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How to Reduce the Risk of Dry Skin for Seniors

As we age, our skin becomes dry and more fragile. According to Medscape, up to 75% of seniors live with dry, flaky skin, which is not only easily damaged (scratched, cut, or bruised), but it can also cause uncomfortable itching and possibly skin breakdown.

The most common areas where dry skin occurs on seniors are the lower legs, elbows, and forearms. More worring for seniors who aren’t as mobile as they used to be is that dry skin can contribute to the development of pressure sores from their bed or chair.

Dry skin is often due to the loss of sweat and oil glands--all a natural part of the aging process. But if you are concerned about you or your elderly loved one developing problems with dry skin or serious complications like bedsores, here are some solutions that may help rehydrate skin or better control the problem:

  • Avoid very hot baths and showers. Warm water is less drying to the skin.

  • Don’t bathe every day, if possible. While hygiene is important, so-called “dry baths,” using a premoistened towel, may be sufficient between regular baths and showers.

  • Use mild soaps and shampoos. If the skin or scalp is particularly dry, there are special products, such as Nizoral, that may be helpful.

  • Moisturize the skin well with fragrance-free cold creams, particularly after bathing.

  • Use unscented products, as scented products often irritate older skin.

  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water throughout the day.

  • Consider using a humidifier in the winter or in dry climates.

  • Avoid smoking.

  • Avoid stress, where possible.

  • Use sunscreen when going outside, and reduce overexposure to the sun.

It’s a good idea to inspect your or your elderly loved one’s skin regularly to see if there are any signs of excessively dry skin or skin breakdown starting to happen. If an area looks particularly worrisome, make an appointment with a dermatologist or primary care provider to have it evaluated and treated. Otherwise, following the suggestions above for simple dry skin can often alleviate the bothersome itching and help prevent any areas from becoming serious medical conditions.

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