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Go-to skincare guide for the ageing skin

Go-to skincare guide for the ageing skin

Damage from over exposure to sunlight is the most significant and detrimental of all external factors that trigger ageing of the skin.
elderly skincare
Representational image | Shutterstock

Seventy-year-old Anju Agarwal from Kolkata knows the signs of ageing too well. “I used to have radiant skin, but with age come saggy skin, pigmentation and wrinkles,” she says. At 70, although she leads a healthy and active life, Agarwal feels that it is not enough to keep age from showing up on one’s skin.

Dr Deepika Halder of West Bengal’s Tamralipto Government Medical College and Hospital, in Medinipur district, explains what happens to skin with advancing age. The regeneration of the epidermal cells or the outermost layer slows down and the sebaceous glands (they secrete oil and sebum) become less active than before. “It leads to moisture loss and makes the skin dry and rough.”

The layer underneath, the dermis, also loses its elastic tissue (elastin and collagen), which leads to sagging skin and wrinkles. With time, both these layers become thin and fragile and the skin becomes prone to lesions and broken capillaries. “The last subcutaneous layer also begins to lose its essential fats, making the skin appear loose, slack, and ‘hollow’,” she explains.

The main factors

Damage from over exposure to sunlight is the most significant and detrimental of all external factors that trigger ageing of the skin. “The UV [ultraviolet] rays emitted by the sun break down the elasticity of the skin and lower its ability to regenerate. The impact of sun damage may not be visible early on, but it leaves your skin the worse for wear in the long run and cannot be fully reversed,” says Dr Divya Gupta, consultant dermatologist at Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru.

Pollution, smoking, lack of appropriate nutrition and hydration, and improper sleeping habits combine to hasten the impact of ageing on the skin. “Prevention is the only way to ensure that ageing takes the natural, least harmful toll on skin,” she adds.

Common conditions among the 60-plus

As those in this age group are often at risk for – or already diagnosed with – chronic or other medical conditions, their skin may experience the side effects of these diseases and the medication they take for them.

“Diabetes and thyroid disorders can affect the skin in several ways, such as a slower healing than before of cuts/wounds, dark spots, increased dryness, and most commonly, pruritus [itchy skin],” says Dr Gupta.

Allergic reactions to medication can also lead to skin issues like rashes and inflammation. Almost 70 per cent of skin issues faced by this demographic category are medical rather than cosmetic, and hence it is very important to thoroughly identify the underlying cause of the issue and formulate a treatment plan accordingly.

“Individuals are advised to continue to manage their comorbidities according to their treatment plans, and trust their dermatologist to take care of any skin-related conditions that may arise,” says Dr Gupta.

The natural process of ageing makes the skin susceptible to certain concerns such as skin cancer, pruritus and skin lesions – and which must be treated with caution.

“Skin cancer is a rare, but significant concern at this age, and any pre-cancerous lesions or growths should be tested as promptly as possible,” she says. Older people are prone to some moderately serious skin conditions for which dermatological interventions are recommended.

Among them are venous stasis dermatitis also called venous eczema, seborrheic keratosis (non-cancerous skin growths in older adults), senile comedones and fungal infections – all amplified by skin atrophy, dryness and decreased sensitivity.

How to take care

“I use home remedies like applying papaya or milk cream regularly, but the skin still feels rough,” says Agarwal. But that is not enough. Experts stress the importance of understanding what the skin requires, based on your medical history and skin type, and follow a well-suited, consistent skincare routine.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Sunscreen

“A broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF value of 15 is indispensable, both outdoors and indoors,” stresses Dr Halder. “Make sure you reapply every few hours, and use sun-protective gear such as hats, sun coats, and gloves as often as possible, since sun damage is irreversible.”

  • Moisturising

It is equally important to apply moisturiser twice a day, on damp skin, to combat dryness and roughness of an ageing skin and maintain its moisture. Avoid harsh cleansers, and opt for mild, creamy products that are suited to the skin’s natural pH levels.

  • Diet & exercise “You should also ensure that your diet is full of antioxidants (orange, yellow and green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, fish) and maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D3, B12 and calcium, as these help to restrict the damage that free radicals (harmful oxygen molecules) cause to older skin,” Dr Haldar explains.

To help increase blood circulation and maintain good metabolism, it is advised to stay as mobile as possible, and not necessarily rigorous daily exercise, she emphasises.

  • Shower

As they age, people tend to prefer taking hot water baths to cold showers. However, hot water also makes skin susceptible to dryness and damages its barrier.

Using tepid water on the face and neck where possible would be the middle path.

“I read in an article that hot water baths make the skin dry. Also, most soaps that we get in the market these days are full of chemicals, so I avoid them as much as I can,” says Agarwal. Instead, she uses lukewarm water and a homemade scrub for her bath.

  • Topical applications

Certain topical agents such as hyaluronic acid, retinoids, niacinamide can also prove helpful, and can be included in one’s skincare routine after consulting a dermatologist.

“External procedures, when performed by certified professionals, are often useful for managing the more visible effects of ageing on skin,” says Dr Gupta.

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