Sensitive, aging skin begins to thin out and lose its natural moisture, making it even more vulnerable to cosmetics, skin care products and environmental influences. Jessica J. Krant, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Founder of Art of Dermatology in Manhattan, says, "the key factor to understanding aging skin is that, over time, all layers of the skin thin out and the skin becomes less resilient and able to heal itself." When this occurs, Dr. Krant says, "the skin is less able to protect itself from environment wear and tear." Because sensitive, aging skin is vulnerable, it is important to find the right skin care products to care for it.
Sensitive, aging skin is often susceptible to certain skin conditions such as shingles, skin infections, fungal infections, skin cancer and dry, itchy skin that can become inflamed, or infected. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) states that an older adult's skin takes two to three times longer to heal than the average adult's skin. This fact makes caring for sensitive, aging skin even more crucial.
"Take quick, lukewarm showers because hot water can be damaging to skin when indoor air tends to be dryer," says Skin Authority CEO and Founder and skin expert Celeste Hilling.
To cleanse, Dr. Krant suggests using a gentle, hydrating cleanser or even something as simple as an old-fashioned cold cream that will gently clean and hydrate the skin. The important thing to remember is to not scrub or rub the skin roughly, as this only creates trauma on sensitive skin. After cleansing, choose a gentle cream moisturizer that does not contain any color or fragrance which can irritate sensitive skin.
What about exfoliation? Hilling says that exfoliation speeds up cell turnover which keeps your skin looking youthful and actually plumps your skin by churning up elastin and collagen production. She suggests, "using a natural resurfacing agent such as glycolic acid to gently dissolve dead surface skin cells to be replaced with new, plump ones." Use gentle scrubs, never harsh ones and use a gentle hand while exfoliating. However, if your skin becomes irritated from exfoliating scrubs, skip this step.
When choosing cosmetics, look for ones free of fragrance and preservatives. Try to find cosmetics that contain less than 10 ingredients. Cream cosmetics are less likely to show fine lines and wrinkles. Don't be fooled by cosmetics that claim to be hypoallergenic or natural. Joel Schlessinger, M.D., President Emeritus of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery and founder of the website, Lovely Skin, says "The most common mistake I see with sensitive-skinned patients is to gravitate toward 'natural' products thinking they are somehow going to be good for their skin. Unfortunately, natural products often contain ingredients that are very difficult for sensitive skin or even cause allergies." He advises to always check ingredients in products or do a skin-patch test before using.
If fine lines, wrinkles and age spots are a problem, you may be able to use certain anti-aging products even if you have sensitive skin. The trick is to look for the right products that are not overly abrasive. Dr. Krant suggests trying over-the-counter products that contain retinol or retinyl palmitate. "These are proven to increase cell-turnover rate, bringing younger cells to the surface faster," Dr. Krant states. However, if these products are too harsh for your sensitive skin, she recommends trying products that contain antioxidants and uses copper peptides to signal collagen production. Dr. Krant recommends Neova Creme De La Copper, a product that works especially well for sensitive, aging skin.
If retinol products irritate your skin, Cecilia Wong, founder of NYC-based Cecilia Wong Skincare suggests a different approach. "Opt for products with the natural form of vitamin A and C in place of retinoids, (such as) carrot seed oil, any herbs, tomatoes, bitter orange, tangerine and orange," says Wong.
For age spots, alpha-hydroxy products work to exfoliate, lighten age spots and deeply hydrate your skin. Always skin patch test a product before using on your entire face to ensure you are not allergic.
The AAD highly recommends that people with aging and sensitive skin avoid the sun and always wear a sunscreen that offers at least SPF 30 protection. Aging skin is more vulnerable to ultraviolet rays because it is thinner and offers less protection against harmful rays. Another crucial way to protect aging skin is to avoid smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes damages the skin and reduces blood flow in the vessels near the surface. You can also protect your skin from wrinkling and becoming irritated by sleeping on your back so your face isn't smashed against your pillow at night. Also, change your pillowcase often and use ones that are 100 percent cotton so they don't irritate your skin.
For a high-tech approach, Wong recommends LED Light Therapy facials once a week for six weeks. "LED Light Therapy facials can heal skin tissue, fight fine lines and wrinkles, calm inflammation and redness and promote anti-aging," she says.
What you eat shows up in how healthy your skin looks, so it's important to eat a healthy diet and stay hydrated. For healthy skin, the Mayo Clinic suggests eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of colorful fruits and green vegetables, coldwater fish, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy. They suggest limiting refined sugar as well high-carbohydrate and high-fat foods because these can contribute to aging. It is also important to drink water throughout the day to keep skin hydrated. Well-hydrated skin is healthier and looks plumper and younger.
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