How the skin changes with age

As with other parts of our body our biggest organ being the skin also changes as we age. As we get older certain conditions and developments occur within our skin. Aging effects many parts if not all parts of our body, but changes within the skin due to aging are some of the most visible ones. As we age some signs of changes with the skin appear as wrinkles and sagging skin. Therefor we must pay closer attention to our skin and properly take care of our skin  as we age since our skin is responsible for many essential functions in our everyday life.

For example, our nerve receptors are located within our skin, and they are responsible for enabling us to feel touch, pain and pleasure. Our skin is also responsible for helping us control fluids and electrolyte balance. Other functions our skin is responsible for include helping control our body temperature and provide us protection from the environment.

The different layers of the skin

When discussing the changes of the skin with age is good always to also have some knowledge about the different layers that compose the skin. The skin is composed of 3 different layers. The outer part is referred to as the epidermis. Pigments, skin cells and proteins are stored in the epidermis. The layer below the epidermis is called the dermis. The dermis contains skin cells, blood vessels, nerves, oil glands hair follicles.

In addition, the dermis is responsible for providing nutrients to the epidermis. The layer under the dermis which is called the subcutaneous layer is composed of fat, hair follicles, blood vessels and sweet glands.  Furthermore, all the layers of the skin are also responsible for providing strength and flexibility to the skin. This flexibility and strength they provide are due to the fact that each layer of the skin contains connective tissues that contain collagen fibers. These collagen fibers provide support and elasticity which is responsible for flexibility and strength of the skin.

Factors in skin change

When it comes to changes in our skin there are a certain number of important factors that play a major role. Factors such as the environment, genetic makeup and nutrients are some of these factors. But as we have mentioned in numerous previous articles before the biggest factor is damage caused by sun exposure. The impact of the sun on our skin is easily visible when we compare the different areas of the body. Those areas that are not covered by clothing and are continuously exposed to the sun have much more changes than those areas that are not exposed to the UV rays from the sun.

The amount of melanin and pigments in the skin provides a certain protection to the skin. This can be observed when comparing blues eyed, fair skinned individuals in comparison to those with darker skin. Those with darker skin have more pigments and melanin than those with lighter skin therefor they have some protection against the sun. But this protection is not enough and all people either with dark or light skin must regularly use sun protection to protect their skin.

Changes of skin with age

As we mentioned earlier our skin is composed of several layers. Aging effects the top layer of the skin called the epidermis. The layers of the skin below the epidermis are not affected but only the top layer being the epidermis is affected. As we get older the epidermis becomes thinner.

Looking closer at how the epidermis changes as we age will shed more light into this process. Melanocytes which are the pigment containing cells decrease in number while the remaining melanocytes increases in size. Also, as we age the appearance of our skin also changes.  As we get older our skin looks not only thinner but also more pale and clearer.

Other visible changes that occur on the skin as we get older at times include the appearance of age spots on the skin. The appearance of age spots is more common with individuals that are exposed more to the sun.

Our skin’s strength and flexibility also change as we age and this is due to the changes of connective tissue in the skin. The process is referred to as elastosis and it produces skin that feels and looks like it is leathery and beaten by weather. Those who’s skin is exposed more to the sun are more effected by this process.

In addition, blood vessels located in our dermis can become more breakable and fragile as we age. This process can cause bleeding under the skin and bruising. Our sebaceous glands are also impacted by aging. Our sebaceous glands do not produce the same amount of oil as when we were younger, and their oil production decreases with aging. The decrease of oil production in sebaceous glands effects men and women differently. In men the sebaceous glands start producing less oil after the age of 80 while in women this happens sooner usually after menopause. The decrease of oil production by sebaceous glands can make the skin drier and in need of moisturization.

Another part of the skin that is impacted is our sweat glands. Due to aging the sweat gland produce less sweat which can impact our capability to keep cool. Due to this older people are more susceptible to developing conditions such as heatstroke.

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