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How to keep aging skin as healthy as possible

Written by Diane Archer

Your skin–the largest organ in your body–serves many critical purposes, so skin care is important. Skin care is particularly important as you age, because, inevitably, your skin will thin. Here’s a primer on how your skin functions and how to keep aging skin as healthy as possible.

Your skin protects all the organs in your body. It keeps harmful microbes from getting into your body, preventing infections. Your skin’s nerve receptors enable you to feel when anything touches you, including heat, cold, pain and pressure. And, your skin keeps your body temperature even.

Your skin also controls fluid and electrolyte balance in your body. Electrolytes are the minerals in your blood and other body fluids. Sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium are all electrolytes. They carry an electric charge and play a large role in how your body is working, including how much water is in your body, how much acidity is in your blood, and how well your muscles work.

And, your skin makes vitamin D for your body through exposure to the sun.

No matter your age, to care for your skin, you should replace electrolytes that you lose when you sweat by drinking fluids with electrolytes. Water does not contain electrolytes. You also should protect your skin from too much exposure to the sun, covering it or using sunscreens. And, you should avoid smoking. Cigarette smoking thins your skin and causes it to wrinkle.

Your skin thins as you age and becomes less oily and drier. Your skin loses fat and becomes less elastic. Cuts and scratches may heal less quickly. Your skin may also wrinkle and spot. In short, the process by which your skin naturally rejuvenates slows down significantly. Genetics, over which you have no control, plays a role in the pace at which these changes occur.

To help keep your skin from being dry, the NIH recommends that you use lotions and ointments to moisturize your skin daily. But, wrinkle creams are not likely to reduce wrinkles. The Mayo Clinic suggests that a few ingredients in some creams could improve the way your wrinkles appear, including retinol, an antioxidant, which keep free radicals in your skin from breaking down skin cells. It also suggests that creams with alpha, beta and poly hydroxy acids, can remove old dead skin at the surface and cause new smoother skin to grow.

Your skin also benefits if you take fewer baths and showers because water dries your skin. And, if you use a humidifier, it will make the air in your room wetter, which helps your skin.

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