As we grow older, there are many aspects of our bodies that progressively change. This happens to everyone but can still surprise you when you notice it on yourself. One of the first indications of aging that we visibly notice on our bodies is usually changes in facial skin tone or texture. There are several conditions concerning the skin that come along naturally with age. Being prepared can help you to have remedies planned for skin conditions that you will start to see as years pass.
Layers of skin
The skin is the body’s largest organ and is made up of several layers. The outermost layer is the epidermis. This is the layer that you can see, feel and touch. It contains skin cells, pigments and proteins. The middle layer is the dermis. This layer contains blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles and oil glands. If you penetrate or injure your skin and draw blood this is a good indication that you have reached the dermis layer. The innermost layer of skin is the subcutaneous layer (hypodermis) where you find sweat glands, some hair follicles, blood vessels and fat.
Each of the layers can be broken down even further into more detailed layers of skin. Each of these layers also contains collagen fibers to give support and elastin fibers to provide flexibility.
The skin changes from within
With aging, the epidermis begins to thin but the number of cell layers remains unchanged. The number of pigment-containing cells, called melanocytes, decreases, though. You may be familiar with melanin, the pigment that gives human skin, hair, and eyes their color. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes. They provide some protection against skin damage from the sun, and they increase their production in response to prolonged sun exposure. The melanocytes that remain increase in size. The combination of a thinning epidermis with fewer melanocytes makes aged skin appear thinner, paler and almost translucent.
The connective tissues which can be found in many layers of the skin are responsible for keeping the skin strong and elastic. As we age, we lose connective tissue, reducing the strength and elasticity of our skin all over the body. This effect of aging is known as elastosis. This condition is more noticeable in areas of the skin that have been exposed to the sun, however it does occur nearly everywhere across the body. Elastosis creates leathery skin that looks worn down and dull.
The blood vessels of the dermis become very fragile, causing older skin to bruise more easily. This is referred to as senile purpura.
The sebaceous glands produce far less oil as you begin to age. Men experience less of a decrease in oil production than women do and it most often does not begin until around age eighty. Women experience it earlier. After menopause, women begin to gradually produce less oil every year. This makes it much harder to keep the skin moisturized.
The subcutaneous fat layer of the skin thins greatly. This produces far less insulation and padding all over the body. This is why as you age keeping warm also becomes harder to do. This layer works as the body’s natural insulation, when it starts to decrease being cold will begin to happen more often. This also increases your risk of skin injury.
When aged skin is exposed to sun
Because melanocytes increase in the skin as a person grows older, the skin becomes more prone to skin defects from sun exposure. Age spots, also known as liver spots, are usually flat and black or brown in color, but vary in size. They can appear on areas of the skin that are routinely exposed to sun or areas that are in the sun for one prolonged period of time. While they are called “liver” spots, they do not have anything to do with the liver itself or its functioning. The spots are simply changes in skin color of older skin.
After the age of forty the spots become quite common but younger people can get them too, especially if they spend a lot of time in the sun. They occur most often on the face, forearms, forehead, shoulders and the backs of the hands.