Thin, fragile skin is a symptom of age that many older adults experience. Fragile skin is caused by a variety of factors, including aging, sun exposure, medications and genetics. Fortunately, a variety of vitamins and other products are available as thin skin treatment supplements.
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Skin Health and Aging
As you age, your skin changes. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine's website, MedlinePlus, thin, fragile skin is a natural part of aging. It occurs as your skin loses its protective fat layer.
Unfortunately, these changes mean that just rubbing, pulling or stretching your skin in any way can tear it. The blood vessels in your skin are also more likely to break. Aging also means that your body is slower to heal. Although such injuries may be minor, they can take up to four times longer to heal in older adults. This means that even small abrasions have the potential to become infected or turn into skin ulcers.
Skin aging is normal, but it can certainly be unpleasant. Fortunately, the foods you eat play a major role in how your skin is aging. There are also various lifestyle changes you can make and supplements you can take to reduce the fragility of your skin and improve overall skin health.
Fragile Skin and Nutrition
Good nutrition is extremely important for your skin. According to a September 2016 article in the journal Reviews in Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders, consuming too little of essential nutrients like selenium, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin E can all affect your skin. Insufficient consumption of certain essential fatty acids and amino acids can also influence your skin's health.
According to a July 2012 study in the Journal of Dermato-Endocrinology, other nutrients play a role in skin health, as well. In addition to the nutrients mentioned in the Reviews in Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders study, this study said that antioxidants like carotenoids and flavonoids, vitamin D and certain probiotic bacteria, like lactobacilli, can support good skin health.
Thin skin on the arms and legs is often quite normal for older people. However, if you have paper-thin skin that cracks or splits very often, you may want to talk to your doctor to make sure that your nutrient intake is adequate.
Even if you're already consuming a healthy diet, your health-care provider may recommend certain supplements that can act as thin skin remedies. For example, the Mayo Clinic states that treating skin with retinol (vitamin A) can help strengthen your skin.
Certain vitamins and fatty acids can be taken as a standard pill or as capsule-based supplements. However, in some cases, thin skin treatment supplements may be applied topically, instead.
Read more: 11 Nutrients Americans Aren't Getting Enough Of
Topical Thin Skin Remedies
An April 2014 study in the Journal of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery reported that retinoids (vitamin A) can also be used topically to counteract sun-related damage. Vitamin A has been shown to reduce wrinkles, pigmentation-related issues and spider veins. It can also improve skin texture, smoothness and firmness because it increases the collagen content within your skin's dermis.
According to the article in the Reviews in Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders journal, other vitamins can also be applied topically to support skin health. Vitamin C and vitamin E are both commonly used as topical supplements. Both of these nutrients are able to increase collagen production within your skin, decreasing wrinkles.
According to the Journal of Dermato-Endocrinology study, vitamins C and E act synergistically. This means that they interact with one another in your body. Taking them together will provide better results than taking them separately. However, you may not necessarily need to take both as topical thin skin remedies; these vitamins can be consumed orally, as well.
Other Thin Skin Treatment Supplements
In addition to applying vitamins A, C and E topically, you can also ingest them. These vitamins come in a variety of forms; vitamin C, for instance, can be found as synthetic ascorbic acid, buffered vitamin C or an injectable product.
Vitamin C and vitamin E both seem to be equally functional when consumed orally and topically. The Journal of Dermato-Endocrinology study reported that such treatments can be used to prevent sun damage, skin cancer and other skin-related issues. In fact, taking vitamin C orally may be better for you. This is because vitamin C degrades very rapidly, making it unsuitable for application through most cosmetic products.
Antioxidants can also be consumed orally. Vitamins A, C and E are all antioxidants, and polyphenols, flavonoids and other bioactive compounds are also beneficial to skin. You can obtain these from plant-based foods or as stand-alone supplements. In particular, silymarin, apigenin and genistein have beneficial effects on aging skin.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids are another type of commonly consumed supplement that can benefit skin health. In particular, omega-6 fatty acids are beneficial for your skin. Increased consumption of linoleic acid has been shown to reduce skin atrophy and dryness.
Read more: 10 Recipes for Glowing, Healthy Skin
Lifestyle Changes for Fragile Skin
In addition to taking these vitamins and making dietary changes, the Mayo Clinic recommends a few different lifestyle changes that may help with fragile skin. For instance, moisturizing your skin regularly can be helpful. The Mayo Clinic recommends products like Vanicream and Cetaphil.
Alternatively, you can also use certain natural products. A January 2019 article in the Pharmacognosy Review reported that coconut oil can help strengthen and hydrate skin, prevent infections and promote wound healing.
Avoiding sun exposure over long periods of time can also be very helpful in preventing paper thin skin. You can reduce your sun exposure by wearing long-sleeved shirts and trousers, as well as wide-brimmed hats. This can also help reduce your risk of abrasions and other injuries. When you do spend time in the sun, apply sun lotion that is at least SPF 15. Be sure to reapply it regularly, especially if you're swimming or sweating.
- MedlinePlus: Aging Skin
- Mayo Clinic: "Healthy Lifestyle: I'm 85 Years Old, and My Skin Sometimes Tears Open If I Bump Against Something. Why Does This Happen, and What Can I Do About It?"
- Reviews in Endocrine & Metabolic Disorders: "Nutrition and Skin"
- Dermato-Endocrinology: "Discovering the Link Between Nutrition and Skin Aging"
- Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: "Reversal of Skin Aging With Topical Retinoids"