Our skin is one of our most important organs and our first line of defense against illness and injury. As we age and our health needs change, our skin is no exception. In our later years, we can get dehydrated more quickly as the body retains less moisture and produces less oil and collagen. Dry skin and itching are common, especially if affected by environment, medical conditions, and lifestyle habits. Finally, lower levels of collagen can cause thinning of the skin and a higher vulnerability to sun damage, age spots, and skin cancer.
The good news is that simple practices can help you keep your skin healthy. Try adding these easy methods to your daily routine to take extra care of your skin.
Drink Plenty of Water
The minimum recommendation of water is half your body weight in ounces (a 140-pound person would drink 70 ounces each day). But dehydration happens more quickly in older adults and with fewer warning signals. Health conditions, medication side effects, and dry air can also contribute to rapid dehydration. This means increasing water intake is both cure and prevention!
Check with your doctor for any health reasons for limiting your water consumption and also any reasons for increasing it. Along with water and herbal teas, you can hydrate with fruits and vegetables high in water content, like watermelon, cucumbers, and celery. Whether it’s having an extra glass at every meal or filling up several water bottles for the day, you can make drinking more water a regular habit.
Choose Products with Safe Ingredients and Avoid Common Irritants
Harsh chemicals and fragrances can irritate the skin and cause or worsen dryness and itchiness. From laundry detergent and toilet cleaner to shaving cream and soap, products with safer ingredients and no fragrances can help protect us from health hazards. (Make sure to look for “fragrance free” and not “unscented”, which sometimes uses chemicals to cover up scents.)
But skin irritants go beyond the obvious chemicals as reactions can trace back to other things we come in contact with. With more protection needed for our skin as we age, it can be even more important to remove major offenders.
Treat And Protect Against Dryness, Itchiness, And Irritation
Even with good hydration, we can still experience dry skin from a variety of causes. Along with using moisturizers daily, practicing certain skincare techniques can help.
Since hot (steaming) water can strip the skin of natural oils, it can help to avoid hot baths and wear gloves when washing dishes and other items. Right after bathing or washing hands, keep skin slightly damp before applying lotions; this helps the lotion absorb better. Heavier lotions for the body and face can be saved for bedtime; they absorb best during sleep.
While they may feel cumbersome or are easy to forget, work gloves are a must for protecting your skin while cleaning and doing yard work. And for dry environments, humidifiers help add
and keep moisture in the air, which can benefit both the skin and respiratory conditions, especially in winter.
Always Protect from The Sun
This is may be common sense for all of us, but some senior adults still wonder if they need to continue to bother with SPF at their age—and the answer is a resounding yes! It’s even more important to protect skin that’s dryer, thinner, or more sensitive. Being diligent with SPF and other sun protection methods can also help prevent new age spots and lower the risk of developing skin cancer.
Starting with SPF, a water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 will last longer through sweat, whether or not you’re swimming. There are pros and cons to the mineral and chemical formulas of sunscreen, in both how they work and how they look on the skin. When it comes to ingredients, mineral sunscreens may be better for sensitive skin than their chemical counterparts; they’re also more of a ‘natural’ product and are reef-safe. When choosing a sunscreen, you’ll want to look for those that are free of fragrances and harmful chemicals, and follow the directions when applying.
Sunscreen is a major part of sun protection, but there are extra protective steps we can all take. Wearing hats and clothing with UPF rating that protect from the sun can go a long way. And it’s recommended to stay out of the sun during peak hours when the rays are strongest (usually between 10 a.m.–2 p.m., depending on your location). Last but never least, doing regular skin cancer checks at home, as well as with your dermatologist, will help catch any changes as early as possible.
Adding these skincare methods into your routine may reap long-term benefits from just a few minutes a day.