Elderly Skin and dry skin conditions
Growing older affects the body in many ways and includes the skin. As the skin ages it becomes more fragile and easily damaged. Less natural oils are produced allowing moisture to escape and so the skin becomes dry and may be itchy. The skin becomes thinner and is more likely to be damaged by scratching and friction.
Caring for elderly skin
Some dry skin conditions are more common in older people, such as certain types of eczema. Dry skin conditions and elderly dry skin are often made worse by environmental factors such as extremes of heat and cold. By avoiding these factors you can help to improve the care of dry skin, for example:-
- Ensure the room is a comfortable temperature, not too hot and not too cold
- Avoid exposing the skin to direct heat from radiators or a fire
- When outside in the cold, cover the skin to protect from the wind
- Avoid washing with harsh soaps, shower gels or bubble baths or hot water which can dry the skin
It is important to keep the skin moisturised as this helps to protect older, more fragile skin. Emollients can help restore the damaged skin barrier. A good emollient routine, with emollients applied regularly can help to keep elderly skin in good condition, preventing damage and discomfort.
A range of emollients may be required, including emollients that are left on the skin and emollient based cleansers to clean the skin. The following tips can help prevent the skin-drying effects of washing.
- Wash regularly and carefully to keep the skin clean. Avoid using ordinary soaps, shower gels and bubble baths as these can make the skin even drier. Using an emollient cleanser can help.
- Wash with water that is comfortably warm - don’t use hot water as this removes natural oils from the skin.
- Gently pat the skin dry with a soft towel after washing. Don’t vigorously towel the skin dry because this can make dry skin conditions worse and can damage fragile skin.
When smoothing an emollient into the skin it is a good opportunity to check the skin for any damage such as small sores, tears or any changes in the skin. It is best to speak to a doctor, nurse or pharmacist if you are worried about your skin.