Caring for your skin isn’t just vanity; it can make a big difference for your health and comfort. The skin is your body’s largest organ (a trivia tidbit that 10-year-olds love to repeat, just FYI) and it gradually changes over time. As you age, your skin becomes thinner, loses fat, heals less quickly, and it can become more dry as it loses oil and sweat glands as well. Some of these changes are unavoidable, but you can do really simple things in your daily routine to alleviate the effects that aging has on your skin.
Your Daily Hygiene Routine
The best thing you can do for your skin is to have a daily routine that maximizes moisture retention and damage prevention.
- Consider how often (and how) you bathe. Hot water strips skin of its natural oils, which exist to help your skin maintain hydration. You can choose to bathe less often, or switch to warm water instead of hot. When you bathe, try to keep the duration short, between 5 to 10 minutes.
- Wash gently. Use a fragrance-free, moisturizing cleanser and a soft cloth rather than a loofah or exfoliator. Look for products that contain glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and/or lanolin for maximum moisturizing power.
- Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. When you get out of the shower or bath, get into the habit of gently patting yourself dry leaving a bit of water, and then immediately apply moisturizer. This will help ease the dryness and restore your skin’s protective barrier. If your skin is extra dry, try using an ointment rather than a cream, as it does a better job retaining hydration levels. And again, it’s good to go fragrance-free, because fragrance can irritate your skin (even if that didn’t in your younger days.)
- Use Sunscreen. Protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays can reduce dryness and irritation, prevent the development of new age spots and blotches, and most importantly, reduce your risk of getting skin cancer. Apply sunscreen every day, and try to wear protective clothing when you know you’ll be out in the sun for an extended time.
Live a Healthy Skin Lifestyle
Adjusting your daily skin care routine is the easy part of maintaining healthy skin. The lifestyle choices you make have a huge impact on your skin’s appearance and general health, and it’s never too late to make some adjustments.
- Get a good humidifier. Air conditioning and most forms of heating for your home tend to dry out the air. Keeping indoor humidity between 45% and 60% can reduce dry, itchy skin according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. If you have a large space, put the humidifier in your bedroom so you can experience the benefits while you’re asleep (it’s about a third of our day, after all.)
- Hydrate! Drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day is the very least you can do to help maintain your overall health. Water aids in your body’s essential processes like metabolism, digestion, and cellular regeneration — all of which affect your largest organ. Plus, skin can’t retain moisture if there’s none there to begin with!
- Eat a healthy diet. “You are what you eat” became an adage for a reason. Foods that are high in protein such as fish, lean meats, beans and legumes can help your skin build strong collagen (an important structural component of your skin.) Foods high in Vitamin C, like many fruits and vegetables, can also form collagen, assist in wound healing, and even prevent wrinkles. As an antioxidant, Vitamin C also protects against damage from free radicals. Lycopene — an antioxidant found in tomatoes — has been shown to fight sunburn and other forms of sun damage.
- Don’t smoke. In addition to the big potential concerns — like being addictive and causing all kinds of cancer — smoking does a number on your skin. It narrows the tiny blood vessels in the outermost layers of your skin, which decreases blood flow and thus depletes the skin of oxygen and vital nutrients. Smoking also damages collagen and elastin, which are the fibers that give your skin strength and elasticity. All of this means more wrinkles and older, more damaged looking skin.
- Manage Stress. We know, easier said than done. High levels of stress reduces your body’s ability to function properly, so it really benefits the big picture if you can find ways to alleviate at least some of it.
The C Word
Finally, something that is crucial to maintaining healthy skin is to regularly examine yourself for signs of skin cancer. After the age of 50 your risk of developing skin cancer and pre-cancerous growths increases and continues rising. Detecting skin cancer early is one of the most effective ways to beat it, and checking is as easy as ABCDE:
A: Asymmetry (one-half of the growth looks different from the other half)
B: Borders that are irregular
C: Color changes or more than one color
D: Diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser
E: Evolving; meaning the growth changes in size, shape, symptoms (itching, tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or shades of color.
If you see anything that seems unusual, see your dermatologist.
Other Articles You Might Enjoy:
- 9 Health Tests Everyone Over 50 Should Get Checked Annually
- The Importance of Staying Hydrated
- Things You Can Do Everyday To Stay Strong