Is your skin looking thinner, less bouncy and more delicate? There's no question that the thickness of your skin changes with age. Gradually, your skin feels drier, more delicate and less elastic. And with thinner skin comes a weakened skin barrier. When the skin is healthy, it successfully performs its job of protecting us from irritation, skin diseases and inflammation. But when our skin barrier is impaired, the body can't defend itself. We’re going to explore how thin and weak skin can compromise the skin barrier, and repair methods for how to make the skin healthier and stronger.
As you age, you may see shifts in your skin texture and elasticity. The reason your skin might appear thinner and drier is because your body produces less collagen as you get older. Collagen is the structural protein that gives skin its elasticity, strength and suppleness. Collagen fibers are the sturdy columns that support the top layer of the skin which prevents saggy skin. But with collagen decline comes thinner and less supple skin. You can thank your genetics for how quickly your store of collagen decreases.
Lifestyle Factors Including Medication
As Healthline suggests, you may develop thin skin from long-term use of specific medications including:
- Prescription blood thinners
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve)
- Topical and oral corticosteroids
- Over-the-counter aspirin
There are also a number of lifestyle factors that may cause early aging and thinning of the skin including:
- Excessive alcohol use
- Lack of regular exercise combined with a poor diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates
Overexposure to ultraviolet light causes sun damage to your skin, injuring skin cells and reducing collagen and elastin. After many years of tanning (and burning), you may start to develop thinning skin. You might notice thinner skin across your face, arms or hands, the parts of the body most exposed to the sun. Sun damage can also appear in the form of age spots, sagging skin, wrinkling or skin cancer.
Along a similar vein, exposure to artificial radiation sources, such as tanning beds, can lead to skin damage (and thinner skin) as well as an increase in the risk of skin cancer. “Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is linked to getting severe sunburns, especially at a young age,” states the FDA. “Tanning causes the skin to lose elasticity and wrinkle prematurely. This leathery look may not show up until many years after you’ve had a tan or sunburn.” The FDA says you may also notice premature signs of aging such as wrinkles and dark spots.
Evidently, avoiding tanning beds is best practice if you not only want to strengthen your skin and avoid premature aging, but reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.
The lowering of estrogen levels, especially during menopause, is a key contributor to the thinning of the skin. Collagen is key for maintaining the structure and firmness of the skin, but during menopause, a decrease in estrogen causes a drop in collagen levels, as well as moisture retention and oil production. You may notice thinning or sagging skin and fine lines and wrinkles.
Thin skin will not cause medical problems — it’s only a concern when your skin becomes easily bruised or damaged. As Medline Plus states: “As you age, you are at increased risk for skin injury. Your skin is thinner, more fragile, and you lose some of the protective fat layer.” The skin’s ability to snap back worsens with age, as does the thickness of the dermis. And with thin skin comes bruises and wrinkles.
On top of thinning skin, if you’re not looking after your skin at all, then its barrier might be compromised. The skin is composed of three layers: The hypodermis layer is made up of sweat glands, fat, and tissue. The next layer is called the dermis, which consists of the blood supply and nerves. The outermost layer is the epidermis, which makes up your skin barrier and defends you against bacteria and dirt. A healthy, functioning skin barrier blocks out environmental irritants, while keeping in natural oils and moisture. An unhealthy skin barrier will not defend you from potential skin issues such as irritation, inflammation or dryness. Thin skin is already fragile enough, but if you aren't moisturizing very dry skin, or you’re over-exfoliating, you might be irritating it. If you’d like to learn more about what causes a damaged skin barrier, read this extensive guide. Here's a breakdown of practical ways you can achieve stronger and thicker skin.
Eat Foods That Help Collagen Production
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for increasing collagen production, and therefore, making our skin stronger and improving the barrier function of our skin. Vitamin C also plays a major role in making collagen, and you’ll find it in foods like broccoli, leafy greens and citrus fruits.
A variety of foods can help your body boost collagen production including:
- Leafy greens
- Fish and shellfish
- Egg whites
- Citrus fruits
Use Skin Care Products With Peptides
If you are already happy with your diet, you can make your skin feel stronger with skin care products that contain peptides. Dermatologist Dr. Nancy Samolitis, MD, FAAD told Byrdie: "Peptides are essentially fragmented portions of proteins. So when they're used in skincare, the objective is for those fragments of collagen to stimulate collagen growth … Complete, non-fragmented proteins (like collagen) are not able to be directly absorbed through the top layer of skin, so these smaller pieces are able to get deep into the cellular level."
Apply Moisturizer Daily
To make your skin stronger, turn your attention from exfoliation to moisturization instead. Whether you're a dry, combination, oily or sensitive skin type, keeping your skin hydrated is the first step to skin health and having a strong skin barrier.
Your lack of hydration could be due to genetics; you might be just born with a dry skin type. However, if your skin type is actually oily, combination, sensitive or normal, dryness could be caused by anything from air conditioners or hot showers to weather. Help your skin stay strong by applying moisturizer after cleansing. This step helps lock in moisture and protect your skin from the environment.
Are you struggling with thinning skin? Find out more about solutions from your favorite Eminence Spa Partner, or explore the Marine Flower Peptide Collection, formulated with powerful plant peptides and marine flower technology for skin that feels stronger, lifted and firm.
This article was originally written in July 2021.