What Aging Can Do to Your Skin
As you get older, you expect to see wrinkling and sagging. Still, some changes to your skin may come as a surprise.

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Picture of woman applying cream What Aging Can Do to Your Skin

The skin helps control your temperature, and shields your body from extremes in weather. Your skin helps balance your body's salts and fluids and contains nerve fibers that sense pain, pressure, touch, and temperature.

It's normal with age to have some skin changes such as:

  • Paleness. This is a result of your skin thinning out as you age.
  • Skin spots, also known as age spots. As you age, spots form due to damage from the sun's rays. You can also get age spots from tanning beds and sun lamps.
  • Wrinkles and sagging skin. The loss of your skin's elasticity as you age, along with smoking and sun exposure, cause wrinkling and sagging. Too much sun exposure over a lifetime can leave you with weather-beaten, leathery skin.
  • Itching and dryness. Dry, itchy skin is caused by the loss of sweat and oil glands as you age.
  • Bruising. Aging capillaries and thinning skin cause increased bruising, especially in women. Blood thinners and corticosteroids can be causes, too. So can certain supplements, including ginkgo, fish oil, ginger, and garlic.

Other conditions related to skin changes

  • Sunstroke and heat exhaustion. Because you have fewer sweat glands as you age, your body temperature becomes harder to regulate.
  • Hypothermia. The fat layer under the skin becomes thinner, so you have less insulation. This increases your chances for hypothermia, or low body temperature, in cold weather.

How to protect your skin

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration can damage skin. Ask your doctor how much fluid you should consume in a day if you have heart failure or kidney disease.
  • Use moisturizer right after you bathe, and take warm, not hot, baths or showers. Limit the amount of soap you use and avoid perfumes.
  • Avoid irritants. If your skin is dry, don't wear wool or use harsh detergents or bleaches.
  • Avoid the sun. Ultraviolet (UV) rays are strongest between 10 am and 3 pm. Don't assume you're safe on cloudy days or while swimming. UV rays can pass through clouds and water.
  • Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Buy a sunscreen that says "broad spectrum" on the label and is water-resistant.
  • Wear protective clothing. Wear sunglasses with UV protection and a hat with a wide brim in the sun. Keep as much of your skin covered as possible.
  • Examine your skin. Ask your doctor how often you should have a skin checkup. If you notice any skin changes on your own that concern you, let your doctor know right away.
By Diane Griffith, Staff Writer
Created on 05/29/2007
Updated on 02/17/2011
  • American Academy of Dermatology. Age spots.
  • American Academy of Dermatology. Frequently asked questions about aging skin.
  • Minaker KL. Common clinical sequelae of aging. In: Goldman L, Aussielo D, eds. Goldman: Cecil Medicine, 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007
  • National Cancer Institute. Skin cancer home page.
  • American Academy of Dermatology. Causes of aging skin.
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