Aging makes skin more vulnerable to dryness. Dry skin in older adults can imply underlying medical problems or it can be simply a sign of age-related skin changes. It’s important to monitor dry skin carefully as it can lead to other skin complications.
Some of the symptoms of xerosis in older adults are cracked, scaly, rough, or flaky skin. Even young people suffer from dry skin but in older adults it’s particularly common. A thinner epidermal layer, the skin’s limited capacity to retain moisture, and a reduction in skin cell turnover are all age-related dermal changes which contribute to xerosis. The skin loses its suppleness over time. Other contributing factors are genetics, ethnicity and the environment.
When the production of elastin and collagen decreases skin loses its elasticity. As in earlier stages of life hyaluronic acid isn’t produced at the same rate in older skin. Skin becomes increasingly thinner, drier, less elastic and more fragile because of these changes. Sebaceous gland’s natural oil-producing capacity also gradually decreases. All these changes contribute to dry skin.
The skin becomes more susceptible to drying even in our 40s. People simply lose too much water from the skin without adequate lipids, and skin dries out.
Older adults also tend to take many medications. This can also lead to dry skin. Because of the decreased production of moisturizing sebaceous oils older adults’ skin has an increased tendency toward dryness. A common contributor to drying out of older adults’ skin is the practice of taking long hot showers or baths without the application of a moisturizer immediately afterward. Also, some older adults do a lot of extra cleansing of the skin, washing and scrubbing, but harsh cleansers, exfoliants, and astringents that are alcohol-based further dry aging skin that’s already inclined to dryness. The essential skin oils necessary to help keep the skin moist are removed by these products.
Waterless antibacterial cleansers and over-the-counter anti-aging creams also contain alcohol and can be quite harsh and dying so it is better that older people avoid such products.
Treating xerosis is pretty simple, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Thicker moisturizers work better because the thinner water-based lotions won’t help skin retain its moisture. Patients should keep a moisturizer in the bathroom and apply a thick moisturizer within three minutes of taking a bath or shower and apply it more than once per day.
To help break down some of those thickened, dry skin cells older adults can also try out products that contain alpha-hydroxy acids. If dryness is acute they might need to calm the skin inflammation with a cortisone-based cream.
After a bath or shower patients should gently pat dry their skin with a cotton towel and then apply a liberal amount of emollient moisturizing lotion. A gentle cleanser that does not contain harsh detergents is the best to prevent dry skin. And also follow a fragrance-free regimen which consists of moisturizing lotions and mild soaps on a regular basis.
Only mild corticosteroid should be applied to sensitive skin areas, as prolonged use may lead to skin problems such as skin breakdown, thinning and stretch marks. Dermatologists also recommend using cotton and natural fiber clothing, and drinking plenty of water, limiting sun exposure and if necessary using a humidifier in the house.
Diabetic patients are more prone to dermatitis and ulcers. To control itching in dry skin dermatologists suggest using triamcinolone cream twice per day for one week.
While prevention is key, treating dry skin is fairly affordable and easy.