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Skin in Old Age

Published on Jan 19, 2023 and last reviewed on May 26, 2023   -  5 min read


Aging changes in the skin are the slow and gradual processes that affect the color, quality, and properties of normal skin. Read the article to know more.


With age, the color of the skin may get dull, the luster may get diminished, pigmentation and dark circles may rise, sagging may develop, and wrinkles may get worse. It is one of the most apparent signs of aging, and every aged human will go through at least one symptom of aged skin, which mainly occurs as a part of the natural bodily process. The changes may be unavoidable but can be slowed down by proper care.

Why Is Skin Important?

The largest external organ in the human body is the skin. It is one of the five sense organs necessary to get the sense of feel or touch. Skin also acts as a barrier to protect from the germs entering the body and provides the first defense mechanism. It also has insulating properties and is a beautiful esthetic cover for the whole body.

What Is the Skin Made up Of?

The main three layers of skin are the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis.

  1. Epidermis: The epidermis is the outer layer of skin that protects against harmful microorganisms, chemicals, and radiation. It holds moisture and keeps the skin hydrated. It also produces new healthy skin cells and gives skin color as they contain melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing the pigment melanin. Melanin gives a characteristic color to the skin.

  2. Dermis: The dermis is the layer following the epidermis. It contains the glands responsible for secreting sweat and sebum (oil), nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue, and hair follicles.

  3. Hypodermis: The hypodermis is the bottom layer of the skin that connects the dermis to the muscles and bones. It contains fat cells and stores energy in this layer as fat. It also provides protection and insulation to the human body and the structures present internally.

How Does the Skin Lose Its Elasticity With Age?

The body produces a natural protein called elastin which is responsible for maintaining the elasticity of the internal organs and is also present in the skin. In the skin, it is present in the dermis layer. However, its production decreases on maturity and significantly reduces with aging. Elastin is made up of fiber, which degrades with age, reducing the skin's elasticity. It may further result in loosening and sagging of the skin. The elastin fibers are arranged in a specific way in healthy skin, which will also get disarranged with age. Enzymes (chemicals present in the body) like elastase can break the elastin fibers, further affecting the elasticity of the aged skin.

Collagen is another protein that maintains the firmness and elasticity of the skin. Collagen also contains fibers and is produced by cells called fibroblasts. However, the fibroblast gets less active with age, thus reducing the amount and quality of collagen produced. Decreased collagen synthesis can gradually lead to the development of fine lines and wrinkles.

Hyaluronic acid in the skin attracts water and prevents water loss. The moisture-locking property gets gradually reduced with age, leading to dry skin. Wrinkles and fine lines may also develop.

What Are the Factors That Increase Skin Aging?

Aging may cause changes in the skin, which get sped up or intensified due to several other factors. They are:

  • Sun Exposure - Prolonged sun exposure means prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiations. These rays get absorbed by the layers of the skin, causing damage. It can stimulate melanocytes and can also lead to skin cancers. Wrinkles may appear fast in a person who is usually under the sun.

  • Genetics - Genes are the intrinsic agents responsible for accelerating or decelerating skin aging. It is the primary reason some people get wrinkles faster, and others may only get pigmentation without fine lines or wrinkles. Genes may make a 40-year-old skin look like 70 or a 60 as 35.

  • Pollution - Pollutants, especially air pollutants, can cause skin damage by altering the moisture and fat barriers on the skin surface. The alteration may make skin more susceptible to damage and can cause pigmentation.

  • Smoking - Smoking may cause severe exposure to chemicals, including nicotine, which may indirectly affect skin health by damaging blood vessels. Blood vessels to the skin need to be healthy and active to supply adequate oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells. Exposure to chemicals like nicotine may narrow the vessels, decreasing oxygen and nutrient-rich blood supply to the skin. Less nutrients, less skin health.

What Happens to the Layers of Skin on Aging?

The epidermis, the outermost layer, may reduce its thickness and become pale. In addition, the number of melanocytes in the epidermis may decrease, and the remaining ones may get an altered size and function. Both these changes may affect the quantity and quality of produced melanin. It causes pigmentation, especially in more sun-exposed areas.

Blood vessels in the dermis layer of the skin may become fragile and easily breakable, releasing blood. It may appear as bleeding under the skin, causing visible discoloration. The elasticity of the fibers may also get altered in this layer, causing elastosis and the skin's loss of elasticity. Elastosis may get aggravated by exposure to the sun.

The fat in the deep layer may get reduced on aging, decreasing the insulating property and making the whole body more susceptible to temperature and climatic changes.

The glands responsible for the secretion of sweat and sebum get an altered functioning, thus reducing the quantity of secretions. Decreased sebum makes the skin less hydrated, making it dry, itchy, and irritated. Decreased sweat will also cause increased heating up of the skin, causing heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

What Are the Consequences of Aged Skin?

  • Injuries - Aged skin gets thin and is easily susceptible to injuries. The thinness is responsible for the abrasion on the aged skin when rubbing, wiping, or scratching.

  • Prolonged Wounds - As aging is related to reduced immunity, the skin wounds may take longer to heal and get easily infected.

  • Skin Irritation - The decreased hydration that happens with age makes the skin dry and irritated. In addition, frequent tendencies to scratch may increase due to this itchiness, raising the chances of abrasion.

  • Unbearable Temperature - The fat layer of the skin becomes thin upon aging, making it unbearable for the whole body to withstand temperature changes. It is why aged people may shiver on switching on the air conditioner set to an average temperature.

  • Decreased Elasticity - The decreased elasticity is due to reduced elastin and collagen fibers, causing sagging, fine lines, and wrinkles.

  • Pigmentation - Skin gets an altered pigmentation, especially in the sun-exposed area, due to the alteration caused in melanin-producing cells.

How to Maintain Youthful Skin?

  • Prevent Sunburn - Using effective sunscreen and protective clothing while outdoors can prevent skin damage caused by the sun.

  • Hydration - Adequate water and fluid intake are responsible for keeping the skin hydrated and supple.

  • Nutrition - A well-balanced diet provides good nutrition to the skin, making it healthy.

  • Use Skin Products Wisely - An dermatologist can help to choose good skin products, like moisturizers, suitable for the skin type.

  • Quit Smoking - Quitting smoking prevents skin damage caused by the chemicals.


American stand-up comedian Phyllis Diller said, “if a person do not have wrinkles, they have not laughed enough.” Wrinkles and pigmentations are the signs of fun and experience one has in life. Since the skin is the prettiest organ, making it even more beautiful and disease free is essential, which can be achieved by following a mindful skincare routine and healthy lifestyle.

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Last reviewed at:
26 May 2023  -  5 min read




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