I'm 85 years old, and my skin sometimes tears open if I bump against something. Why does this happen, and how can I prevent it?
Answer From Jenny Link, M.D.
Fragile or thin skin that tears easily is a common problem in older adults. Aging, sun exposure and genetics all play a role in thinning skin. Certain medications, such as long-term use of corticosteroids, also can weaken the skin and blood vessels in the skin.
Thin skin isn't necessarily a sign of an underlying medical condition. But if it tears often, consider seeing a health care provider who can evaluate your skin.
To protect thin skin and prevent tears and cuts:
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and a wide-brimmed hat. The forearms are common areas for minor injury to the skin. Consider wearing two layers to protect them when doing yardwork or gardening.
- Avoid prolonged sun exposure.
- If you must be outside in the sun, use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you're swimming or sweating.
- Keep skin well moisturized and protected by using a moisturizing cream, such as Vanicream, CeraVe or Cetaphil.
Aug. 11, 2022
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See more Expert Answers
- Link JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 26, 2022.
- Skin care and aging. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/skin-care-and-aging. Accessed July 20, 2022.
- Taffet GE. Normal aging. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed July 20, 2022.
- Sunscreen: How to help protect your skin from the sun. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/consumers/buyingusingmedicinesafely/understandingover-the-countermedicines/ucm239463.htm. Accessed July 20, 2022.
- AskMayoExpert. Sunburn. Mayo Clinic; 2022.