Everyone's skin goes through some changes over the course of time. Some aging changes are subtle, some not so much.
But how do you know what types of changes you should be concerned about? How do you know if you should reach for your Advanced Vitamin-C Brightening Serum or to put your dermatologist on speed dial?
As your body ages, your skin does, too. That's just a fact of life. Collagen and elastin break down and don't regenerate as fast as they used to. Fine lines and wrinkles start to appear, and liver spots may make themselves known.
When it comes to the aging of your skin, a lot of factors come into play: genetics, lifestyle, environment, diet, skincare, and sun exposure. If you've done a good job of caring for your skin, early signs of aging may be thwarted. Good skin care can also make a huge difference when it comes to slowing some of those aging symptoms down.
Protecting your skin from the sun's damaging UV rays is the single most important thing you can do to slow or halt the progress of time. Sun exposure is also the biggest factor when it comes to protecting your skin from things worse than wrinkles: skin cancer.
Hiding from the sun all your life will help, but it's still no guarantee you'll be spared, and let's face it: that's just no fun! Not to mention those few times in your 20's when you forgot to apply your sunscreen before falling asleep on the beach. So you need to be vigilant and pay attention to changes as they happen. You can learn what to dismiss and what to be concerned about.
Take Notice of These Skin Changes
Any time you see new growths or changes to your skin that last for more than a couple of weeks, you should see a dermatologist. You're looking for any spots that become raised or change consistency or color, particularly if you're noting these things on sun-exposed skin. Moles that change in appearance, bleed or become itchy, should also be checked.
Small, Raised, Reddish Pearly Nodule
This is the typical manifestation of basal cell carcinoma, which is the most common type of skin cancer. It can also sometimes be seen as a pink or red scar or area of irritated skin.
This type of skin cancer rarely metastasizes, but can still cause plenty of damage of its own. It can grow invasively into surrounding tissues and can cause localized tissue destruction if it's not removed completely.
Chronic Ulcerated Area or Crusty, Scaly Lesion
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer, but this one can metastasize into other parts of the body, as well. It's best to have these removed when you first notice them.
Larger Pigmented Lesions With Irregular Borders
Melanoma can have a variety of different appearances, but they're usually larger than the size of a pencil eraser and may show a range of colors. Melanomas often have an irregularly-shaped, asymmetrical border.
It often spreads to lymph nodes and internal organs, and can lead to death if not treated aggressively. It can usually be cured if it remains on the outermost layer of the skin, but prognosis can be poor once it's spread to other parts of the body.
Skin Changes That Aren't Bad
There are a few changes that may be acting like a little more than just some signs of normal aging, but are they cause for concern? At least yet?
Freckles, themselves, are no cause for alarm, even as they darken with the summer season. But they are a sign that you may be at an increased risk for developing skin cancer, so be on the lookout for other signs of problems.
You may know these as "age spots" or "liver spots" and are irregular in shape. They're usually larger than freckles and their color varies from tan to dark brown. Unlike freckles, they form as a result of time in the sun, and are worse as a result of severe sunburns.
White spots can show up on areas of the body that have been exposed to the sun. They're more common in women over age 40 than in men.
Irregular dark patches can be triggered by excessive sun exposure and are intensified by hormonal changes. Melasma may affect people with any skin type, but are commonly seen beginning around menopause. They tend to darken after sun exposure.
These appear to be stuck on like gum and are round, dark and raised. They, themselves, are not harmful, but some people may confuse them with melanoma, so it's always good to have them double-checked.
It's always better to be safe rather than sorry, so if you notice anything about your skin that concerns you, seek the help of your dermatologist.