What is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of ageing? Wrinkles and silver hair, right. Truly everyone associates changes in the skin with old age and rightly so.
Our skin not only protects us from the environment but also regulates the body temperature, fluid and electrolyte balance and consists of nerve receptors that transmit sensations of pain, touch and pressure.
Skin is made up a number of layers but can be primarily divided into three main parts:
- Epidermis: Outer surface of cells of the skin, proteins and pigment
- Dermis: The middle layer made up of nerves, blood vessels, hair follicles and glands of oil. It is this layer of the skin that provides nourishment to the outer layer of the skin.
- Subcutaneous Layer: It is the layer which is under the dermis. This layer constitutes of sweat glands apart from blood vessels, hair follicles and fat.
All the three layers also have connective tissues that contain collagen fiber for support and elastin fibers for strength and flexibility.
Changes in the skin with age
- The epidermis that is the outer layer of the skin usually thins down with age, though the number of layers remains the same.
- Ageing makes the number of melanocytes (pigment containing cells) to reduce at the same time increasing the size of the present melanocytes. This is the reason why ageing skin looks thinner, paler and more translucent. Ageing also causes appearance of age spots that is large pigmented spots, lentigos or liver spots in the sun exposed areas.
- Elastosis is the process of decrease in skin’s elasticity and strength due to changes in the connective tissues making the skin look weather beaten and leathery. This change is especially pronounced in areas exposed to the sun, solar elastosis.
- The dermis blood vessels turn more fragile with age causing easy bleeding and bruising under the skin.
- The sebaceous glands of the skin reduce the amount of oil being produced. This phenomenon is experienced less in men as compared to women. For women, especially after menopause the production of oil drastically reduces creating itchiness and dryness.
- The fat cushioning present in the subcutaneous layer reduces making the ageing skin more vulnerable to injury. This also makes it harder for the skin to maintain normal body temperature.
- Ageing causes the sweat layer to make less sweat, making it difficult for the skin to keep itself naturally cool. This also increases the risk of overheating or catching a heat stroke.
- Ageing people are more vulnerable to developing warts, skin tags, etc.
Prevention from skin changes associated with age
As most of the changes occur as a result of sun exposure, prevention will last life long.
- Avoid sun burn as far as possible
- Always use a sunscreen when outside, even in winters
- Protect with clothing like hats, shades, etc
Taking a balanced diet with the right amount of liquids is also necessary. One should avoid dehydration as it increases the risk of damage to the skin. At times it has been seen that minor nutritional deficiency can also cause infections, rashes, etc. So safeguard against these by taking a nutritious diet.
It is also recommended to keep the skin softened and moist using the right moisturizers and lotions. Moist skin heals quickly in comparison to dry skin.
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