It is very important to take care of your skin as you age, remember skin is the largest organ that protects the body.

Why are skin problems more common in older people?

The skin on our body constantly renews itself, but with ageing, this process of cell renewal slows down. The "dead cell" layer remains longer on the surface of the skin, making it look dry and dull. As skin ages it becomes thinner and less elastic – this makes it feel rougher and scalier, which leads to sagging skin and wrinkles.

These changes render it more susceptible to skin infections, ulcers and other more serious forms of skin diseases. 

What skin problems are common in older people?

Skin problems can range from simple issues like dryness that results in itching or scaling; bruising, to more serious problems like ulceration, infections and even cancers.

Serious skin infections and non-healing ulcers can often lead to serious health problems and should be checked by a dermatologist (a doctor who is a skin specialist).

Few common examples include dermatitis, infections like ringworm and parasitic infestations.

Ulcers are also a frequent occurrence and can take weeks to months to heal, especially if the treatment gets delayed.

Regarding Cancers, they can be slow growing over months and years or aggressive in nature, usually early diagnosis and treatment improves the outcome in both forms. 

Special Skin Care for Older Adults

Older people require special skin care to prevent the skin from becoming too dry and broken. 

Prevention is always better than cure! 
Below are some recommended tips for looking after your skin in older age:

General measures include:
  1. Have a healthy balanced diet
  2. Avoid smoking
  3. Keeping your body well hydrated (drink enough water daily)
  4. Regular checkups with your doctor, especially if you notice any new changes
Specific tips include:

Avoiding hot baths (use warm water)

Using only mild soaps (preferably fragrance free) and soft cloth to wash your skin

Gently apply moisturizers after every shower

People who are bedridden need to avoid prolonged pressure on the ankles, heels and buttocks as too much pressure can tear the thin skin and lead to bed sores. Frequent turning and changing of absorbent pads if bed ridden or incontinent

Diabetic patients should take extra care as their condition makes wound management more challenging.

Speak to your doctor if you notice any new growth or a non-healing /infected ulcer on your skin.

Additional information on bedsores / pressure ulcers:

Bedsores are caused by an external pressure that limits blood flow to the skin. Limited movement can make the skin vulnerable to damage and lead to the development of bedsores. These can be serious and warrant special nursing and medical care. 

To prevent bedsores from forming, try to reposition yourself frequently in the chair or bed to avoid stress on the skin. 

In addition, you need to take good care of your skin by maintaining good nutrition and fluid intake, not smoking, managing stress, and exercising daily.

Where to find help:

Your private nurse, homecare team or family doctor can make an initial assessment and will decide if you need to be referred to a specialist at HMC if more treatments or monitoring are needed.

Remember it’s always easier and better to treat things in their earlier stages.