10 Skincare Tips for Seniors

Senior Care

No matter how old we are, taking care of our skin - our body’s largest organ - can sometimes feel like a sizable job. Just as we leave the season when everyone seems to be worrying about sunscreen application, the air cools down, we turn the heat on, and all of a sudden we’re dealing with dryness, itchiness, and redness. It can be tempting to focus on however our skin is feeling on any given day or in a particular season, but the reality is that skincare is important year-round: we need to wear sunscreen in the winter, we need to moisturize our skin the summer, and we always need to pay attention to any new developments in our skin. 

Since our skin changes as we get older, it’s especially important for seniors to care for and check in with their skin - but this can be overwhelming. To help both seniors and caregivers, we’ve put together a list of the top 10 tips to know when caring for senior skin.

1. Gently cleanse.

According to the AARP, seniors should choose a cleanser that “remove[s] dirt without stripping [their] skin of moisture.” As we age, we’re more likely to experience dryness in our skin due to “a reduction in skin cell turnover, and… limited capacity to retain moisture,” along with a reduction in elasticity. This is why it’s important for seniors to use skincare products that don’t remove the skin’s natural oils. 

To cleanse without drying out one’s skin, the American Academy of Dermatology Association suggests using warm water instead of hot water, patting skin dry without removing all moisture, and avoiding bath brushes or puffs that might cause skin irritation. 

2. Moisturize.

Another key way to combat the dry skin that often accompanies aging is to moisturize regularly. A fragrance-free moisturizer is preferable , since fragrance can irritate skin. Seniors should aim to apply moisturizer within three minutes of washing their faces and/or bodies, as this will help “restore [the] skin’s protective barrier.”

For extra hydration and skincare benefits, seniors might also wish to use serums, retinol creams, or antioxidant creams. These products help even out the tone of one’s skin and/or eliminate dark spots. The AARP offers specific suggestions for products that are most beneficial for the skin of those in their fifties, sixties, and seventies. 

3. Use sunscreen.

And not just in the summer, or when planning to spend the day outside  - always. Getting into the habit of applying sunscreen every day is one of the best ways seniors can protect the health of their skin. Remember: UV rays can travel through cloud cover, and through windows! The National Institute on Aging (NIA) suggests that seniors choose a sunscreen with “broad spectrum” SPF . Additionally, the NIA recommends seniors avoid spending too much time outdoors during the sunniest hours of the day (between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon), and that they provide extra sun protection for their skin by wearing hats, long sleeves, and long pants or skirts. 

4. Check in with your skin.

Every month, seniors - or their loved one or a caregiver -  should look over their skin for signs of skin cancer, paying close attention to birthmarks and moles. The NIA has a helpful chart outlining the ‘ABCDEs’ that are important to keep in mind while doing this check. If any of these changes are noted, it’s important to see a doctor. Checking in on the skin can also mean noting red, dry, or irritated patches, for which a physician may be able to suggest treatments. It’s also important to check the skin on seniors’ feet. As we grow older, the skin on our feet “becomes susceptible to corns, calluses, warts, and fungal infections.” Seniors and/or their caregivers should be on the lookout for all of these things, and remember to incorporate feet into monthly skin checks. 

5. Protect your hands.

When using chemical cleaners, submerging their hands in hot water (while washing dishes, for example) or doing activities like gardening where their skin might be nicked by tools or thorns, seniors should be sure to wear gloves . Gloves prevent injury, irritation, dryness, and excessive sun exposure, all of which can have negative impacts on one’s skin. The skin on our hands is often treated more roughly than the skin on other parts of our bodies, so it’s important to protect it when possible. This is especially important as we grow older, since skin gets thinner as we age, which means it also becomes more delicate and susceptible to injury. 

6. Try to protect skin from bruising.

Beginning in our sixties, our skin not only bruises more easily, but also takes longer to heal . Some illnesses also make skin more susceptible to bruising , and bruising easily can be a side effect of some medications as well. Since bruising can indicate medical issues , seniors (or their caregivers) who notice a sudden increase in the amount of bruising on their skin should speak with their doctors. 

7. Hydrate.

The NIA notes that drinking enough water is one way to combat dry skin, and a 2015 study concluded that “higher water inputs in regular diet might positively impact normal skin physiology.” Adequate hydration has many benefits for our bodies , and also benefits our skin. Drinking enough water daily in addition to using moisturizer will allow seniors to help their skin’s level of hydration improve from the inside out. 

8. Eat well.

Good Housekeeping magazine interviewed a dermatologist who advised that eating healthy, balanced meals is good for our skin. According to the dermatologist, omega-3 fatty acids help maintain the level of moisture in one’s skin. Incorporating foods like walnuts and flax seeds into seniors’ diets can help provide these nutrients. Another suggestion was a common one that we know is good for our bodies in so many ways: eat vegetables! 

9. Quit smoking.

Though we might not typically think of our skin as an organ smoking affects, it is. Not only does smoking have aesthetic consequences for our skin, leading to faster aging and quicker wrinkling, it also reduces skin’s elasticity - which, as mentioned previously, already happens as we grow older. The Mayo Clinic also notes that smoking increases one’s risk of developing skin cancer. Living a smoke-free life is beneficial to our health in all sorts of ways, including the health of our skin. 

10. Visit a dermatologist.

In addition to monthly skin check-ins by seniors and/or their caregivers, seniors should also make a yearly visit to a dermatologist to discuss skincare questions and concerns. This is particularly important because our risk of developing melanoma increases as we get older - according to the American Cancer Society , the average age of a melanoma diagnosis is sixty-five. Dermatologists are able to identify issues or abnormalities on one’s skin, and can also provide skincare product recommendations, prescribe medicated creams or ointments, and advise seniors on how best to look after their skin and spot irregularities.