AARP Eye Center
Whether you’ve coasted for decades with a flawless complexion or bumped along with a breakout or two, most people find that at a certain age their skin demands some extra attention. Years of sun exposure may bring discoloration. Your skin barrier, designed to latch onto moisture, weakens, causing dryness and irritation. Collagen begins to break down, leaving you with a lackluster look. And what’s with those spots that seem to pop up overnight? If you’re not loving what you’re seeing in the mirror, read on for doctors’ best advice to make age spots, redness and more history.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
What it is. Basically, a less charming form of blushing. The main symptoms of this inflammatory skin disease are redness, broken blood vessels (which appear on the cheeks and nose but can find their way to the forehead and chin) and, in some cases, acne-like bumps. It’s typically found in fair-skinned adults, usually women. In a survey conducted by the National Rosacea Society, 39 percent of the participants said their rosacea first appeared after the age of 50.
What causes it. The exact cause is unknown though the condition tends to run in families. “It’s also thought to be brought on by hyperactive blood vessels underneath the skin’s surface,” says Elizabeth Martin, a Birmingham, Alabama–based dermatologist. Another possible cause: microscopic mites, called Demodex, that release bacteria into the skin when they die, which can lead to inflammation. “Everyone has these mites inside their skin, particularly on the face, but people with rosacea can have an overconcentration,” says Martin. Studies show that people with rosacea may have more than 10 times the Demodex mites on their skin as those without the condition.
What to do. Rosacea is a chronic condition and can’t be cured. But it can be treated. Prescription topical medications, such as Mirvaso and Rhofade, shrink blood vessels in the skin to diminish redness. You can do away with irritation, bumps and swelling by using an anti-inflammatory azelaic acid cream, like Azelex, or by taking an oral antibiotic such as Metronidazole. Stubborn broken blood vessels, however, can't be effectively treated with topical or oral medications and usually require therapy with a VBeam laser, pulses of light that penetrate the skin. It may take anywhere from one to eight treatments (for $400 to $800 apiece), depending on how serious the problem is.
“People with rosacea often have sensitive skin that requires daily washing with a mild cleanser,” says Martin. You'll also need to steer clear of triggers that can lead to flare-ups: hot and cold temperatures (“Try working out in a cool environment whenever possible,” says Martin) and hot, spicy foods and alcohol. Stress can also cause the red to return. Also good to know: A study found that sunscreen helps reduce the number of rosacea flare-ups. “Look for one with zinc oxide,” says Debra Jaliman, a New York City–based dermatologist. “It’s an ingredient used in diaper-rash-creams that’s easy on the skin.”
What it is. Skin that looks and feels dry, rough, tight, itchy and uncomfortable. At its most miserable, you might have red, flaky patches — particularly on your elbows, lower arms and legs.
What causes it. Your risk of dry skin increases with age — in fact, more than 50 percent of adults age 40 and older deal with it. Our sebaceous glands pump out less oil, while the skin’s barrier, which helps skin hold onto moisture, is more compromised. This leaves skin vulnerable to a laundry list of irritants, including dry and windy winter weather, hot baths and showers (which can strip away the skin’s natural oil and play havoc with its moisture levels), along with harsh chemicals in soaps and detergents. Even certain medications for blood pressure and cholesterol can be culprits.
How to help. Your best bet: Avoid triggers that leave skin parched in the first place. Take warm (not hot) baths and showers. “Lather up with a mild fragrance-free soap or a cleansing cream, and soak for no more than 10 to15 minutes. After bathing, pat your skin dry — don’t rub — with a towel and immediately after getting out of the bath, slather on a moisturizing cream,” says Martin. Avoid products with fragrance and switch to a fragrance-free detergent (or try double-rinsing your clothes).
Otherwise, wear a scarf, hat and gloves when you go out, and use a humidifier at night to help replenish moisture in the air lost to dry indoor heating. You can also help moisturize from the inside by consuming plenty of essential omega-3 fatty acids (EFAs), which help boost hydration. Good sources include fatty fish (salmon, sardines, albacore tuna), seeds (flaxseed, pumpkin and sunflower), avocado and walnuts. Also shoot for drinking around eight glasses of water daily, but know that you can satisfy some of your recommended daily allowance of H2O with water-filled food, such as lettuce, strawberries or cucumbers.