Thursday, January 22, 2015

Skin Health: Top 10 Tips Seniors Should Follow

By Anne Gill, guest blogger

Polar vortex, artic blasts, plunging temps—it’s enough to make your skin crawl and certainly dry out. For seniors, colder weather combined with a loss of elasticity and fat in the skin and a decrease in oil and sweat production can spell trouble.

Wayne Xue, M.D., board certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon, sees more patients with dry, itchy skin during winter. “Cold weather and less humidity can lead to dry skin and subsequently lead to dermatitis or eczema,” cautions Dr. Xue. On the bright side, winter months can be a time for pampering. To keep your skin in top-notch condition, check out these 10 ways to fight winter’s harsh effects.


1. Infuse yourself with moisture. Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water and run a humidifier in your bedroom.

2. Boost your vitamin D intake. A little bit of sun aids in the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D—an important factor in bone health and cell growth. As we age, our skin does not produce vitamin D efficiently and we spend more time indoors. Dr. Xue recommends taking a vitamin D supplement, but advises to check with your primary care physician first.

3. Give food a thought. “Your diet really has an impact on your skin,” explains Angel Zirkle, RN, certified aesthetic consultant. Load up on fruits and vegetables especially foods high in vitamin C and beta-carotene such as oranges, carrots, squash and mangoes. Seek out monounsaturated fats like walnuts, avocados and olive oil. Angel also believes in getting enough sleep and exercising regularly.

4. Block the sun. While some sun exposure can be good for you, never forget your sunscreen. “UVA rays penetrate through clouds and glass,” says Angel. She applies sunscreen daily, even in winter, and looks for products containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. According to Dr. Xue, sunscreen with broad spectrum coverage and SPF 30 is appropriate for winter, but suggests using a higher SPF for the warmer months or if participating in snow sports.

5. Limit bathing time. Take shorter showers or baths and use lukewarm water. If you can’t handle cooler water temps, take fewer baths or showers. After a bath or shower, pat your skin dry and always apply moisturizer, suggests Dr. Xue.

6. Up your moisturizing regime. With less moisture in the air, your skin becomes taxed. Use moisturizing body and hand soap with glycerin and facial moisturizers containing ceramide which replenishes the skin’s natural oils. Dr. Xue recommends Aveeno, Cetaphil and Olay products. Angel likes facial products that include antioxidants such as green tea and caffeine.

7. Specialize in body parts. The skin around your eyes is much thinner than the skin around your knees and elbows. “You don’t want to use expensive eye cream all over your face,” says Angel. She purchases separate products for hand/feet, body and face. Use heavier creams such as Curel Intensive Healing Cream to hydrate skin during winter months.

8. Organize a spa party. One of the many benefits of living in a senior living community is close proximity to friends. Whether hosting a home party or a trip to a local spa, facials and foot massages can rejuvenate skin during the cold months. Caveat: avoid rough facials with acidic skin-care products like glycolic acid and vitamin C; look for spas with certified aestheticians on staff; and if you have sensitive skin, check with your dermatologist before any treatment.

9. Choose your wardrobe wisely. Avoid wearing clothing containing wool which can irritate the skin. When it comes to fabric, you can’t go wrong with 100-percent cotton says Dr. Xue. Because some dyes can affect the skin, he suggest lighter-colored clothing.

10. Schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. Not only can a visit with your dermatologist yield great advice on skin care products, but it’s also an opportunity for an annual body checkup. “Skin cancer is often linked to sun exposure, but it can also be hereditary,” says Dr. Xue. Skin cancer increases with age, so remain diligent about annual skin checks.

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