Older relatives will find their skin is a lot more sensitive and fragile than it used to be. This means that lots of things we know as younger adults to be bad for us, are likely to do even more harm when we're older. So, what are the important things to know about general care for older skin?
Stay out of the sun
As the skin gets older, it loses a lot of its protective qualities, including the oils that help it resist sunburn and UV rays. If going outside on sunny days, no older person should be without sunblock and a wide-brimmed hat.
Drink lots of water
Water helps to hydrate the body, and the skin is the largest organ we have. It's therefore really important that older people drink lots of water - as much as possible. Not everyone likes water, and if your relative is one of these, perhaps they can find an non-caffeine drink such as herbal and fruit teas, or a squash or fruit juice drink they prefer. It's crucial not to use tea and coffee unless they are decaffeinated, because caffeine is a diuretic, which means it will cause the person to urinate more often, leading to a greater chance of dehydration.
Bedsores can be caused by pressure to areas of the skin in people who are bedridden, so the best way to deal with this is to prevent them. This means ensuring the person is turned regularly and many times per day, and that any absorbent pads and catheters are changed on a regular basis.
Be gentle on facial skin
Using soap and abrasive 'washes' can be very drying and harsh for older skin, especially on the face, and around particularly delicate parts like under the eyes. Older people can be prone to spots and blackheads sometimes - something you probably don't associate with old age - but products like Clearasil and similar can cause other problems, so should be avoided.
The best thing for an older person to wash their face in is clean warm water. A flannel, or similar cloth can be just abrasive enough without being rough.
If your relative feels cleaner using a product, there are some very gentle 'washes' on the market, including E45 emollient wash cream which comes in a handy dispenser.
E45 is one of those brands that is very popular amongst older people, as most people find E45 products to be gentle and kind, and they tend to trust it. However, there are lots of similar 'own brand' products that will do the same job, so you don't have to feel that is the only one available.
Be kind to feet
Older feet get a lot of stick; they've done thousands of miles of walking and running, and being squashed into unsuitable shoes. Now they're older, those feet might be twisted and gnarled; they may be prone to dry areas, and a range of conditions including fungal issues like athletes foot, and allergy-related problems like eczema.
A great tip for good skin on a person's feet is to ensure they have some cream or lotion that is massaged gently into the foot in all areas, particularly any that have hard skin.
Little and often is the key to good foot skin - and it really doesn't matter if the product is a fancy one or a standard hand-and-body lotion. If you or a carer is able to spend just a couple of minutes rubbing cream into the person's feet, both morning and night, over time you'll both see a difference in the quality of the skin.
Don't shower or bathe too often
Showering or bathing every single day is generally considered to be bad for the body's skin, no matter what age you are. For this reason, it's recommended that older people do not have a major wash every day, but that they mainly just have a simple wash at a basin, or a bed bath in the morning, and a bath or shower maybe 2-3 times per week.
However that's not always possible for those who have other problems that invade their sanitation, so if it's necessary for the person to have a shower in the mornings, it's important to use a gentle body wash that doesn't dry the skin out - one similar to the E45 emollient wash would be ideal. Soap, shower gels, and bath bubbles all usually create drying effects, so they're best left alone.
Additionally, you should apply a moisturiser of some kind to the person's body afterwards, which will help the skin maintain its moisture levels better.
Another little-known, but inexpensive and widely available product is 'aqueous cream'. This can be applied to the body with hands, and washed off with water. It can also be used as a straight moisturiser, but really comes into its own as a body wash.
If you've got any tips or tricks for older skin that you want to share with us, we'd love to know about them! Tweet us at @SahanCares and let us know!