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5 Common Changes to Your Skin as You Age

Happy female doctor smiling at the camera
Your skin undergoes a number of changes as you get older. Therefore, it helps to understand the effects of aging on your skin and the problems that can occur.
1. Sagging, Wrinkling Skin
While damage by the sun is a leading cause of wrinkles, there are other contributing factors like genetics, smoking, and environmental pollutants. As collagen and elastin fibers in the skin break down, your skin loses its flexibility and starts to wrinkle. Facial muscles and soft tissue layers also deteriorate, which causes skin to loosen and sag.
If you smoke, the nicotine in tobacco constricts blood vessels — making it harder for oxygen and nutrients to reach the outer layers of the skin. Other chemicals in tobacco damage the fibers that keep skin firm and tight.
Treatments to help rid your skin of fine lines and wrinkles include topical prescription creams that contain tretinoin. Botulinum toxin injections, laser resurfacing, and microdermabrasion to make the skin feel smoother are among some of the cosmetic procedures dermatologists use to treat wrinkles.
2. Thin Skin
As you get older, thinning skin is a common problem. When the skin and the blood vessels underneath the surface weaken, your skin can tear and bruise easily. Like other skin conditions, sun exposure is a major contributor.
Corticosteroid medications can lead to thin skin as well. These are medications your doctor may prescribe for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
3. Dry, Itchy Skin
When hormone levels drop as you age, your skin produces fewer natural oils. The oils secreted by the sebaceous (oil) glands help keep your skin moisturized. Therefore, skin that has too little oil becomes dry. As a result, it looks more wrinkled and may feel rough.
Dry, flaking, or scaling skin gets irritated easily. Diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and certain medications, including those prescribed to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol, can also cause itchy skin. Usually, the hands, elbows, arms, and lower legs are areas of the body that are most often affected by dry skin.
The regular use of emollients and moisturizing lotions on the outer layer of the skin traps moisture. Moisturizers don't get rid of wrinkles, but they can make them look less obvious. In some cases, your doctor or dermatologist may prescribe a topical steroid cream to reduce inflammation if itchy, dry skin becomes red and irritated.
4. Age Spots
Age spots — painless, flat brown, grayish, or black spots on the skin — occur when your skin produces too much melanin. Although the exact cause of age spots isn't known, exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun is a possible cause. Anyone can develop age spots; however, frequent sun exposure and fair skin increase your risk.
Treatment includes bleaching creams that a dermatologist prescribes to fade the spots by reducing pigment in the skin. Chemical peels, dermabrasion, and laser treatments that lighten or reduce the appearance of age spots are other treatment options.
While these cosmetic treatments can be effective, there are possible side effects and risks. A dermatologist will help you determine which skin treatment is right for you.
5. Seborrheic Keratoses
Seborrheic keratoses are benign growths that look like warts. Unlike many other types of skin growths, seborrheic keratoses are not related to sun exposure. However, they typically develop in middle or later life. Most people get them on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, or back — with more appearing as you age.
The growths are painless and usually require no treatment. However, sometimes they get irritated and bleed when clothing rubs against them. Therefore, you may decide that you want a dermatologist to remove them.
For treatment of these and other skin conditions as you age, the staff of Associated Dermatologists can recommend treatment options to meet your particular skin health needs.