by Carol Higgins Taylor
Eastern Area Agency on Aging
I don’t know about you, but old man winter has done a number on my skin. The back of my hands could scrape paint off the side of a barn. Looking back, I don’t recall being plagued with such extreme dryness in winters’ past. But as my doctor is fond of saying, “you’re older now.”
Well, with age comes wisdom, still waiting for that one, but apparently with age, also comes dry skin. And it’s only going to get worse. Lotions, potions, oils and creams are on my weekly shopping list. Some work, some don’t. The trick is finding what works for you, has the texture you like, is affordable and has a fragrance that makes you breathe in deeply and say, “Ahhh.” Some fragrances can transport you to a tropical paradise.
The National Institutes on Aging says that many seniors suffer from dry skin on their lower legs and arms, with elbows being a particular problem area. I would be willing to bet that feet are high on the list too. Dry skin can be itchy and uncomfortable and has a variety of causes:
• Not drinking enough liquids
• Staying out in the sun
• Being in very dry air
• Feeling stress
• Some medicines make skin itchier. If your skin is newly very dry and itchy, see your doctor.
•Losing sweat and oil glands (common with age)
Diabetes and kidney disease can contribute to dry skin as can using too much soap. In an attempt to avoid cold and flu germs you are probable washing your hands constantly.
Hot water is a culprit, too, so stick with warm and rinse that soap off completely. If your skin feels tight or dry after washing than that is not the cleanser for you. Follow-up with the hand cream you like best. And don’t ignore your cuticles which can get ragged and tear.
Take less baths opting for quick showers instead. Shower chairs are available and give you the opportunity to pamper your legs and feet without the risk of falling. Using bath oil in your tub could transform it into a death trap so use a sudsy shower gel. And if you want to feel really special, buy the matching lotion. It’s called fragrance layering and can lift your spirits on cold snowy days.
Men should not feel left out. Their skin is important too and there is no shortage of manly scented products that will soften skin and will have ladies in the vicinity making that “Ahhh” sound.
Part of the problem with aging skin is that it becomes thin and can scratch easily causing bleeding, which could lead to infection. So, if you are thinking about exfoliating, be careful of the scrubs with hard particles. Honestly, in my experience, a washcloth is just as effective.
Most importantly, check your skin monthly for possible cancer. Have your healthcare provider watch any lesions, moles or changes that may have occurred since your last visit. Skin cancer can be treatable if caught early. The NIA suggests looking for changes such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a bleeding mole. They also recommend checking moles, birthmarks or other parts of the skin for the “ABCDE’s.”
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; this means the growth changes in size, shape, symptoms (itching, tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or shades of color.
See your doctor immediately if you have any of these signs. Baby the skin you’re in. It has to last a lifetime.
Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, toll-free 800-432-7812, or visit www.EAAA.org.