Warm, even balmy, weather with a few days of chill thrown in reminds us winter weather will soon be on its way.
The calendar is telling us winter is here, too.
Many people are hoping it arrives soon so they can enjoy the snow, ice skating, sledding and other winter sports and events that mark the changing of the seasons.
Or maybe they’re looking forward to a roaring fire. After all, sitting by the fire warming our toes is a truly relaxing time for many people!
Unfortunately, dry air also comes with the winter weather and warming ourselves up, air that can dry out our skin.
Seniors can be especially vulnerable to dry skin, which can be painful at times. Our lips, mouths, and eyes can dry out too.
For seniors who already find it difficult to drink enough fluid to replace what they are losing each day, the dry air in their homes will only make skin care more problematic unless we find a solution.
Drying Skin As We Age
As we age our skin goes through natural changes, as well as changes affected by our lifestyle and environment. These are called intrinsic (inside) and extrinsic (outside) factors that affect our seniors’ skin health.
Factors such as sun exposure, smoking, diet, and even our heredity cause progressive changes and even damage to our skin. Drug induced disorders, chronic diseases, ultraviolet light and pollutants also contribute to skin health concerns.
If circulatory or vascular conditions are present in our seniors, their bodies could have more difficulty healing their skin when problems do occur.
We lose fatty tissue between our skin and our muscles as we age, as well as see a decrease in the sebaceous and sweat gland activity that naturally lubricates the skin, making our skin thinner and more fragile.
Drying skin naturally becomes more susceptible to further external damage.
Our senior’s skin will become dry, rough, transparent or thinned and will bruise easily as the elasticity fades. We will see more wrinkles, sagging skin, age spots and flaky dry skin in our seniors.
Dry air in the car, home and other places our seniors spend time will further cause their skin to dry.
Dry Skin Consequences
When their skin gets too dry it can become cracked, bleed and even get infected. Xerosis is the name of the condition where skin becomes dry, cracked and it looks like cracked porcelain. It often is a result of water loss in the epidermis.
Bleeding occurs often as a result of scratching.
Dry skin can feel itchy to our seniors and may cause them to suffer from broken and bleeding skin when they attempt to relieve their itchy feeling.
It takes as much as four times longer for their skin to heal after an injury including deep scratches they may inflict when itchy skin strikes.
Another consequence of changing skin for seniors is an increased risk of injury as sensations decrease.
The sense of touch for heat diminishes making it more likely that cozying up to the fire or space heater can lead to dangerous injuries! Seniors skin won’t feel the heat or cold the way they used to so need to be more careful around a heat source including bath water or foot spas!
Care and Treatment of Dry Senior Skin
The best treatment for skin that is dry is to lubricate it – from inside and outside. Family caregivers can help senior loved ones do these things for better skin health.
- Drink – drinking water helps keep senior’s cells moisturized from the inside.
- Humidify the air, either with a portable unit to go with your senior or just use a dish of water near air source
- Moisturize skin to trap the moisture, especially applying when skin is wet for best absorption; a good lubricating cream should be used daily
- Avoid frequent bathing, which will aggravate already dry skin; use lukewarm not hot water
- Avoid using cleansers on the skin every day; use nonirritant soap
- Reduce skin friction from washcloths or rough clothing; blot skin with towel, don’t rub
- Eat a healthy diet that includes adequate amounts of zinc and essential fatty acids as well as fluids; avoid caffeine; add a source of vitamin C
- Talk to your senior’s doctor about their medications and review if there are any that could be contributing to xerosis
- Use a lip balm to protect lips from cracking
- Apply nourishing cream to hands after each hand washing
- See a dermatologist if skin the condition becomes worse, doesn’t heal or to rule out a relationship to other health problems
New Nourishing Skin Product
There are many new and some old products that you can use on your senior’s dry skin to provide moisture and help keep them lubricated.
It is important to pick wisely when looking for the best moisturizing treatment for your senior’s dry skin.
Don’t buy a lotion but instead look for a nourishing cream, preferably containing oils such as olive, jojba and even shea butter.
Recently we learned about a product from Medline called Phytoplex Nourishing Skin Cream. We were provided with a sample to try for ourselves (we were not compensated in any way and the opinions here are our own).
We used the nourishing skin cream over the course of a few weeks on dry skin related to a dry environment. We were well hydrated during the trial period but subject to dry heated air without added humidity in both the home and car.
Naturally we, like many of our seniors, have used a wide variety of dry skin products over the years, including some very well known names. All will work for the time they are applied as they all add moisture to the skin. We liked the Phytoplex product because its affects really did last all day.
We used it once in the morning after a shower while our skin was still damp. It absorbed very quickly but provided a protective feeling all day. Our driest spots like elbows and heels felt renewed. They were smooth and more flexible instead of stiff and dry.
The cream contains nourishing elements including safflower seed oil, botanicals and fatty acids. It contains a combination of components known as phytoplex, which describes it in this way.
- Phytoplex is a combination of all-natural, plant-based ingredients, including soy, algae extracts, green tea, and cloves.
- It’s free of ingredients that might cause an allergic reaction, such as aloe, sulfates, parabens, petroleum derivatives, and phthalates.
It has a pleasing scent that is not overpowering and doesn’t linger all day.
They also have Nourishing Skin Protectant wipes that you might like for senior loved ones that work as well as the cream.
About More Than Wrinkles
It is really important for family caregivers to help seniors stay well-nourished inside and out in order to keep their skin looking and feeling healthy.
It isn’t just about the number or deepness of wrinkles in our aging skin, but of its overall health.
Having trouble with their skin can go deeper for many seniors.
Dry skin can lead to discomfort and even illness when not properly treated. Healthy skin is one part of good quality of life as we age.