Thinning Skin - Another Joy of Aging!
While old man winter seems to be taking a break here in upstate New York the cold weather is far from over. You may be noticing more and more the changes in your skin. It seems thinner and bruises more easily. Unfortunately, these are just more of the joys of aging! So, let’s look at what’s going on and what you can do to minimize some of the effects the weather and aging have on your skin.
Thinning skin can be caused by the degradation of collagen and elastin from ultraviolet light in sunlight and a decrease in estrogen levels in menopause. The cells that comprise our skin shrink and decrease in number and the fatty layer beneath our skin thins out as well. It doesn’t end there - in addition to collagen and elastic fibers getting damage by exposure to the sun, the small blood vessels (capillaries) that are near the skin’s surface become more fragile which can lead to bruising when they’re broken.
Because thinner skin bruises more easily, even a small bump can cause blood to leak out of the vessels leaving a black and blue mark that gradually turns yellow, green, and then brown. As your body reabsorbs the blood the mark disappears. This process can take much longer than you think. There are also certain medications that can contribute to easy bruising including aspirin, anticoagulants, and antibiotics.
If you’re thinking that men don’t bruise as much as women, you’re right! Men’s skin is about 20 percent thicker than women’s, mostly due to higher levels of testosterone. As we age, collagen production decreases in both men and women, but women lose it more rapidly, especially after menopause. Additionally, menopause causes a decrease in estrogen which leads to a thinning of a woman’s skin and collagen layers.
So, how do we care for thinning and bruising skin? Here are a few suggestions:
- Try to avoid bumping into things (seems like a no brainer!)
- Exposure to certain medications as well as natural supplements can make people susceptible to bruising so be sure to review these things with your physician if bruising is a concern
- Wear long pants and long sleeves
- Use a moisturizer to prevent dry skin (dry skin is more prone to breaking open)
- Use sunscreen with an SPF greater than 30
- Check with your dermatologist about anti-aging medications
Easy bruising as we age is very common and, unfortunately, there’s not a lot that can be done to prevent it. Medical treatment isn’t usually required, but just be aware that it could take weeks or even months for a bruise to fade completely.