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The Effects of Aging on Skin

Your skin changes with age. That's about a lifetime of sun exposure, personal habits such as smoking and diet, and changes that happen with normal aging. 

As you get older, you may notice your skin isn't as smooth or tight as it once was. It may also be drier, more fragile, and thinner than it used to be. With age, skin may also bruise more easily, due to loss of support around blood vessel walls that happens with age.

Below the skin's surface, losing fat in your cheeks, temples, chin, nose, and around your eyes may loosen skin and give your face a leaner look. If you lose bone around your mouth and chin, the skin around your mouth may pucker. Even the nose may change, if you lose cartilage there. 

You may notice "lines" on your face, as early as your 30s and 40s, that result from the expressions you make. These include horizontal lines on your forehead and small, curved lines on your temples, upper cheeks, and around your mouth. 

Even gravity plays a role. When the skin becomes less elastic, gravity makes eyebrows and eyelids droop, creates looseneess and fullness under the cheeks and jaw (jowls and "double chin"), and lengthens ear lobes.

You can't fight gravity. But there are other factors that you control, especially how you protect your skin from the sun and whether you smoke.

Sun Damage and Smoking

Sun Damage: Over time, the sun's ultraviolet (UV) light damages certain fibers in the skin called elastin. The breakdown of elastin fibers causes the skin to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to snap back after stretching. The skin also bruises, tears more easily, and takes longer to heal. So while sun damage may not show when you're young, it will later in life.

Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can sometimes repair itself. So, it's never too late to begin protecting yourself from sun exposure and skin cancer. You can delay changes associated with aging by limiting your time in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. Also, wear clothing to cover skin exposed to the sun, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses.

Smoking: Smokers tend to have more wrinkles than nonsmokers of the same age, complexion, and history of sun exposure.

Aging and Dry Skin

Dry skin and itching is common in later life. 

That can result from overheated indoor air, the loss of oil glands with age, and anything drying (such as overusing soaps or bathing in hot water). Rarely, some medications can make the itchiness worse. If your skin is very dry and itchy, see a doctor. 

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