The Beauty of Aging:
more than skin deep

Skin Care

Page through a magazine or watch any amount of TV, and you may notice advertisements for skin products claiming to “reverse the effects of aging” and “take years off your appearance.” People buy these products (even though the claims do not stand up to scientific scrutiny) because they believe that youth is more beautiful than age.

But the Bible (and many cultures outside of America) expresses great reverence for the elderly. In Leviticus 19:32, God tells us, “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” Getting old is an honor!

So the following four tips will not promise to make you look younger. Instead, they will help you maintain the health of your skin, which can be an indication of good health in general, and they will encourage you to celebrate the beauty of aging!

1. Age Spots

If you’ve spent much time in the sun throughout your life, you are more likely to notice age spots, liver spots, or solar lentigines on your skin as you enter your 40s and 50s. These spots are simply masses of pigmentation, your skin’s defense against the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. You can apply bleaching creams, try dermabrasion, or pay for chemical peels to fade the pigment. Or you can praise God for designing your body in such a way that the outer layers of skin protect the deeper, more sensitive layers. In fact, your age spots may serve as a reminder to thank God for each day of sunshine you’ve enjoyed throughout your life!

Note: Normal age spots are flat, not raised. The beginning stages of some skin cancers can look like age spots, so have a doctor check any spots that are:

  • Very dark
  • Raised, like a mole or blister
  • Blotched with several colors of pigmentation
  • Growing in size

2. Wrinkles

Your skin is a hard-working organ, amazingly strong, flexible, tender, and tough. After 50+ years of protecting your insides, growing with you, gathering information about your surroundings, and healing itself over and over, a few wrinkles are to be expected. “Motor wrinkles,” such as those around your eyes and lips, are caused by repeated movements of muscles and skin, including laughter. Other wrinkles are the result of gravity’s pull on skin that is losing its elasticity as you age. Keeping skin hydrated can slow the development of wrinkles — so drink plenty of water, and use rich moisturizers. Moisturizers that contain retinol may help reduce wrinkles, but use them with caution: some people are sensitive to retinol, and retinol can also increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. The healthiest course may be to simply enjoy the character of your more mature beauty, and even consider each wrinkle a badge of honor!

3. Dry, Flaky Skin

As we age, our bodies produce fewer hormones and fewer oils, so dry, flaky skin is a common condition among people over 50. Such dryness is not necessarily an indication of dehydration, but it can result in a bothersome itchiness. The good news is, common moisturizers can alleviate the itch. In fact, Gerontologist Rita Baum wrote in a Campbell Reporter article:

“Most dermatologists say that money spent on expensive moisturizers is unnecessary, and that the benefits of extra ingredients such as collagen and vitamins are unproven. An exception is the inclusion of vitamin A found in retinoic acid, which may reverse some sun damage.

“Consumer Reports concurs, saying that price is no measure of product effectiveness. This consumer advocacy group lists the top three facial moisturizers as L’Oreal Plenitude, Ponds Nourishing Moisturizer and Alpha Hydrox Moisturizer, all available with SPF 15 sunscreen for less than $3 per ounce. …The highest scoring body moisturizers were Vaseline Intensive Care, Curél and St. Ives, all priced at less than 50 cents per ounce.” (August 2, 2000)

4. Thin skin

One of the effects of aging is a physical thinning of the skin — the protective fatty layer is reduced, and collagen and elastin begin to break down. Sun exposure can be a contributing factor to thin skin, as can the side effects of certain medications (including aspirin, coumadin, prednisone, and Plavix). In most cases, thin skin is not an indication of a serious health problem, but it does require extra care to avoid tearing and bruising. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants can offer a layer of protection, and quality moisturizers (like those listed above) can help nourish the skin against scrapes and tears. Also, keeping your living environment free of clutter can reduce the likelihood of bumps that can cause skin injuries.

Living Beautifully

Of course, the best way to avoid senior skin problems is to care for your skin throughout your life, starting as young as possible, though it’s never too late to begin taking care of your skin. A healthy diet can give your skin the nutrients it needs, regular exercise can increase blood flow and improve circulation, and a good night’s sleep can give your skin the time it needs for repair and restoration. (These tips can also help prevent other ailments older people are prone to.) If possible, avoid cigarette smoke, alcohol, excessive sun exposure, and stress, all of which can make you look older than your years.

And remember, old age is not a disease needing a cure or a condition needing apology. Old age is a blessing, an achievement, a gift that God does not give to everyone.

If He has given it to you, enjoy it!

The above tips should be considered helpful suggestions rather than professional medical advice. Consult your personal physician for advice specific to your condition.

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