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Skin & Aging
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As you get older you are probably experiencing major changes in your skin, for better or worse. This is the combination of two processes: your genetic program, or the natural course of aging that is programmed in your body, and photoaging, or the effect of a lifetime of sun exposure and exposure to other harmful aspects of your environment including cigarette smoke and chemicals. Everybody’s rate of aging is different, due in part to their genetics, which is why you may notice these changes earlier or later than others. As you get older, you loose skin firmness and elasticity. This means that your skin might be beginning to sag, due to a loss of underlying fat padding and connective tissues found in the lowest layer of your skin. Your skin actually becomes more transparent as you age. That’s because the top layer of your skin, the epidermis, thins out with age. Your skin also becomes more fragile, meaning your epidermis and the next layer of skin (dermis) come closer together, and you may bruise easily because of thinner blood vessel walls. You also may notice your skin is drier, and that’s because you sweat less and your body provides less natural oily chemicals that once helped to regulate the oils in your skin.

Photoaging is evident in the development of wrinkles, spots, dilated blood vessels and discoloration and is directly connected to the damage your skin underwent because of UV rays. The most important step to preventing these effects of aging is to stay out of the sun and to protect your skin from the UV rays. It’s never too late to protect yourself.

Smokers tend to have more wrinkles than nonsmokers at the same age and with the same skin type. Smoking essentially obliterates, or kills, blood vessels. This means there is a decreased vascular supply to the skin which causes premature wrinkling and aging.

Wrinkles are caused in part by gravity, which pulls the skin and causes sagging. But wrinkles are also caused by UV damage to the elastin in your skin. Elastin is the protein responsible for the elasticity of your skin. Your dermatologist may be able to recommend and prescribe certain skin creams with specific vitamins to help combat the sagging and wrinkling of your skin. Some studies have suggested a link between alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and the reduction of wrinkles, sagging and other effects of aging on the skin. Some of the long-term effects of AHA use are negative, so talk to your doctor or dermatologist if you’re interested.

Many older women are faced with excessive dry skin that is sometimes accompanied by irritation and itchiness. This is because you lose sweat and oil glands as you age and due partially to the lifetime use of such products as soaps, deodorants and perfumes that tend to dry out skin. You can find moisturizers to help alleviate these effects. If the dryness persists, or if you feel that you may have psoriasis or eczema, you should talk to your doctor about prescription treatments.

The easiest way to detect skin cancer is through abnormal changes in the skin. These changes vary from person to person, and can include a growth or a sore that won’t heal, a change in an existent mole, or a red lump. These lumps often look different, and can be firm, smooth, pale, waxy or crusty. If you notice anything peculiar about your skin, it’s best to see a dermatologist for advice. In fact, as you get older, you should see the dermatologist once a year for a full body check to identify any changes or warning signs in your skin.

Age spots are flat, brown spots caused by years of sun exposure. They’re bigger than freckles and usually appear on light-skinned people in areas that are exposed to the sun. You might have heard them referred to as liver spots, but the medical term is solar lentigo. Treatments for age spots includes prescription medication and laser surgery. Sunscreen should be used for further protection so more age spots don’t develop.

Some treatment options commonly used to treat aging skin include chemical peels, dermabrasion and laser resurfacing. If you are considering any type of cosmetic surgery or treatments to help with the appearance of your skin, do so with caution. Remember that these are serious procedures that are never 100% sure. Weigh the pros and the cons and talk to your doctor or dermatologist, not just your cosmetic surgeon, when deciding about a procedure.

As you get older, remember to seek out products you feel comfortable with and that will help to take care of your skin as it ages. Creams and moisturizers as well as cleansers are very important. Ingredients such as Vitamin B complex and flax oil are important. Also, quit smoking. If for no other reason, then do it for your skin. Smoking will only hasten the aging process of your skin and won’t help curb any of the effects of aging. Get as many nutrients as you need in a well balanced diet that includes a lot of water and perhaps a multivitamin. Also, see your doctor and dermatologist regularly to keep a close eye on any changes in your skin that may indicate disorders or diseases.

Click below to read about related topics.

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Skin & Aging