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.


Jenny Link, M.D.

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Nov. 01, 2023 See more Expert Answers