Sunlight is a major cause of skin changes we think of as aging--changes like wrinkling, looseness, leathery-dryness, blotchiness, various growths, yellowing, or pebbly texture. Still, one-third of all adults sunbathe even though they know that sunlight can hurt their skin.
Your skin does change with age--for example, you sweat less and your skin can take longer to heal. You can delay these changes by staying out of the sun.
Over time, the sun's ultraviolet (UV) light hurts the fibers in the skin called elastin. The breakdown of these fibers causes the skin to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to snap back after stretching. The skin also bruises and tears more easily and takes longer to heal. So while sun damage may not show when you're young, it will later in life. Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can sometimes repair itself. So, it's never too late to begin protecting yourself from the sun.
People who smoke tend to have more wrinkles than nonsmokers of the same age, complexion, and history of sun exposure. The reason for this difference is unclear. It may be because smoking interferes with normal blood flow in the skin.
Sun damage also causes skin cancer. The chance of developing skin cancer increases as people age, especially for those who live in sunny areas of the country. There are three types of common skin cancers:
-Basal cell carcinomas are the most common. They almost never spread to other vital organs, but should be removed since they will get bigger and can affect areas that are nearby.
-Squamous cell carcinomas are less common but are potentially more harmful because they can grow quickly and spread to other organs.
-Malignant melanomas are the most dangerous of all the skin cancers because they may spread to other organs and when they do, they are often fatal.
Finding any cancer early and treating it quickly is important, especially in the case of melanoma. The best defense against skin cancer is paying attention to the warning signs. If there is a sudden change in the look of a mole or a new spot, see a doctor. Look for differences in color, size, shape, or surface quality (scaliness, oozing, crusting, or bleeding). Have a doctor check any dark colored spots.
Dry Skin and Itching
Dry skin is common in later life. About 85 percent of older people develop "winter itch," because overheated indoor air is dry. The loss of sweat and oil glands as we age may also worsen dry skin. Anything that further dries the skin (such as overuse of soaps, antiperspirants, perfumes, or hot baths) will make the problem worse.
Dry skin itches because it is irritated easily. If your skin is very dry and itchy, see a doctor because this condition can affect your sleep, cause irritability, or be a symptom of a disease. For example, diabetes and kidney disease can cause itching. Some medicines make the itchiness worse.