Health Library Explorer

October 2021

How Aging Affects Your Skin

Even if you tend to fib about your age, your skin may still give it away. That’s because your skin’s appearance changes as you get older. For example, your skin loses fat, which makes it appear thinner and less smooth. Your veins become more visible. If you get a cut or wound, it might take longer to heal. And lifelong habits, such as smoking and tanning, start to take a toll. Read on for some additional ways aging affects your skin.

Common skin problems as you age

Dryness: Many older adults have dry spots on their legs, elbows, and arms that may feel rough and scaly. There are many different reasons why dryness occurs. They include:

  • Too much sun

  • Dry air

  • Smoking

  • Stress

  • Not drinking enough fluids

  • Loss of sweat and oil glands

  • Diabetes

  • Kidney disease

  • Certain medicines

Bruises. As you age, your skin bruises more easily than it used to. Your bruises can also take longer to heal. Taking certain medicines can make your skin more likely to bruise.

Wrinkles. For the most part, wrinkles are a natural part of aging. They’re caused by a variety of things—some you can control and some you can’t—such as skin type, sun exposure, smoking, and gravity.

Age spots. Also known as liver spots, these flat, brown spots tend to appear on your face, hands, arms, back, and feet. They’re caused by years of exposure to ultraviolet light.

Skin tags. These are small, harmless growths that develop on your skin. They become more common as you age. They are most likely to occur on your eyelids, neck, armpits, chest, and groin.

Skin cancer. Years of sunbathing or indoor tanning can damage your skin and lead to skin cancer. Men older than age 50 and whites are most likely to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. But risk increases for everyone with age, and the average age at diagnosis is 65. Once you get melanoma, your risk of developing another melanoma is 9 times higher than that of someone who has never had it before.

What you can do

Even though you can’t turn back the clock, you can take steps to improve your skin’s appearance and reduce further damage. For example:

  • Wear sunscreen. It’s never too late to start. Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher and says broad spectrum on the label.

  • If you smoke, quit.

  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables can reduce signs of skin damage, while eating a lot of sugar and highly processed carbohydrates may speed skin aging.

  • Wash your skin gently—scrubbing causes irritation.

  • Apply moisturizer daily to reduce fine lines.

  • Stop using over-the-counter products that cause burning or stinging. This means the product is irritating your skin.

  • Don’t use too many skin care products at once, even if they’re labeled antiaging. Doing so can cause irritation and make signs of aging worse.

There are many different antiaging skin products and procedures available today. Talk with a dermatologist to figure out which ones may work best for you.

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 5/1/2021
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