Have you ever wondered why your grandparent were always turning the temperature up? Or why you can see more veins in your hands now than you could ten years ago?
The answer to all of these questions is changes in skin.
The skin is the most underrated organ in the human body even though it is the largest! It plays such an important role in protecting the body and most people never even think about it: it protects you from the environment, it helps regulate body temperature, and contains the nerves endings that give you your sense of touch.
To do all of this, you skin is made up of three different layers that have different functions and roles for the body:
- The outermost layer is called the epidermis. It is a thin layer that acts as the barrier from infections and diseases. It also contains melanin, which is the pigment that gives our skin color.
- The dermis is the middle layer of skin that keeps your skin firm, contains nerve endings, sweat glands, hair follicles, and blood vessels. Its main role is to act as a receptor, letting you know when things hurt or your body is uncomfortable.
- The innermost layer called the subcutaneous layer (or hypodermis) connects skin to bone and muscle as well as insulate the body with its layer of fatty tissue.
These layers start to go through some changes as with age that affect your health and body:
1. You don’t heal as quickly as you age
According to MedicinePlus.gov, “Aging skin repairs itself more slowly than younger skin. Wound healing may be up to 4 times slower.”
One of the reasons for this is the drop in collagen in the dermis that starts to happen in your 30s and becomes noticeable in your 50s. Collagen is the main set of protein enzymes that aid in wound healing and new skin growth. With lower levels, your body can’t heal as quickly and cellular regeneration slows down.
This can be a concern because the longer a wound is open, there is more of a chance for infection and it leading to a chronic wound. Also, your body’s immune system is lower as it heals the wound, which leaves you at a greater risk for becoming sick.
2. You’re more likely to get small injuries and wounds from thinning skin
As you age, your skin becomes thinner. With the thinning of the epidermis, your skin will become more transparent. This is why you can see more veins, sun, and age spots on your skin as you get older.
Besides a cosmetic change, the thinner skin doesn’t provide as strong a barrier from the environment. This can lead to more abrasions and cuts. It also doesn’t help that blood vessels in the dermis are more fragile, which lead to an increase in bruising as well.
3. You’re cold all the time
As you get older, your start to loose padding and insulation in the subcutaneous layer of skin. That third layer contains a layer of fat that helps regulate your body temperature. As you get older, you start to lose more of this fat. This is why your grandparent always said they were cold even though it was 80 degrees inside. They didn’t have that extra insulation to help regulate their body temperature.
4. Your sense of touch diminishes with the loss of nerve ending
Age also decreases the amount of nerve endings in the skin. The dermis starts to lose nerve endings when you are about 65. Less nerves means that you won’t be as sensitive to pressure, pain, and temperature. It also means that it’s harder to judge your grip on something.
5. Your skin gets drier
Due to changes in hormones (especially for women) and less collagen levels, your skin starts to get dryer. Most women will start to notice slight changes in the 30s and definite changes in their 40s and 50s with menopause. Men, will generally start to see the effects in the 50s onwards.
Besides your skin not feeling as soft and having that glowing look, the skin being dry can lead to cracking skin and itchiness. With weaker skin, the chances of creating wounds increases with dry skin. The good news is that with lotion, dry skin is easily treated.
6. You develop wrinkles
As you age (usually becoming noticeable in your 50s), your skin’s elasticity isn’t as good. Elastin is a protein found in connective tissues that helps the skin and muscles snap back into place. With age, connective tissue becomes weaker, reducing elasticity and your skin’s strength. This and lower levels of collagen are the main reasons that people develop wrinkles.
7. Your skin changes color
According to a Columbia University study, melanocytes decrease ten to twenty percent per decade. Melanocytes are melanin producing cells. Melanin is what gives you your skin tone. As you lose melanocytes, your skin color might change or you might have more spots on your skin than before.
Your skin is an important organ in your body and its health is a major contributor into the healing process for wounds, preventing injuries, and feeling good. To slow down the aging effects of your skin try to:
- Cut back on drinking heavily on a regular basis since it dehydrates the body and deprives the skin of vital vitamins and nutrients.
- Don’t smoke. There are a many reasons that smoking is bad, but it affects the skin directly by decreasing the oxygen in the blood and constricting the blood vessels leading to small red lines from dilated blood vessels. It also has been linked to premature skin aging and loss of skin elasticity. The more you smoke, the faster your skin ages.
- Maintain a healthy weight so that you don’t stretch the skin out
- Wear sunscreen of SPF 30 to block the rays from the sun that can cause sun spots and premature aging of the skin.
- Keep your skin moisturized to keep it healthy and help replace old skin cells.