With aging, the outer skin layer (epidermis) thins, even though the number of cell layers remains unchanged. The number of pigment-containing cells (melanocytes) decreases, but the remaining melanocytes increase in size. Aging skin thus appears thinner, more pale, and clear (translucent). Large pigmented spots (called age spots, liver spots, or lentigos) may appear in sun-exposed areas.
Changes in the connective tissue reduce the skin's strength and elasticity. This is known as elastosis and is especially pronounced in sun-exposed areas (solar elastosis). Elastosis produces the leathery, weather-beaten appearance common to farmers, sailors, and others who spend a large amount of time outdoors.
The blood vessels of the dermis become more fragile. This leads to bruising, bleeding under the skin, cherry angiomas, and similar conditions.
Sebaceous glands produce less oil as you age. Men experience a minimal decrease, usually after the age of 80. Women gradually produce less oil beginning after menopause. This can make it harder to keep the skin moist, resulting in dryness and itchiness.
The subcutaneous fat layer thins, reducing its normal insulation and padding. This increases your risk of skin injury and reduces your ability to maintain body temperature. It also contributes to the more gaunt appearance of the face with aging.
Growths such as skin tags, warts, and other blemishes are more common in older people.
Care of ageing skin
Exercise is good for the skin as well as for your general health. Take plenty of exercise – active people appear younger. Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables to provide natural antioxidants.
Moisturisers and anti-aging creams can be used to smooth the skin if it is dry and flaky.
Consider treatments that rejuvenate photoaged skin. Consult with the Doctor for expert advice.
- Alpha-hydroxy acids, vitamin-C or retinoid creams applied regularly long term may reduce the number of fine wrinkles and fade blotchy pigmentation. In postmenopausal women a cream containing progesterone may improve skin elasticity and firmness.
- Hyaluronic acid dermal fillers can add volume to the aging face and help improve static wrinkles.
- Botulinum toxin (BOTOX®) injections are used to reduce frowning and lessen deep furrows.
- Resurfacing procedures such as dermabrasion, chemical peels, fractional laser treatment and laser resurfacing remove the top layer of damaged skin, which is replaced by new healthy cells.
- Vascular laser treatment can reduce unsightly facial veins and angiomas.
- Thread veins on the legs can be treated by injections (sclerotherapy).
- Cosmetic surgery is required to remove redundant sagging skin, such as a blepharoplasty for baggy eyelids and a face lift to tighten the jowls.