By Emma Castleberry for Northern Colorado Life
Our skin is our largest organ, and particularly here in Colorado, it can take quite the beating. With each passing year it becomes more important to care for our skin properly. “Most cases of skin cancer are found in people older than 65 years of age,” says Dr. Holly McCoppin of Monarch Dermatology & Surgery.
While it might be tempting to throw in the towel on skin protection as you age, assuming any sun damage is here to stay, that isn’t a healthy approach. “Current sun damage is even more harmful to your skin with regard to developing precancerous and cancerous lesions,” says Dr. Tiffany Link, dermatologist at Advanced Dermatology/Fort Collins Skin Clinic.
Here are some simple ways to take care of mature skin so you can look and feel your very best.
Use the right sunscreen
As our skin gets older, sun damage is more likely to cause precancer and cancer, so protection is vital. “Also, sunscreen has the added bonus of being the best and most overlooked anti-aging product on the market,” says Link. “Current sun avoidance and/or sunscreen use is one of the best ways to correct sun damage. Once the collagen is gone, its nearly impossible to build it back up, so you have to focus on prevention.”
Not all sunscreen is created equally. Link recommends an SPF of 30 or higher with zinc or titanium as the active ingredient. Because of the chalkiness of zinc, you might want to consider investing in a nice brand like ELTA MD, which is thinner and more comfortable to wear.
For when you can’t or don’t want to apply sunscreen, or as an added protective measure, cover up with clothing like wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and long-sleeved shirts and pants with SPF built into the fabric. Link recommends the clothing brand Coolibar, which can be found online. Keep in mind that, whenever possible, the best way to “cover up” is to completely avoid sun exposure during peak sun hours, generally between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
“Check you skin for irregular, asymmetric moles, new or changing skin lesions, and skin lesions that bleed or will not heal,” says McCoppin. “A head-to-toe self-examination once a month and an annual visit to the dermatologist for a skin check will give you the best chance of discovering skin cancer at an early, easily treatable stage.”
Correcting the effects of sun damage
While the inherent sun damage to skin cells can’t be corrected, some of the effects of the damage can be improved upon. Sun damage can lead “to more easy bruising, specifically on the backs of the hands and forearms, which, in combination with baby Aspirins and other blood thinners [seniors] are taking, can lead to some really distressing red and purple blotches,” says Link. This type of bruising can be improved by over-the-counter Arnica cream, a natural plant-based cream which helps to reduce bruises and can be applied daily or twice daily.
Other sun-induced conditions, like saggy skin and wrinkles, can also be improved. “Dermatologists can offer techniques such as lasers, photodynamic therapy, microneedling, chemical peels, and topical medications to help repair and rejuvenate damaged skin,” says McCoppin. “Injectable products such as botulinum toxin [Botox] can address wrinkles, while fillers can treat volume loss. Use of some supplements can be used to protect against skin cancer and free radical damage in the skin.”
Skin Health Is Unique -Just Like You
Just like you, your skin is unique. Factors like your favorite activities, your history and your current lifestyle will impact your skin’s needs. “Everyone is different,” says Link. “Everyone’s skin is different. It is important that, if you need guidance, seek the care of a Board Certified Dermatologist as they can truly craft a skin care regimen that is specific to your skin’s special needs.”