Thin skin becomes more prevalent as a person ages, as a result natural aging, sun damage, medication, or lifestyle factors. It is not usually reversible, but there are some ways to protect skin and prevent complications.
Thin skin on the hands is relatively common. However, as a person ages, they may also develop thin, papery skin on their arms and legs. Thin skin bruises more easily.
Thin Skin: What Is Thin Skin?
Skin is naturally thinner on some parts of the body. The skin on the eyelids is only 0.5 millimeters (mm) thick, while the skin on the heels can be up to 4 mm thick.
The skin is made up of three layers, each with a different role:
- The hypodermis is the innermost layer, made up of tissue, fat, and sweat glands.
- The dermis is the next layer, which contains the nerves and blood supply.
- The epidermis is the outermost layer of skin, which is a barrier against dirt and bacteria.
Thin skin means that the epidermis is not as thick as it should be. The hypodermis may also have less fat, which results in this layer being thinner, too.
By itself, thinner skin should not cause any medical problems. However, a person may find that their skin gets damaged or bruises more easily.
Thin Skin: Symptoms
If a person has thin skin, it can look more transparent and they might be able to see veins, bones, or tendons more clearly.
Thin skin can be easily damaged. A person may notice that their skin bruises or tears after minor injuries.
A loss of fat from the hypodermis causes the skin to look less plump or full, which can make the skin appear thinner.
Thin Skin: Causes
- Aging is the most common cause of thin skin. Thin skin is a natural part of getting older, alongside furrows and wrinkles, less skin elasticity, and skin that is dry or easily damaged.
- Sunlight plays a significant role in thinning the skin over time. UVA and UVB rays can kill or damage skin cells.
- Smoking and drinking alcohol both speed up skin aging and can contribute to thinning of the skin over time.
- Steroid creams can make the cells in the epidermis smaller. The medication may also affect the tissue connecting skin cells. This can leave the skin looking wrinkled or loose.
- Other medications may cause thinning of the skin as a side effect. This may happen with topical steroids, which people apply directly to their skin. This medication is usually in the form of a cream or ointment and is used to treat skin conditions, such as eczema.
Topical steroids are only likely to cause thinning if a person uses them for an extended period. It is essential to follow instructions on how to use the medication.
The skin should return to its usual thickness once a person has stopped using the medication. However, this may take several weeks, as skin cells take time to renew.
Thin Skin: Treatments
It is not possible to reverse thinning of the skin. However, moisturizing the skin can make it more flexible and less likely to break.
Anything that makes the skin red or sore is likely to be damaging it. A person with thinning skin might need to protect it from damage. For example, they should avoid contact with harsh chemicals.
Moreover, thinning skin bruises more easily. Protecting the skin by wearing long sleeves, and long skirts or trousers can help.
Use creams that contain vitamin A, also known as retinol or retinoids. They can help to prevent skin from thinning further. Retinol creams are available in drugstores and online as cosmetic over the counter products.