Winter can be especially tough on older skin. As we age, skin becomes thinner and loses fat and elasticity. Injuries take longer to heal and medications and chronic health conditions can increase vulnerability. The colder months can pose a special problem because the humidity is low both outdoors and indoors, and the water content of the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin) tends to reflect the level of humidity around it. That’s why it’s vital to protect the skin of residents and avoid serious problems such as infections and skin breakdown.
Dryness is one of the most common skin conditions older people suffer. As the body ages, blood vessels decrease in number and glands become less active. Respectively, this reduces blood circulation in the skin and oil production is decreased. As a result, older skin becomes drier. Known as xerosis, dry skin is characterized by a rough texture, flakiness and a dull appearance. As dryness progresses, fine cracks can form in the skin, leaving it vulnerable to infection. Dry skin can also cause discomfort and itching which can lead to scratching, further exacerbating conditions for infection. Dry skin can be caused by chronic health problems, such as diabetes or kidney disease. Using too much soap, antiperspirant, or perfume and bathing with hot water can make dry skin worse.
Here are some ways to help take care of older skin:
- Bathing is important for hygiene and providing a sense of freshness for residents. However, daily bathing can wreak havoc on older skin, washing away oils and sapping moisture. Showers or baths every other day are less harsh on the skin. When bathing residents, using hot water and harsh, heavily perfumed soaps can promote dryness. It’s better to use warm water and mild soaps that are lightly scented or have no scent at all. After bathing, the resident’s skin should be patted dry with a clean towel to reduce friction against delicate skin.
- Moisture is a vital part of maintaining the skin’s health. Daily application of moisturizers like thick lotions and creams immediately after bathing adds and helps retain moisture. Moisturizers also help smooth and soften dry skin. Lotions or creams containing alpha hydroxy acids, such as lactic acid or glycolic acid, may offer added protection for dry, itchy skin.
- Hydration supports overall health as well as keeping skin in good condition. Not drinking enough liquids, especially water, contributes to dry skin and could lead to more serious health problems such as dehydration. With age, some people may lose their sense of thirst. Regularly assess all residents to determine who is at risk for unintended dehydration. It’s also important to encourage consuming liquids throughout the day, not just during meal times.
Supply360 provides quality soaps, body washes, ointments, creams and lotions for all your residents’ skincare needs. To learn more about how you can protect their skin, click here.