As we age, our skin becomes thinner and more delicate, making it more susceptible to damage. The immune defences in our skin also become less active, and common agents such as soap, dry air, and friction can easily upset older skin. While not all problems can be avoided, there are simple measures that can help reduce the risk of skin issues and make life more comfortable for the elderly. Here is some information that you can provide to your patients.

Personal Hygiene

Keeping the skin clean is important, but over-washing and using soaps can result in dryness and itching. Water itself can act as a drying agent. To care for elderly skin:

  • Avoid soap, bubble bath, and shower gels that strip the skin of its natural oils. • Use soap substitutes such as moisturizing creams and lotions that can be bought over the counter or prescribed. • Apply the soap substitute directly to the skin with a flannel or sponge and wash off with warm water • Avoid cold and very hot water. • Use bath oils and moisturizing shower gels if desired. • Take care, as moisturizing products may make the bath or shower cubicle slippery.


Regular use of moisturizers can greatly reduce the rough feeling and itching that many older people experience. To help avoid dry, itchy skin:

Foot Care

Elderly feet may have been damaged over the years by pressure from footwear and oedema. Callosities and corns can greatly reduce mobility.

To keep feet healthy:

  • Wash feet daily with warm water and a mild soap or soap substitute. • Dry feet thoroughly, especially between the toes. • Apply a moisturizer to prevent cracking and peeling • Trim toenails straight across and file any sharp edges. • Wear well-fitting shoes that support the arches and cushion the heels. • Avoid wearing tight socks or stockings that may restrict blood flow. • Check feet regularly for any signs of infection, injury, or ulceration.

Sun Protection

Sun exposure can accelerate ageing of the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer. To protect elderly skin from sun damage:


Elderly skin requires special care to maintain its health and appearance. By following these tips, you can help your patients prevent or manage common skin problems and enjoy a better quality of life. If you notice any changes in your patients’ skin that concern you, such as rashes, sores, bleeding, or signs of infection, refer them to a dermatologist for further evaluation and treatment.

As a health care provider, you may encounter various skin conditions in older adults. To learn more about them, you can read our article Eight Common Skin Conditions Seen in the Older Adult. We also provide training courses for practitioners who care for older patients in primary care settings. You can either book these courses for your staff as a group or join them as an individual on our scheduled events.


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