Skin Thinning with Age: What You Can Do About It

Sudden incidents of bleeding or bruises that appear out of nowhere can be scary and distressing. Let's find ways to combat it!
Close-up of a senior female hand holding a younger female hand

One of the most common complaints around aging is the thinning of the skin. It can seem like the slightest knock or harmless bump causes disproportionate damage. When first encountered it can be a real shock and wake-up call.

Fortunately, there are viable measures that can be taken to limit these unfortunate injuries and keep your skin healthy as we ripen.

How Healthy Skin Works

Human skin is composed of many layers of tissue. In the middle is a layer called the "dermis," which makes up about 90 percent of the skin's thickness. Individuals may have different thicknesses of skin, but they all depend on collagen, a substance your body produces naturally to maintain plumpness and fullness.

As we age, our bodies produce less collagen. The result? The skin layer becomes thinner. Thinning skin can lead to variety of problems, such as easy tearing of the skin, more frequent bruising, bleeding from small bumps to the surface and extreme dryness of the skin.

What Does Skin Thinning Look Like?

The most common symptom of skin thinning is wrinkles. As our skin becomes thinner, it loses its elasticity and is not able to bounce back into shape as it once did. This loss of elasticity leads to the formation of wrinkles and fine lines on the skin.

Other signs and symptoms of skin thinning include:

  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Itching
  • Reduced ability to sweat
  • Slow wound healing
  • Easy bruising or bleeding

What Causes Thinning Skin?

In addition to natural thinning due to aging, there are a few other contributing factors to consider. The first is exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. The simple act of being outdoors can cause wrinkling, age spots and thinning of the skin.

Medications can also be a contributing factor. Topical or oral corticosteroids, prescription blood thinners, aspirin and over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and naproxen can cause thinning of the skin.

There’s also little one can do to hide from lifestyle habits in just about any facet of health. Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of exercise and poor diet aren’t doing anybody any favors.

How To Protect Your Thinning Skin

Attractive older woman with suntan lotion in the shape of a heart on her arm

Although skin thinning comes with age, there are measures that can be taken to ensure healthier skin that is more resistant to damage. Here’s what you can do for thin skin.

Manage the sun

Protect your skin from damaging ultraviolet rays by wearing a sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 rating whenever you spend time outdoors. It may “dry reading” but it’s also important to familiarize yourself with the recommendations for sun safety. Wearing long sleeves and pants not only adds additional layers of defense, it also can protect the skin against bumps. Choose lightweight, breathable fabrics if you live in warm weather.

Put the right things in and on your body

Stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of water. Yes, we know, you’ve heard that before. Many experts recommend using an app to track the amount of water you imbibe on a daily basis. Keeping this record of water intake is informative and can also be highly motivating.

Challenge yourself to include fresh fruits and vegetables at each meal and for snacks

By increasing the amount of fresh produce, you may notice you’re less attracted to eating sugar treats or fat-filled foods. Fruits and vegetables are not only good for your skin, but they are also good for your heart and overall health. Don’t forget to be mindful of foods seniors should avoid as well.

Moisturize daily

The best time to moisturize is after bathing which will help to lock the moisturizer into skin cells more effectively. Talk to your doctor about using retinol A cream to provide better protection for your skin.

Medicate intelligently

It’s smart to check your over-the-counter medications to ensure they’re not contributing to thinning skin. Make certain to speak with your primary care doctor about all oral and topical medications. Also, it’s worthwhile to consider nutritional supplements such as vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, gamma-linolenic acid and collagen peptides.

Be gentle with your skin

Overall, just be gentle with your skin. Skip the hot water whenever you take a shower and opt for lukewarm water instead. Switch out your products (such as soaps, hand washes, hand sanitizers, arthritis relief products, and lotions) with ones that are labeled “gentle” or “for sensitive skin.” These products will be less likely to irritate your skin.

And let us not forget about the three standards all mothers teach – drink moderately, don’t smoke and exercise regularly.

Assistance Club Summary

Senior Assistance Club reminders: your daily choices can help you manage thinning skin. Take an active role in your diet, exercise, medications, and sun exposure. With a little attention, you can protect your skin and keep it healthy while you age.