AGING AND YOUR SKINAs we age, there is no escaping the tell-tale signs of aging skin, following the biological clock’s unforgiving beat.
There are, however, major factors that influence premature aging of the skin, and first and foremost among these is avoidance of the sun’s harmful UV rays. You need only see the leathered faces of lifelong sun-worshippers who are paying dearly for a life spent unprotected from the clear, blue skies of California or the Mediterranean. Young or old, it is a well proven fact that overexposure to the sun compromises skin integrity, expedites the aging look and is a major risk factor for skin disorders including skin cancer.
If you want proof that over time it is the sun that causes most of the aging process of your skin, check out your buttocks (which receive very little UV sunlight) compared to your face and forearms. Do you see any wrinkles, spider veins, sagging skin, enlarged pores or brown spotting? I’m willing to bet you do not.
Love the skin you’re in
The skin is the body’s largest organ and performs many important functions. Whether you are eight or 80, your skin protects you in so many ways. When your health is compromised, it is frequently the skin that communicates the problem, often acting as a warning sign; some examples would be the hives in allergies, paleness before a stomach disorder, and tingling of the skin for a person with diabetes.
The skin reflects emotions – the pallor of fear, the flush of shyness or the sweat of anxiety. It is also the beacon of sexual attraction.
Just as the heart, liver, brain, and eyes are organs of the body, so the skin is also regarded as an organ – in fact, it is the largest organ of the body, and accounts for 15% of the entire body weight. The skin is more than just a container in which the skeleton and other body parts are contained. It is the critical interface between the body and a hostile environment which includes the sun’s rays, bacteria, viruses, toxic fumes, damaging chemicals, and extreme temperatures.
The skin differs from individual to individual, from race to race, and from one area of the body to another. All skin, however, has the same basic structure, consisting of three different layers: the epidermis, dermis and fat.
As time progresses we often compare an individual’s chronological age to their biological age by such references as “she doesn’t look that old” or “he certainly looks older than his years.” In truth, time is only one of a number of factors which determines our biological age.
Heredity has a strong influence on the way in which we age, suggesting that our cells may be genetically predetermined to deteriorate or die in line with an established time schedule. This is known as the “alarm clock” theory of aging.
Environmental factors also place wear and tear on our cells, contributing to their eventual deterioration. Where we live, the lifestyles we choose, the self caring habits we adopt and our use of the health care resources all contribute to the skin’s aging process.
The point of this is to demonstrate that a major percentage of your skin integrity as an older person is linked to your entire life activities, consisting of prevention, self care, attitudes, exposure to the sun’s UV rays and so on.
As you age, you may notice that there is a natural thinning of the outer layer of the skin. This can lead to wrinkling but it also means there is less protection to the hostile environment. Subsequently, the older person is more vulnerable to injury because of this increasingly fragile skin.
In elderly people, all skin components usually decrease in numbers. This means, as a caregiver or patient, you will have to make an extra effort to maintain the skin’s integrity.
Aside from changes in the skin due to aging, there are significant risk factors that in many cases can be controlled. The most obvious ones are dryness of the skin and over hydration, and there are many effective products that can help in this regard – for example, incontinence pads and protective skin barrier products in the form of ointments or creams. These options will be presented within the book.
On a final note, it is important for the patient to be treated holistically in that all aspects of health, emotional and other disease states are integrated into the treatment package. As a patient, it is essential that you communicate your concerns to your health care provider, and as a health care provider you should view the patient from all aspects of health issues to ensure effectiveness of the treatment.