One’s years can be seen on the skin too — with age spots being one of the commonest signs. From thinning to becoming wrinkly, the skin undergoes the natural process of ageing. It turns dry and loses softness and fat.
So, it is important for older people to take care of their skin, say experts.
Bengaluru-based octogenarian Raghu S, for one, regularly uses moisturisers to prevent his skin from turning dry. “My children, who live 15km away, visit me on alternate weekends,” Raghu, who lives on his own, Raghu tells Happiest Health. “Due to my dry, itchy skin, I often scratch myself and get cuts and bruises. It leads to further redness of the skin. My children call to remind me to cut my nails and take care of my skin.”
What causes age spots, wrinkles, dry skin?
The signs of ageing can begin to appear as early as the mid-twenties, says Dr Sushma Sukruthi, consultant dermatologist, Kamineni Hospitals, Hyderabad. “However, they may not be noticeable until the forties or fifties,” she says. “The most common signs of ageing skin include wrinkles, fine lines, sagging, dryness and age spots.”
Ageing is accompanied by a lot of changes, including loss of important layers of the skin and the skin losing its moisture-retaining capacity, which results in dry skin, says Dr Anagha Samarth, dermatologist and aesthetic physician, Sparsh Hospital, Bengaluru. She says that loss of moisture results in itching, dryness and redness on the skin.
Loss of the protective layer causes thinning of the skin, which can lead to bruising, says Dr Samarth. She adds that bruising can also be seen among those who are on medications such as aspirin, which are anticoagulants (medicines used for preventing blood clots).
“Since the pandemic began, there has been an increased emphasis on washing hands with soaps, antiseptic and other detergents,” says Dr Samarth. “Repeated handwash slowly strips away the protective layer of skin. Senior citizens have a sensitive skin and would have already lost several layers, including the protective layer, which makes their skin vulnerable to rashes, skin infections and eczema.”
What are age spots?
Age spots — also known as liver spots or sunspots — are small, dark patches that typically appear on the face, hands and other areas of the body that are exposed to the sun, says Dr Sukruthi. “They are caused by the build-up of melanin, a natural pigment that gives the skin its colour, and are more common in people over the age of 50. While age spots are generally harmless, they can be a cosmetic concern for some people.”
Dr Samarth adds that age spots are also called solar lentigines. “There is an increased chance of developing these lesions due to chronic sun exposure,” she says. “They can also be seen in unexposed areas on the body, but these areas would have been exposed to the sun when [the individual was] younger.”
How to take care of your skin?
Dr Sukruthi recommends the following tips to keep the skin healthy:
- Wear sunscreen (with a minimum SPF of 30) every day and avoid spending too much time in the sun.
- Drink plenty of water and use a moisturiser to keep the skin hydrated.
- Eat a healthy diet. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables and other nutrient-rich foods to help nourish the skin.
- Quit smoking, which can cause premature ageing and damage the skin.
- Avoid using soaps that have a harsh effect on the skin (because of the use of synthetic detergents, cleaners and fragrance).
- Some skincare products can strip the skin of its natural oils. So, choose gentle, moisturising products designed for ageing skin.
Dr Samarth says it is important for older people to use a moisturiser to deal with sensitive and dry skin, which requires extra care. “Right after bath, they must dab themselves with a towel and apply plenty of moisturiser,” she says. “During summer, we suggest they use a liquid- or soft-paraffin cream. And during winter, we suggest using urea and lactic-acid cream as drying of the skin is much higher in winter.”
Pointing out the difference between age spots and senile warts, Dr Samarth says that while age spots are flat in nature with pigmented colour, senile warts are dark lesions that look like a growth on the skin.
Stages of skin ageing
Dr Sukruthi says that the skin-ageing process can be broken down into three stages:
- In the early stage, the skin may begin to look dull and lose its elasticity.
- In the middle stage, fine lines and wrinkles begin to appear, and the skin may start to sag.
- In the late stage, the skin becomes thinner and more fragile, and age spots and other discolourations may become more prominent.
- Signs of ageing start as early as the mid-twenties but are mostly noticeable only around 40 or 50.
- Age spots (or liver spots) are a common sign of ageing. They occur due to exposure to the sun.
- Ageing involves losing protective layers of the skin. This process leads to thinning of the skin, which also loses its moisture-retaining capacity.
- Fine lines, wrinkles, sagging and thinning of the skin are all part of the natural process of ageing.
- Older people must use a moisturiser since their skin becomes drier and more sensitive.