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If our skin thins, we often feel a strong itch and tension in the affected areas; in addition, the skin dries out faster than usual. Even slight scratches bleed and the thinned skin ignites easily.
Skin: Our largest organ
The skin is the largest organ, almost two square meters in size and weighing up to 20 kg. One square centimeter contains 15 sebum glands, 100 sweat glands, 3000 nerve end cells, 1 meter blood vessels and several million cells.
The skin protects the internal organs, muscles and bones from external damage. It holds the body system together and marks a clear border with the environment. It acts as a shield against viruses, bacteria and fungi, heat, sun, cold and attacks.
This “protective wall” is also extremely active. The skin forms vitamin D from the sun's rays, it brings water and fat into the organism.
The "skin filter" can be used medically: creams, oils, lotions, medicinal baths and healing earth applied to the skin provide the body with beneficial substances. Hormone patches or nicotine patches work through the skin.
Skin cells indicate the temperature, inform the brain about pain stimuli and shield UV light.
When does skin look beautiful?
Skin is considered beautiful if its pores are small, there are no scales, pimples or boils on it, if it evenly reflects the light, contains a little fat, shines and has few wrinkles. Too much fat on the skin is just as unaesthetic as dry skin.
Our perception can be explained in an evolutionary way: dandruff, pimples and boils can indicate basic illnesses, dry and dull skin firstly on age, secondly also on diseases - or both.
Causes of thinner skin
Thin skin is often not a disease, but a symptom of a basic illness. Metabolism and blood circulation disorders can also be accompanied by thinned skin. Such an underlying disease can also be recognized by the specific condition of the skin: in the event of a liver disorder, for example, the diluted skin turns yellowish, and the mucous membranes and tongue are also affected.
Thinner skin can also indicate Lyme disease. Arms and legs are particularly affected by Lyme disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's disease and butterfly lichen also lead to thin skin, as do skin diseases such as psoriasis and neurodermatitis. The immune system attacks the body's own tissue because it classifies it as “foreign”. So far no one knows how these diseases develop.
With Cushing's syndrome, on the other hand, we know the cause: It is caused by too much cortisol - a hormone. The parchment skin is only a symptom here, in addition there is strong thirst, muscle weakness, acne and boils.
Cortisone, a drug related cortisol, also thins the skin, and insulin injected by patients with diabetes mellitus also promotes parchment skin.
Age is not an illness; Our skin ages as young as adults, and it also becomes thinner. We cannot stop this process, but we can mitigate it.
Aging means for the skin that the papillae change between the epidermis and dermis. Blood vessels in these papillae supply the epidermis with nutrients, oxygen and fluid. In young people, these papillae are close together and are long - the skin is plump and smooth. In older people, the papillae flatten and become fewer.
The older we get, the less collagen and elastin the body forms, and the skin loses its elasticity: we get wrinkles.
Nutrients and oxygen now only slowly get into the upper layer of the skin: our skin looks dull.
If you already suffer from the so-called parchment skin, you can use lukewarm water instead of hot water. Because too warm water dries out the skin. Soft towels protect dry skin, those affected should dab them off instead of rubbing them off. Regreasing products are recommended when showering.
Water-in-oil emulsions are suitable for thin skin and support the balance between fat and moisture. Such agents should be free of perfume and alcohol, since both dry out the skin even more.
Older people often forget to drink. In doing so, they promote that the skin becomes ever thinner. Having a glass of water in between helps.
First, thin skin hurts more easily than a "thick coat", and second, the wounds heal poorly. Even a slight rub, a blow or a blow will cause the skin to tear. The injured skin regenerates slowly.
Wound dressings should have a silicone layer or stick themselves, but grease and plasters can further tear the wound open.
Dermis and epidermis
Dermis denotes the dermis, epidermis the surface of the skin. As the skin ages, cell metabolism slows down on the epidermis, and the organism produces fewer lipids.
The skin becomes rough and dries. Wrinkles form and the skin is more sensitive to UV rays, wounds heal more slowly and the body is less able to fight off infections.
The percentage of collagen in the dermis drops by 1% per year. The subcutaneous tissue is less elastic and circulation is poor.
The skin loses its rosy hue and wrinkles form.
Thinner skin appears on the outside in deeper folds, so the skin loses its contour. It becomes duller and paler.
Sunlight weakens and dries the skin, and smoking causes the skin to get less oxygen - and collagen and elastin break down. Smoking therefore increases the natural aging process.
Which substances help?
Skin aging is partly due to oxidative stress. In simple terms, this means that there are too many compounds that react to oxygen, i.e. super oxide anion radical, hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radical.
Normally, cells neutralize oxidizing substances by creating a “depot” with these substances. If they are no longer able to do this, the species that react to oxygen prevent the detoxification of the cell.
Some "beauty companies" advertise with externally applied antioxidants. This is to prevent the loss of skin volume and wrinkles: Arctiin, an active ingredient from the burdock fruit, promotes the regeneration of skin cells and gives thin skin more elasticity, and Apiaceae peptides also improve the elasticity of the skin.
Caution: No benefit has been demonstrated in any study by antioxidants in dietary supplements. Rather, meta-studies indicate the opposite: The reactive oxygen species are probably not just "toxic waste", but above all elementary messengers.
Antioxidants do not differentiate between "good" and "bad" reactive oxygen species, but act like "the ax in the forest".
What to do?
If a doctor successfully treats the underlying disease, the skin also regenerates. However, aging skin cannot be "healed".
You can prevent thin skin with sufficient exercise, little alcohol and cigarettes, moisturizing creams and economical use of the sun and solariums. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Peter Fritsch; Thomas Schwarz: Dermatology Venereology: Basics. Clinic. Atlas, Springer, 2018
- Beat Hintermann: Ankle arthroplasty Historical overview, current therapy concepts and developments, Springer, 2005
- Springer Medizin (ed.) "Pressure relief for parchment skin", in health professions, Volume 68 Issue 4, 2016, Springer Link
- Renate Lüllmann-Rauch, Friedrich Paulsen: Pocket Textbook Histology, Thieme, 2012