Friday, January 25, 2008

Keeping aging skin intact

Age seizes my skin and turns my hair from black to white: My knees no longer bear me and I am unable to dance again like a fawn.

Fawn, schmawn, I'm just working here at getting the snow shoveled and hoofing it up and down 19th Avenue on a regular basis. But this post is not about the dancing abilities of an aging hippie, but rather this business of age-seized skin.

The passing years have definitely grabbed Ms. McM in a dermal sort of way. In her mid-60's, her 'photo-aged' or sun-damaged skin had thinned to the point that it ripped like old cloth when subjected to trauma such as banging against the bedframe and other household objects. Her forearms and shins are crisscrossed with fine white line where tears have turned to scars.

Skin that tears easily is common in older women, though generally in those more aged yet than Ms. McM. Thinned out skin is also responsible for the unsightly purplish blotches that appear on the forearms of older women. Loss of collagen between layers of skin allows the epidermis or top layer to shear over the dermis below when the arm is rubbed or bumped. As a result, tiny blood vessels rupture and bleed between the layers, at times in a rather dramatic and extensive manner.

Blotches are ugly, rips are devastating. Ms. McM was pleased, however, to show me her well-healed, blotch-free arms and legs during yesterday's visit. Her dermatologist had recommended the regular application of Retin-A cream (generic tretinoin cream) to the areas. Studies have shown that photo-aged skin produces significantly less collagen than protected skin (and scientists have the buttocks biopsies to prove it!). Further biopsies from philanthropic old gals prove that Retin-A restores collagen formation in their wrinkled, sunstruck forearms.* Newer studies suggest that tazarotene cream is even better--but more expensive!

Retin-A is pricey as well, even though it is available generically. Ms. McM noted one month's supply set her back over $100, but she bought additional tubes in Mexico for 6 bucks each.
*Griffiths, C, et al. NEJM. Volume 329:530-535.


JeanMac said...

I look forward to your daily dose of humor and knowledge.

Mauigirl said...

How interesting! I should get some for both of my husband's parents, as they both have very delicate skin that tears easily and get those blotches.