When you think about thinning skin, the first thing that probably comes to your mind is crepey or saggy skin that happens with age, and you may be wanting to prevent that for cosmetic reasons.
Today we want to emphasize to you how thinning of the skin affects your skin health long term and how it’s important to take steps to protect the health of your skin.
There are lifestyle factors that you can put into place that will make a difference in the health of your skin long term and are really important.
For example, your diet plays a major role actually in the longevity of your skin integrity. That’s really what we want to think about – what can I do today to make sure that my skin is going to be at its best when I’m in my 60s 70s because with age, as the skin thins, it becomes susceptible to tearing and injury and this can lead to skin breakdown.
You may notice this in elderly individuals, especially on the backs of the hands and the forearms. Because it is thin, it’s prone to tearing an injury, and also, the blood vessels have that good supportive framework around them, so they are really susceptible to damage. As a result, you may notice that older individuals have a lot of prominent large bruises on their forearms and hands.
Sun damage from ultraviolet radiation is really a major contributing factor to thinning of the skin. Simply by protecting your skin from ultraviolet radiation, you can really do a lot to ensure that in your 60s and 70s that the skin integrity is there for you.
Wearing long sleeves and protect the backs of your hands wearing sun-protective gloves – these just additional steps. While they may seem extra, in your 60s and 70s, you would rather have that good collagen because collagen supports blood vessels so that your skin doesn’t develop these large bruises.
People don’t recognize that the skin is an organ, and it can fail. As we get older, it certainly can fail and make you predisposed to skin infections. As we get older, maybe we’re not as mobile anymore, and the skin starts breaking down, and you end up losing a lot of electrolytes and fluids. You can become very critically ill very easily from having to have a skin breakdown.
It can fail just like you can go into the heart or pulmonary failure as an organ system, just as any organ system can fail, including the skin. So, when it fails, you can really end up in a lot of trouble.
In addition to sun protection, we already touched on the fact that your diet really makes a big difference. There’s a correlation between consuming fruits and vegetables and the skin’s health and aging. That shows up in the end result of fewer wrinkles and sunspots.
So make sure that you eat fruits and vegetables. This is so important because fruits and vegetables actually help our skin handle some of the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation much better. Another type of food that you might want to cut back on in your diet is processed refined carbohydrates.
These foods generate something called advanced glycation end products. That generates an inflammatory cascade which subsequently results in thinning of the skin. If all you eat is processed food and soda, then you’re setting yourself up for failure down the road, not only for your skin but also for every other organ system. It’s instantly gratifying to eat that stuff, but long term, it has a major impact on the health of your skin.
The other thing that you may want to consider is how much alcohol you consume. Alcohol actually impairs healing and generates a lot of inflammation in the body. We are not here to tell you never ever consume alcohol provided you’re an adult and of legal age.
But watch your alcohol consumption. It does delay healing and generates a lot of inflammation in the body. It also interferes with the quality of sleep that you get at night. Yes, it makes you drowsy and sleepy, but you actually don’t get good sleep after a night of heavy alcohol consumption. And when you don’t sleep, your skin cannot go about repairing and healing that collagen degradation that happened throughout the day.
Certainly, do not smoke – smoking generates a considerable burden of free radical damage in the skin, and it will thin your skin for sure. Smoking in combination with UV exposure – those two together is a double hitter.
Just be mindful of those things that are going to jeopardize your skin health long-term.
There is evidence that when we sleep at night time, there is still some free radical damage occurring as a result of everything we’re exposed to throughout the day. Your body really needs to cope with that and help to repair it. Sleep is critical for immune function, and poor sleep leads to increased stress hormones, which interfere with the production of good collagen.
The other thing that you cannot avoid if you’re a female is menopause. When women go through the perimenopause period, estrogen levels start to decline. Estrogen in women is actually really important for building up collagen in the skin so that you will notice thinning skin with menopause.
We said you couldn’t avoid menopause, but you can consider talking to your gynecologist about hormone replacement therapy so they can go over the relative risks and benefits. Many women elect to go on hormone replacement therapy, and it definitely does make a difference in the health and integrity of the skin. That is one benefit of hormone replacement therapy in postmenopausal women.
Steroids are a type of medication that definitely does impair collagen and lead to thinning of the skin if you have an underlying medical condition that requires you to use this type of medication. We’re talking about prednisone. A lot of people have to take that for autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases, or asthma.
Prednisone definitely thins the skin for sure, and it’s going the extent to which that happens for you is going to depend on how long you have to be on. You can’t necessarily avoid that, but if you do have a chronic medical illness that requires you to be on prednisone. Always ask your doctor is there anything steroid-sparing that might be an option.
Many people worry about thinning of the skin using topical steroids but actually, what you have to understand is that the steroids are going to work at a big boatload of inflammation in that skin disease and actually are helping the skin repair and recover from that inflammatory insult.
We’ve got medications that are called steroid-sparing agents that can be used topically. One such medication is going to be tacrolimus, pimecrolimus, or eucrisa that are steroid-sparing for the treatment of eczema.
If you’ve been prescribed a topical steroid, the best thing that you can do to reduce the risk of thinning of the skin is to talk to the prescriber about exactly where you need to be putting in, how frequently, and how long.
Unfortunately, some people get a prescription for a steroid cream, and they don’t get very much education about how to use it. They end up using it maybe to too wide of an area or end up using it for too long or maybe for not enough time to see results.
When you have prescribed a topical steroid, that education piece will be helpful, and never hesitate to ask more questions. It’s the job of the doctor to educate you on how to use your medications. If you have thinning skin, a topical retinoid like tretinoin can help boost some collagen production in the deeper layers of the skin.
It does take a while for it to start working, so you have to be consistent with it, and also glycolic acid can help when used long term with boosting up collagen production in the deeper layers of the skin.
There are some peptides that show preliminary evidence that suggests nature may be helpful for boosting up collagen production in the skin, like matrixyl.
So, if you’re starting to notice the beginning signs of thinning of the skin, you want to start doing things in your skincare routine to address that. That is why you need to be mindful of thinning skin long-term and the health of your skin.
Some lifestyle factors that really make the biggest difference not only for this but also for your anti-aging aesthetic goals as well. These are the things that everybody needs to be doing as part of their skincare routine.
This is what you need to be doing: eating your fruits and vegetables, getting good sleep, not being stressed out all the time, not binging on alcohol, not solely eating refined, processed sugary foods and sodas, getting in your fruits and vegetables, and consuming antioxidant-rich beverages like coffee and tea can definitely help.