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How to Care for Aging, Dry, Cracked, and Itching Skin

John cared for older servicemen, retirees, and veterans for 2 years while in the Navy. His duties: surgery, EKG, sickbay, & chest medicine.

As we age, our skin loses its elasticity and moisture.

As we age, our skin loses its elasticity and moisture.

Why Our Skin Wrinkles as We Age

As we age, our skin starts to thin. The body produces less collagen—which is fat just underneath the surface of the skin—and elastin, both of which are responsible for allowing the skin to stretch and contract. This layer gets thinner as we age, and with the loss of this cushion, the skin starts to droop, sag, or wrinkle, and harsh lines and facial wrinkles become a common problem. This process accelerates in your 40's.

Though part of the natural aging process, collagen clump reduction at the dermal level can result in crepey skin. The term "crepey" refers to how the skin starts to resemble the surface of crepe paper. While there is no particular spot on the body associated with this type of skin, the most commonly affected areas are the cheeks, under eyes, eyelids, hands, arms, neck, and legs.

Our aging bodies produce less new skin cells, and those that we already have start to dry up. The slower production of skin cells results in less oil production. This oil helped us get rid of old cells when we were younger, and its decreased production results in deep or crepey wrinkles.

Frequent squinting or stiff blinking can cause the skin under the eyes to become crepey. Repeatedly rubbing your eyes can lead to further aggravation. Since our vision changes as we age, this kind of skin can be reduced or avoided with vision correction. Moisturizers can also help.

What About Leathery Skin?

Your neck turns in many directions. As a result, the skin in this area can be overstretched, leading to wrinkled, thick skin. Frequent exposure to the sun can also cause the skin on your neck to develop deep wrinkles.

However, there are some things you can do to alleviate this problem, such as wearing sunscreen. Additionally, increasing the amount of collagen in your skin will improve how your neck looks, and moisturizers with vitamin C will plump up the skin and decrease the depth of wrinkles. Skincare products containing retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, will also help lessen wrinkling.

I should have started taking better care of the skin on my neck earlier; my neck has been exposed to the Arizona sun for years. Friends have even described it as "leathery"! Wearing sunscreen and covering my neck would have helped.

Skin on the cheeks, eyelids, under eyes, neck, hands, and legs can appear crepey as you age.

Skin on the cheeks, eyelids, under eyes, neck, hands, and legs can appear crepey as you age.

Choose the Right Moisturizer for Your Hands and Face

Creams are more hydrating than lotions, and lotions are more hydrating than serums. Below are some moisturizers that I recommend, especially if you are on a tight budget like me.

My favorite is lotion is Diabetic's Hydrating Lotion - Dry Skin Relief. Many diabetic creams and lotions are of excellent quality, and you don't have to have diabetes to use them. This one moisturizes quickly to relieve itching and can be applied as often as you wish.

ProductPrice

Yes To Face Repairing Moisturizer

$19.79

Logical Skincare Recipe Deep Facial Moisturizing for Men

$37

Lab Series Skincare All-in-One Face Treatment for Men

$34

Wake Up Call Hydrating Treatment Gel

$30

No7 Men Hypoallergenic Aftershave Hydration

$23

The Art of Shaving Quick-Absorbing Aftershave

$25

Dove Men +Care Vitamin B5 Moisturizing Balm

$18

ProductPrice

Eau Thermale Avène Cicalfate Restorative Skin Cream

$28

Epionce Medical Barrier Cream

$24

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

$8.50

EltaMD UV Daily Tinted Broad-Spectrum SPF 40

$29

Eau Thermale Avène Antirougeurs CALM Soothing Repair Mask

$35

ProductPrice

Dermasil Advanced Treatment Creamy Lotion with Sunblock

$2

Coconut Oil with Vitamin E

$1

Dove Nourishing Care Intensive Cream

$1

Dermasil Dry Skin Treatment

$1

Aveeno Active Naturals Daily Moisturizing Lotion

$1

How to Care for Cracked Skin

Because I have been preoccupied enough to ignore the signs of low moisture in my skin, I have also suffered from cracked skin. By continuing to ignore your hands, your skin will eventually crack and become terribly itchy—and it may start to bleed.

I am no doctor, but based on personal experience my recommendation is to use Zim's Max Crack Creme. A two-ounce container costs about $7.00 at Walmart, but it is well worth it. You don't need a ton of it to treat the cracks. When a crack bleeds, I wash the area very carefully and apply an over-the-counter, petrolatum-based antibiotic ointment. I usually apply it once or twice a day during the first 24 hours of bleeding. Then I wash my hands and apply Zim's Max Crack to the affected area. By the end of day two, I can see a marked improvement.

I suspect that there are many men out there who work with stone, ceramic, dirt, and lumber. These are jobs that will suck the moisture out of your hands, and this process is accelerated when you are older and have less oil and moisture in your skin tissue. Make sure to wear gloves. If you are doing something that requires a precise touch, wash, re-hydrate, and moisturize your hands after you've finished.

If not taken care of properly, aging skin may crack and bleed.

If not taken care of properly, aging skin may crack and bleed.

How to Prevent Further Skin Damage

Cover your face and neck with a large-brimmed hat when outdoors. Wrap a towel around your neck, raise your shirt collar, or wear a bucket hat with a neck flap. When I don't have those on hand, I'll wear a baseball cap backward.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that up to 90% of skin changes due to aging are caused by a lifetime's exposure to UVA rays. Use a sunscreen with at least SPF 15, and those with fair skin should use SPF 30—there are even a number of physicians who recommend at least SPF 50. If you are spending more time than average outside, you need to remember to reapply according to the directions on the package.

According to the FDA, the SPF in water-resistant sunscreens must stay effective after 40 minutes of swimming. A very water-resistant sunscreen stays effective in the water after 80 minutes.

Smoking causes the skin to wrinkle. Though it is difficult, the best thing to do is stop. There are several drug options that can decrease your nicotine craving.

Taking care of small issues, such as dry skin, can help improve your mood.

Taking care of small issues, such as dry skin, can help improve your mood.

Why Should We Care for Our Aging Skin?

Elderly persons sometimes dismiss less-than-severe depression as an acceptable response to life's stress or as a normal part of aging. Several years ago while talking to my wife, I had an epiphany. She had a problem that seemed a bit trivial to me, and I was feeling grumpy. I excused myself to use the restroom and looked at myself in the mirror.

My eyes were tired and itchy, my hands were dry and cracked, my lower back ached, and my feet hurt. These were all problems I had spent my life ignoring. My mood had recently been negatively affecting the people I cared about. It occurred to me that if I could improve these small issues a little bit, I might become a more pleasant person to be around.

With the advice of our physician, I started taking Ibuprofen when my osteoarthritis worsened. I bought artificial tears to lubricate my eyes, I started using Zim's Crack Creme for my hands, and I used a moisturizer when my hands began to itch. These were all small steps, but together they had a profound effect on me. They were all issues that I could control and could stop from worsening my dour mood. As a result, I was not only happier, but I also interacted better with others.

I believe that many of us grew up in an atmosphere where attending to details was considered a waste of time: "Get on with it!", "Move on," "Stop complaining," and "It's not important!" were all phrases I heard often in my lifetime. However, along with the normal stresses of life, all that affects us in old age can build to a tipping point.

Six million Americans aged 65 and older are affected by depression. There are a myriad of reasons for this, but I believe that if older folks made it a mission to take better care of themselves, some of that depression could be decreased. Grandpa need not be so grumpy.

Sources

Depression In the Elderly. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-elderly#1

Sollitto, M. (2011, May 17). The Skinny on Skin Problems. Retrieved from https://www.agingcare.com/Articles/senior-skin-problems-146550.htm

Men's Health Style Team. (2018, April 09). The Best Moisturizers For Your Face and Body. Retrieved from https://www.menshealth.com/style/a19544207/moisturizers-for-face-and-body/

Fontana, D. (2018, March 09). 10 Moisturizers Dermatologists Swear By for Better Skin. Retrieved from https://www.newbeauty.com/slideshow/2760-dermatologist-approved-face-moisturizers/2/

Top 31 on dermatologist recommended face moisturizers. (2017, August 24). Retrieved from https://www.healthtap.com/topics/dermatologist-recommended-face-moisturizers

An Overview of the Skin. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/beauty/cosmetic-procedures-overview-skin#1

Neck Wrinkles. (2017, October 04). Retrieved from https://www.thedermreview.com/neck-wrinkles/

The Real Truth about Crepey Skin. (2018, July 09). Retrieved from https://www.thedermreview.com/crepey-skin/

Skin Conditions in the Elderly. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/elderly-skin-conditions#1

Calderone, J. (2015, July 09). Everyone should know the difference between the three types of moisturizers. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/how-do-moisturizers-work-to-keep-your-skin-soft-and-smooth-2015-7

Why is Moisturizer Important For Scar Healing? (2016, December 05). Retrieved from http://scarsandspots.com/moisturizer-important-scar-healing/

A hand with crepey skin and deep wrinkles.

A hand with crepey skin and deep wrinkles.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

Question: I'm an elderly man with sore, dry, cracked, and raw feet. I'm a diabetic. Is cornstarch OK to use on my skin? If so, how do I apply it?

Answer: Cornstarch will absorb moisture, so I do not think it will help; it might make dry, cracked feet worse. As far as use when diabetic, cornstarch is high in carbohydrates, which is a no-no for ingestion by diabetics. For advice about use on skin, you really need to see a doctor, but I would say no. If the feet are "raw" you may need an anti-fungal. Many are available over the counter, and a pharmacist can advise you. There are moisturizers for diabetics, but seeing a doctor would really be best.

Question: I have itching skin all over. I am seeing a dermatologist next week. Any suggestions?

Answer: Have in mind all medications you take, including vitamins. Think about your diet and any new foods you may be eating. Know soaps, detergents, shampoos, and conditioners you use. Note any changes in your activity. Get a good idea of when the itching started. You are making the right first move in determining the cause of generalized itching.

© 2018 John R Wilsdon

Comments

John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on October 24, 2018:

Thank you for the comment.

Sr Ruma from London on October 24, 2018:

Really nice to read

John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on August 31, 2018:

Chitrangada

Thanks for your comment. You are so right about caring for our skin. With proper care we can ensure a better life for our skin.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 24, 2018:

Very useful information about skincare, especially with regard to aging.

Our skin is aging everyday, and it’s important to take care, since our young age, to avoid or delay skin wrinkles or dry skin.

Thanks for sharing your wonderful suggestions and references!

John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on August 09, 2018:

Peggy

Your note about lifelong skin care is well-taken. Caring for the skin from an early age is very important. It can make a world of difference, especially the sun protection. Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 09, 2018:

Those of us with a few years under our belt can relate to the wrinkles and crepey skin. It is all a part of aging but taking precautions and dealing with the dry skin is something that is worth our time and effort. Thanks for your suggestions as to the different moisturizers, etc. Sun protection is most important and should be started when young for best long-term effect.

John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on July 16, 2018:

Pamela

Thanks for commenting. Many dermatologists recommended CeraVe. Great that it works well.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 16, 2018:

I like your many suggestions for dry skin. I have that problem also probably due to Sjogren's disease. My dermatologist suggested CeraVe Moisturizing Cream for me, and I have found it really helpful. As my skin has thinned I have found I bruise more easily also, which I don't like. As the saying goes "Getting old is not for sissies!"

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