LOOK AFTER YOUR SKIN, IT'S NEVER TOO LATE
Your skin has had it tough. if you want know how tough have a look at the on the side of the chest wall , under the upper arm, in the mirror. Even if you sunbathe that skin has been protected pretty well, of course if you have never exposed your upper body to the sun or to the gaze of the others on the beach then anywhere on your chest will show you what protected skin looks like. Most of us have however exposed our skin to the sun whenever we had half a chance and that has created problems. 'Nice tan' , year after year, eventually becomes leathery and increases the wrinkles but its never too late
What are we talking about?
The skin is obviously the surface layer of your body, which the doctors call that the epidermis, and underneath this is a layer called the dermis, which you can only see when you cut yourself. The dermis contains the blood vessels and nerves that run to the epidermis or surface of the skin and of course can contain fat as well. Looking after the skin means looking after both the dermis and the epidermis.
What are the effects of ageing?
Within the skin there are two types of glands deep in the dermis but secreting their fluids onto the service. One type of gland is the sweat gland the other the sebaceous glands which produce oil and the number of sebaceous glands reduces as we live longer. Within the dermis there are elastic tissues and these elastic tissues allow for great movement of the skin, for example over the knuckles but as part of ageing the chemical called elastin reduces and this means the skin is less elastic and mobile and this can also contribute to the development of wrinkles.
It is however important to emphasise that many of the effects we assume are to ageing are in fact due to decades of exposure to the sun and the wind, particularly the sun.
Just compare the skin on your stomach with the skin on the back of your hands and you can see the impact of exposure, assuming that your stomach has been exposed to the sun less than your hands. For our parents and grandparents of course sunbathing and the pursuit of a suntan was much less important, partly because holidays were spent by and large in the glorious British summer. However with changing habits, and changing culture, tanning became important, forearms, upper arms, back, legs, abdomen, and for those who were committed naturists, everything. All of this has an impact on the skin
How can you minimise the effects of ageing and living longer
As we have emphasised many of the changes occur due to exposure of the skin so less exposure will mean less damage to the epidermis and dermis. However you can also take action by
- Using soap less, and
- Washing with an oil based liquid preparation, and
- Applying cream to those parts of your skin that are showing the signs, not of age, but of exposure. Always look for cream that has an oil base rather than a water base.
How can you reduce the risk of disease?
It is sensible at any age to apply sun cream. Another important step you can take is to spot disease early and there are two ways to do this.
- Firstly to look for changes occurring in a mole or large freckle. If you notice a change in colour or shape of the surface of a mole go and see your GP.
- Secondly if you notice the surface of your skin breaking down into a little ulcer that does not appear to heal go and see your GP as this maybe an early sign of skin cancer.
Both these conditions are treatable, but it is important to diagnose them early.
How can you maintain and increase skin fitness?
For many people skin fitness is adversely affected by the linked problems of obesity and type II diabetes. If you do develop type II diabetes remember that people with type II diabetes have to take particular care of their skin particularly the skin of their foot and this means no digging about with nail scissors but regular visits to a podiatrist.
Who can help?
The pharmacist is in a good position to advise you on creams that are oil based and there are some very low cost effective creams usually produced by the big pharma companies themselves rather than the branded creams. Be suspicious of anything that is officially branded ‘anti-ageing’. For care of skin on the feet the podiatrist is king particularly for a person with type II diabetes
The general practitioner is the point of contact if you see a mole or ulcer developing
HOW COULD YOU USE THIS KNOWLEDGE TO ACHIEVE YOUR OWN OBJECTIVES?
- It is always important to protect your skin from the power of UV light so use sunscreen of at least 30 strength when in the sun for an hour or more
- Use an oil based cream daily
- Consult any persisting ulcer or mole that is growing to your GP
HOW COULD YOU USE THIS KNOWLEDGE IF YOU ARE SUPPORTING SOMEONE ELSE?
- encourage them to look after their skin and massage with cream is both comforting and effective
- Consult any persisting ulcer or mole that is growing to their GP