May 23, 2018
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Aging skin needs TLC

By Carol Higgins Taylor, Eastern Area Agency on Aging

A number of years ago, I met a woman in her 80s who had skin like a child. Her face was smooth, creamy and it actually glowed. I was so impressed that I blurted out, “You are beautiful! How do you care for your skin?”

Clearly taken aback, and yet pleased, she answered, “Cleanse and moisturize every day. And be gentle.”

She’s right. Skin thins as we age and can’t withstand rougher treatments such as vigorous scrubbing with a facecloth or exfoliating with products that contain hard granules that are designed to whisk away dead skin cells.

You can actually make your own gentle scrub by putting a little bit of granulated sugar in your cleanser and rubbing carefully over your face with the tips of your ring and middle fingers, which are weaker than the others. This technique will automatically help you use a lighter touch.

Some people recommend making a scrub from salt but I have been told by beauty experts that it can be drying, which is already a common problem for seniors.

Seniors often find that their lower legs, elbows, and forearms become rough and scaly. Put your sugar scrub to work on these areas as well, and follow up with a moisturizing lotion or oil.

Possible reasons for dry skin include dehydration, too much sun exposure, being in very dry air, smoking, stress and losing sweat and oil glands, a common occurrence with aging. Diabetes or kidney disease can also play a role, as can using too much soap, the wrong soap, or water that is hot rather than warm.

There are a vast number of skin care products on the market. Before purchasing a new product, ask the store about the return policy in case you have a bad reaction.

You may want to try products that are specifically made for sensitive skin or are hypoallergenic. If your skin feels tight or dry after washing then that cleanser may not be the right one for you.

When moisturizing, look for a product labeled SPF 15, which will offer you some sun protection.

Dryness and itchiness are not unusual for older skin but if these conditions are especially bothersome, speak with a dermatologist or your primary care doctor.

Also, be sure to report any new or changing lesions or moles. Seniors bruise more easily than their younger counterparts and take longer to heal, but if bruising has become more frequent, alert your doctor.

Remember, being comfortable in the skin you’re in is easier when it is soft and supple, not dry and itchy.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. Email her at

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