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How to Care for Senior Skin Properly

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Before we dive into today’s topic, we want to state clearly that the Nutritional Aesthetics® Alliance is anti the term “anti-aging.” We strive to be a proactive part of the paradigm shift that is happening (albeit slowly) that sees and acknowledges a person’s inherent beauty and value at any age. That being said, as we age, our skin’s needs shift. Today we aim to educate about the needs of senior skin.

Aging is natural — and so is its impact on our skin. While everyone is different, getting older typically leads to thinning, less elastic, and more sensitive skin that requires a little added care.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

To ensure optimal senior skincare and wellbeing, adopting and maintaining skin-healthy lifestyle habits is the top priority. There are a few key factors to consider.

With more than 50 million seniors living in the U.S. alone, it’s important we talk about their skin AND their overall health. Since a senior’s overall health plays a crucial role in the condition of their skin, it’s vital to ensure an optimal sense of well-being.

For example, seniors shouldn’t smoke. If they are smokers, then there’s no time like the present to quit. Cigarettes, cigars, and any product containing tobacco can contribute to dull and dry skin. Smoking also prematurely ages the skin, and adds signs of aging such as lines around the mouth and deep, static wrinkles, the person might not otherwise have. 

Additionally, eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet can help ensure you receive the proper nutrients. Skin cells are built from the inside out; how healthy they are when they reach the surface largely depends on the quality of nutrients with which they were formed. Nutrient-poor diets (fast foods, packaged foods, junk foods) can lead to a variety of skin-related issues including dandruff, dermatitis, dryness, irritation, and thinning.

Since certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies can manifest as skin disorders, seniors should talk to their primary care physician about healthy dietary practices. Eating better can drastically improve a senior’s well-being — and improved skin is just one of the many benefits likely to occur. 

Find non-toxic protection against the sun

Sun exposure is a leading cause of skin complications and concerns — especially in aging adults. Seniors should always wear sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 to 30 when out in the sun, and should reapply liberally as directed on the package. 

Sunscreen should be the last consideration when planning sun exposure for senior skin. When spending prolonged periods of time outdoors, it’s also helpful to wear lightweight and breathable attire that covers the skin, too. Even on cloudy days, slathering on sunscreen and taking preventative measures can promote greater skin health.

For a sun-kissed glow, a mineral bronzing powder is far safer than sun bathing or even worse–tanning booths, which should be avoided no matter what.

Understand that senior skin is sensitive–often more sensitive than younger people’s skin–and should be treated with a greater sense of mindfulness when it comes to product ingredients. While the population as a whole should avoid toxic makeup and skincare ingredients, it’s even more pressing for seniors to choose safe, healthy products for their skincare routine. We recommend broad spectrum sunscreens that use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients instead of chemical absorbing sunscreen ingredients.

Skip synthetic fragrances

Be sure to avoid any face creams or moisturizers with the words “fragrance” or “parfum” on the label–even if those words are preceded by the word “natural.” Even natural fragrances contain synthetic fragrance ingredients, none of which will be disclosed on the ingredient deck; any of which could cause a reaction.

Synthetic fragrance is the most common cause of allergic and irritant skin and respiratory reactions. Rashes, swelling, itchiness, and overall sensitivity are even more common reactions for senior skin (and are often the explanation when nothing else seems to be the cause).

Look for the term “fragrance-free.” Even “unscented” could be a fragrance blend. If there are botanical ingredients in the product, look for the Latin botanical name, rather than just the common name (ex: lavandula angustifolia instead of “lavender oil”). If you see fragrance ingredients listed at the end of the label (bisalobol, limonene, linalool, etc) check the source of these–sometimes they could be essential oil components since some are now required to be listed out, but they could also be synthetic.

Ensure proper hydration 

Nothing is more refreshing than a tall glass of water. Not only does proper hydration help you feel good, but it makes you look good, too. There’s a reason hydration is so closely linked to glowing skin, after all.

When you don’t get enough water, it can lead to serious health consequences — especially for your skin. Since seniors have a higher risk for dehydration, it’s crucial for older adults to pay close attention to the amount of water they’re consuming daily. As a general rule of thumb, most people should drink a minimum of half a gallon per day. Please note that seniors with kidney issues or other known health issues should consult with their physician about the proper quantity of daily water intake.

Changing seasons affect senior skin

Regardless of age, an individual’s skincare regimen should change as the seasons change. While covering up and wearing sunscreen is vital during sunny months, investing in a humidifier may be the wisest choice for the fall and winter.

Senior skin is even more susceptible to dehydration and dryness during cooler winter months. Even in the home, the skin is exposed to dry air — which means there isn’t enough moisture present to hydrate the skin. Investing in a simple humidifier can improve a senior’s skin hydration by promoting healthy moisture levels in the air. Just be sure to clean it daily and change the filters as directed to prevent microbial growth.

A good winter senior skincare regimen also should include an extra layer of lipid protection to seal in moisture and prevent trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). Natural plant-sourced oils and butters such as apricot kernel oil or shea butter are effective for this purpose, and won’t suffocate the skin in the same way as a petrolatum-based occlusive might.

Vibrant skin is possible at any age

Seniors who add these simple lifestyle upgrades to their daily routine may be able to significantly enhance the overall appearance and health of their skin.

Encourage your senior skincare clients or a loved ones to try these simple changes — they may be surprised how many overall benefits they experience as a result!

Leave a comment about aromatherapy in the spa!

Do you support senior skin in your practice?

What’s your number one tip for vibrant senior skin? Please share in the comments below!

Thank you to NAA MemberKate Harveston, for contributing this article!

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