Skincare and Sun Safety for Seniors

Skin Care

The temperatures are steadily rising, and the days are becoming increasingly longer.  This can only mean one thing– summer is upon us!  For some, that means more time spent indoors to beat the heat and fight fatigue. However, others love to get out during the summer months and take advantage of the long summer days. If you find yourself heading out to enjoy the great outdoors, don’t forget to spend a little extra time on skincare to ensure you’re fully protected. Our body’s largest organ is our skin and requires special care and attention to age safely and gracefully.

As you age, it’s no surprise that your body undergoes a plethora of changes, many of which may be written all over your skin. We will look into a few of these common skin issues while discussing ways to properly care for your skin as you age, with a particular emphasis on skincare regarding sun exposure. 

Wrinkles

One of the most notable physical changes your skin undergoes as you age is wrinkles. The loss of elasticity and gravity are two contributing factors we have to thank for these lovely little lines that creep across your face, neck, hands, and elsewhere. Society is so aware of this aging factor that there’s an entire industry dedicated to preventing and reversing its effects. Some special lotions and creams claim to soften the lines and firm the skin, injections that offer to fill the crevices and freeze the folds, and surgeries that tighten and pull everything back to its original location.

Age Spots/ Skin Tags

Less talked about than wrinkles, but still present are age spots and skin tags. Age spots, also known as liver spots, are brown discolorations caused by the sun that pop up across your face and body. Skin tags are more prevalent in women and are mostly found on the body’s eyelids, necks, and folds. While both skin conditions are harmless, they can blemish one’s appearance and cause them to be self-aware of the changes. 

Dry & Itchy Skin

Another common skin complaint as we age is dry and itchy skin. Contributing factors include dehydration, smoking, stress, and loss of sweat and oil glands. Though not all of these are within our control, there are a few things you can do to help this condition. In addition to the obvious, like stopping smoking and drinking plenty of fluids, you can also moisturize daily, avoid hot baths, and keep a humidifier in your home.  

Bruising

The older you get, the more susceptible you are to bruising. Some health conditions and medications may be responsible for your delicate skin. If you feel you have unexplained bruising concerning you, be sure to mention it to your general practitioner.  

Skin Cancer

While most of the skin changes mentioned above are relatively harmless and primarily affect our appearance, skin cancer is a more serious issue that we should be paying close attention to.  Carcinoma and squamous cell are two forms of skin cancer that are slower growing and less likely to spread to other body parts. While these should not be ignored, they are not as threatening as the third form, which is melanoma. This is a far more dangerous type and requires aggressive treatment under the care of a medical professional. Early detection of skin cancer is critical in terms of treatment, which is why it’s essential to check your skin often for any changes following the ABC’s of skin cancer.  Notify your doctor, or schedule an appointment with a dermatologist if you experience any of these skin changes.   

(A)symmetry – if you draw a line of symmetry, the two halves do not look alike

(B)orders – uneven edges or borders

(C)olor – a healthy mole has even, or uniform, color; anything else should raise a concern

(D)iameter – more significant in size than a pencil eraser 

(E)volving – changes in size, shape, or color, or if it scabs/bleeds

Here are a few tips to help prevent unwanted changes and protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.

Use Sunscreen

Just as you would brush your hair or teeth each morning, or wash your face each evening, applying sunscreen should also be a part of your daily routine. Keep a bottle of sunscreen right beside your other toiletries to serve as a reminder. It’s best to apply a broad-spectrum formula 30 minutes before going outdoors. If nothing else, make sure you sunscreen your face each morning!

Wear Protective Clothing

When going outdoors, protect your skin with a wide-brimmed hat. This will keep the direct sun off your face, ears, and neck. To best care for your eyes, choose a quality pair of sunglasses that offer UVA and UVB protection. When possible, wear long-sleeved clothing to keep your skin covered. Many lightweight options will keep you cool during the summer’s heat while still keeping you protected. 

Limit Sun Exposure

Avoid the peak hours, when the sun is the strongest. Try spending time outdoors in the morning hours or later in the afternoon or evening. If you go out in the middle of the day, only stay out for short time intervals.  

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