps — opt for a moisturizing body wash or soap-free cleanser instead [source: Fries]. After showering or bathing, use a towel to pat your skin dry, but leave it a little damp. Then apply a moisturizer within three minutes to help lock in moisture [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. If your skin is especially dry, try using a humidifier in your home to put moisture back into the air [source: WebMD].
Anti-aging products that contain collagen and elastin, proteins that keep skin firm and flexible, can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles [source: Mayo Clinic]. You can also try anti-aging moisturizers that contain alpha-hydroxy acids, retinoids or vitamin C. Alpha-hydroxy acids help lift the top layer of dead skin cells to reduce the appearance of fine lines, and these acids may also stimulate collagen production. Retinoids reduce wrinkles and repair sun damage, and vitamin C can increase collagen production and protect skin from UV rays [source: Bouchez].
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- How to Determine Your Skin Tone
- Does taking an aspirin daily affect your skin?
- How to Maintain a Skin Barrier
- Is a daily shower too much for your skin?
- 5 Things Your Skin Needs Every Day
- Should the weather affect your daily skin care?
- 10 Daily Skincare Essentials
- Is olive oil good for my skin?
- How could an "anti-aging molecule" work?
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Causes of Aging Skin." American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed 9/24/09)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/agingskinnet/basicfacts.html
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Cosmetic Procedures." American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed 9/24/09)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/agingskinnet/cosmeticpro.html
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Dermatologists' Top 10 Tips for Relieving Dry Skin." (Accessed 10/21/09)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/agingskinnet/winter_skin.html
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Just Another Sign of Aging, or an Underlying Medical Condition?" American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed 9/24/09)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/agingskinnet/update.html
- American Academy of Dermatology t. "Medical Conditions." American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed 9/24/09)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/agingskinnet/skincancer.html
- Bouchez, Colette. "23 Ways to Reduce Wrinkles." (Accessed 10/21/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/features/23-ways-to-reduce-wrinkles
- Bouchez, Colette. "More Hope In A Jar? The Anti-Aging Skin Care Promise." (Accessed 10/21/09)http://women.webmd.com/features/more-hope-jar-anti-aging-skin-care-promise
- Fries, Wendy, C. "Dry Skin: Soothing the Winter Itch." (Accessed 10/21/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/dry-skin-soothing-the-itch-in-winter
- Hertzig, Alyssa, Kolsky. "Brighten Up." (Accessed 10/21/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/features/brighten-up
- Mayo Clinic. "Easy Bruising: Common As You Age." 5/26/09. (Accessed 9/24/09)http://mayoclinic.com/health/easy-bruising/HQ00355
- Mayo Clinic. "Wrinkle Creams: Your guide to younger-looking skin." (Accessed 10/21/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/wrinkle-creams/SN00010
- National Institutes of Health. "Aging Changes in Skin." 8/10/08. (Accessed 9/24/09)http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/004014.htm
- Ohio State University Medical Center. "Anatomy of the Skin." (Accessed 9/24/09)http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/PATIENTCARE/healthcare_services/skin_conditions/anatomy_skin/Pages/index.aspx
- Poirot, Lissa. "A Wrinkle in Time: Preventing Damage to Aging Skin." WebMD. 2/18/09. (Accessed 9/24/09) http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/how-life-affects-aging-skin
- WebMD. "The Effects of Aging on Skin." 2/28/08. (Accessed 9/24/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/effects-aging-skin