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Your Looks at 70 Plus

What to expect for your skin, hair and nails in your 70s

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Mature skin allows more moisture to escape, and it may have fewer sweat and oil glands, too.
Peter Arkle

The good news in your 70s: Those aren’t wrinkles; they’re laugh lines. 

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The reality check in your 70s: Keeping your skin looking good requires a little more maintenance.

  • Gray hair? Who cares? In a recent national study, just 1 in 11 people age 65-plus thought being a silver fox meant someone was “old,” compared with 26 percent of people in their 20s. By age 70, 3 out of 4 of us have gone partially to totally gray. You may still be trying to cover it up — about 56 percent of women color their hair at age 70 — but you’ve learned to make the most of what you’ve got. Your hair grows more slowly as you get older, and it may look thinner, as some follicles quit working and others produce finer strands. Medications such as minoxidil can help (as long as you continue using them).
  • Your eyes look bigger. While the skin on your face, and all over your body, thins and loses elasticity as you get older, some features become more prominent. Your eyes look larger because your eye sockets widen and lengthen.
  • You’ll need fewer trips to the nail salon. How we know: A former professor at the University of Texas, William Bennett Bean, tracked the growth of his fingernails and toenails for 35 years and periodically published updates in the medical journal Archives of Internal Medicine. While every nail had its unique pace, overall growth slowed by 22 percent between Bean’s early 30s and mid-60s.
  • Your cavity-prone years have returned. Thanks to older fillings and not-so-great brushing and flossing routines, 1 in 5 adults in their 70s have untreated tooth decay — a rate on par with U.S. kids. Odds are about 1 in 3 that you haven’t seen a dentist in the past year. If lack of insurance is holding you back (4 out of 5 people in their 70s don’t have dental coverage), look into dental discount cards and dental-school clinics for affordable care.
  • Your mouth is dry. Saliva is your teeth’s best friend, keeping your choppers clean and bathing them in minerals to keep them strong. But diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and about 400 different medications can cause dry mouth, which affects about 40 percent of people by the end of their 70s. Talk with your doctor about whether your medications could be the cause, and in the meantime avoid irritating stuff such as alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.
  • Your skin wants more moisture. Mature skin allows more moisture to escape, and it may have fewer sweat and oil glands, too. Try taking shorter baths or showers (in warm, not hot, water), and be sure to use a moisturizer every day. A humidifier can also help.
  • You wake up with strange bruises. After age 20, a person produces 1 percent less collagen in the skin each year. So by 75, the collagen loss is substantial, leaving the skin thinner and more fragile. Plus, subcutaneous fat begins to disappear — especially in the face, arms and the backs of the hands — making the skin more prone to injury. Sunscreen will help minimize the impact of skin changes while continuing to protect you from skin cancers. If you regularly use ibuprofen for pain relief, consider switching to acetaminophen, as aspirin and ibuprofen both act as blood thinners and can worsen bleeding.
  • This simple move may help you walk taller. Posture shifts with age — you compensate for muscle weaknesses in your spine by tilting forward. This easy morning exercise can help strengthen key back muscles, making you appear taller and fitter. Lie on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat and your arms at your sides. Press your shoulders down for a few seconds, then relax. Repeat a few times.
  • There's a hat for that: In one survey of 2,000 men, losing their hair was their greatest fear about aging. It scored even higher than becoming impotent.

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