Over 90% of older people suffer from a skin disorder that results in bruising, dry skin or itching, according to the National Library of Medicine. Meanwhile, serious skin conditions — like skin cancers — are more common for fragile, aging skin. For your general wellbeing, it’s important to be aware of the causes and treatments for aging skin. Learning skincare techniques for preventing early signs of skin aging can also help you lower the risk of developing dangerous skin conditions.
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Robin Schiltz, C.D.S.
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- Published: July 8, 2022
- Updated: May 23, 2023
- 7 min read time
- This page features 6 Cited Research Articles
- Edited By
Aging Skin Symptoms
There are many common symptoms of aging skin, including dry or itchy patches, bruising, age spots and wrinkles. Aging skin is also more prone to cancer. If you didn’t wear SPF when you were younger — especially if you frequented tanning booths or experienced excess sun exposure — your skin is most likely to age quickly and develop serious health issues.
The three main layers of the skin — the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis — thin over time, making you more susceptible to certain skin conditions. Your outer layer of skin, the epidermis, thins the most. This thinning results in your skin becoming fragile and visibly less elastic, and it increases your probability of noticing many common symptoms of aging skin.
Your skincare routines should evolve as you age. Older skin is more delicate and may require gentler products.
Dry and Itchy Skin
Your sebaceous glands naturally produce less oil as you age, leading to dry and itchy skin. This can occur in patches or all over your body. Most commonly, dry, itchy skin occurs on the lower legs, elbows and arms. Using a thick cream on these problem areas can improve your skin’s condition.
- Excess sun exposure
- Dry air
Smoking, in particular, is a major catalyst for skin aging. According to the National Library of Medicine, smoking breaks down collagen, creating premature wrinkles and leading to severe discoloration of the skin.
For some, chronic health conditions like diabetes and kidney disease can also contribute to dry and itchy skin. In these cases, work with your doctor to manage the health condition first and use lotions to soothe your skin in the interim.
While the effects are less immediately visible than thinning of the epidermis, the protective hypodermis layer thins with age as well. Your hypodermis is the bottom layer of your skin, which serves as a protective fat layer. This layer also absorbs shock and insulates your body.
You become more prone to bruising as the hypodermis thins. What once was a light tap on your hip with no consequences could now turn into a dark, sensitive bruise.
As your hypodermis thins, your skin may sag and become sensitive to the heat and cold. You may also be less aware of touch and pressure, further increasing the likelihood of bruising.
Some medications also increase the risk of bruising in older adults. Your doctor can help to determine if any prescription medicines in your regimen are making your bruising worse.
Age Spots and Skin Tags
Age spots, sometimes called sunspots or liver spots, are flat brown spots caused by sun exposure. These commonly occur on the backs of your hands, since the area is rarely covered. Using sunscreen on areas of your skin that are most heavily exposed can help deter the development of age spots.
Skin tags are extra cells that grow over one another, often developing where skin rubs itself. They typically present as raised, flesh-colored bumps. Common spots for skin tags are body folds, eyelids and the neck.
Skin tags and age spots are not cancerous. However, it’s important to know the differences and signs of cancer when inspecting new bumps or spots on your skin as you age.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. with more diagnoses than all other cancers combined. In fact, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.
If you have questionable moles, birthmarks or other skin deformities, use the ABCDE method to check if it might be cancerous.
- Your mole or beauty mark isn’t symmetrical.
- Borders are irregular or blurred
- Color changes or looks like multiple different shades.
- The diameter is larger than a pencil eraser.
- The spot changes in size, shape, symptoms (like itching or tenderness), surface (starts bleeding) or shade.
If your growth, birthmark or mole shows any of the signs listed above, see a doctor right away for a biopsy.
The most common types of skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Among skin cancers, melanoma is the most serious diagnosis. Skin cancer commonly develops on skin that is constantly exposed to the sun, like your scalp, face, neck, chest and shoulders.
The probability of developing skin cancer increases if you spent excessive time in the sun in your youth. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that having had over five sunburns as a child doubles your chance of developing melanoma later in life.
If you’re suffering from one of these common types of skin cancer, there are Medicare-covered cancer treatments available.
Wrinkles around your eyes and mouth begin to form because of reduced elastin and collagen production over time. Wrinkles can start forming as early as your mid to late 20s.
However, most start seeing wrinkles set in around their 30s and 40s. Many factors, like sun exposure, smoking and genetics, will influence when you form wrinkles.
Wrinkles are a normal part of healthy aging. However, learning the causes of aging skin can help you deter premature wrinkles.
Aging Skin Causes
There are several principal causes of prematurely aging skin. While some aging skin symptoms, like wrinkles, are eventually inevitable, others are not. Learning the causes of aging skin can help you avoid visible signs of aging skin and more serious diseases like skin cancer.
- Overexposure to sunlight will make your skin lose its elasticity, cause growths and increase your risk for developing deadly types of skin cancer.
- Indoor Heating
- Indoor heating leaves the air with little to no moisture, causing dry skin and cracked lips.
- Exposure to Chemicals
- Regular exposure to chemicals in cleaning products, especially on the hands, can speed skin breakdown and aging.
- Sleep Positions and Facial Movement
- How you sleep (and how your face rests on the pillow) and how expressive you regularly are with your facial movements can each cause early-onset wrinkles.
It’s difficult to avoid many of these contributing factors for aging skin in day-to-day life. Luckily, there are treatments available to help mend your skin and bring back its natural beauty.
Aging Skin Treatments
Different treatments and therapies can help reverse the effects of aged skin. Less invasive options, such as prescription-strength topical lotions of tretinoin or niacinamide, can reduce fine lines and mild discoloration.
However, these types of lotions take time and often show minor results. Some opt for more noticeable — and invasive — treatments and procedures instead.
- A blepharoplasty, or eye lift procedure, is surgery for reducing eye wrinkles and making the skin around the eyes appear more taut and youthful.
- A facelift is a surgical procedure that tightens sagging skin around your neck and face.
- Chemical Peel
- This type of face peel burns off your top layer of skin, encouraging the regrowth of new, stronger, more youthful skin.
- Dermal Fillers
- Injectable fillers can fill shallow areas, soften creases, remove wrinkles and improve the overall appearance of aging skin.
- Botulinum Toxin
- Also known as Botox, these injections prevent the movement of targeted facial muscles and therefore lessen the development and appearance of wrinkled skin.
Plastic surgeons, dermatologists and other trained aesthetic practitioners perform these procedures. To confirm you’re receiving the best care when electing to undergo an invasive procedure, check that your cosmetic surgeon is board certified and working in an accredited operating facility.
How To Prevent Aging Skin
If you want to avoid costly and invasive treatments, there are many prevention tactics to avoid aging skin. Some of these tips are simple lifestyle changes.
- Avoid sunburn by wearing sunscreen and protective clothing
- Keep skin moist with lotions and other moisturizers
- Eat healthy foods
- Stay hydrated
6 Cited Research Articles
- Skin Cancer Foundation. (2022, May). Skin Cancer Facts & Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, April 18). Basic Information About Skin Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/index.htm
- National Institute on Aging. (2017). Skin Care and Aging. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/skin-care-and-aging
- Morita, A. (2007, October 24). Tobacco Smokes Causes Premature Skin Aging. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17951030/
- National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Aging Changes in Skin. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/004014.htm
- American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. (n.d.). Choosing a Cosmetic Surgeon. Retrieved from https://www.americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org/patient-resources/choosing-a-cosmetic-surgeon/