All You Need to Know About Thin Skin: Treatment, Causes, Symptoms, Prevention

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Our skin appears on our body in all kinds of thicknesses. For example, the skin on the bottom of your feet often feels quite a bit thicker than the skin that covers your eyelids. Different areas of our body require different thicknesses to operate properly and protect our bodies from the outside world.

However, when our skin loses its thickness, we can develop thin skin.

What is Thin Skin?

Thin skin is quite literally when the body isn’t producing as many skin cells, making it appear thin and fragile. Thin skin is most commonly found on the face, hands, and arms.

Usually, skin thinning happens because of a slowdown in the production of collagen and elastin. These proteins are the essential building blocks of your dermis, the thickest and strongest of your three layers of skin. 

A common characteristic of thin skin is that the skin becomes paler and can take on an almost translucent quality, making it possible to see veins and capillaries under the skin, and making bony structures and connective tissues more prominent. It’s also subject to easy bruising and skin tears.


Layered epidermis with hair follicle, human skin.

What Causes Thin Skin?

Often, skin atrophy occurs naturally as we grow older, when cellular regeneration slows. But it can appear at various times in our life due to other factors as well, such as medication we may be taking, illnesses, lifestyle, and even sun damage.

Our bodies have 3 distinct skin layers, each with its own roles and structural makeup. 

Our outermost layer, the part we can see, is called the epidermis. It’s void of blood supply, so the cells that make up this layer die and flake away quickly.

The deepest layer, the hypodermis, is made of fat and connective tissue. It keeps us warm, like insulation, and also attaches our skin to the other structures of our body.

The middle layer is called the dermis and contains sweat glands, pores, hair follicles, and a fibrous tissue that’s primarily made up of collagen and elastin. 

If collagen and elastin protein production slows enough, the skin becomes paper thin, can sag, and appear pale.

Maybe you’re thinking, “I’m not old! Why is my skin so thin?”

There are other factors besides age that can cause fragile skin.

Exposure to the Sun

Sun damage caused by UV light (UVA & UVB rays) can create changes in the skin that lead to skin thinning. When the sun damages our cellular structure, it can prohibit the skin from properly forming the proteins that make our skin look strong and healthy.

Medications

Sometimes, over-the-counter or prescription medications will list skin thinning as a potential side effect. If you’re experiencing thinning skin and also taking medication, check with your doctor about any possible alternative drugs. Common culprits are steroid medications, OTC painkillers, blood thinners, and aspirin.

Lifestyle Factors

According to HealthLine.com, certain lifestyle factors can increase your risk for thin skin. These include:

  • Smoking – The more than 4000 chemicals found in cigarettes drastically reduce the body’s ability to produce collagen and elastin.
  • Alcohol Use – Alcohol dehydrates the skin, making it appear thinner and reducing blood flow to the area, thus decreasing cellular turnover.
  • Lack of Regular Exercise – Exercise will help keep blood moving and feeds skin tissues with necessary oxygen.
  • A Diet that is Low in Fresh Fruits and Vegetables – If you’re not eating foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, your skin may suffer. For cells to replicate healthily, our bodies need nutrient-dense food.

Symptoms of Thin Skin

How do you know if you have thin skin? 

Some of us naturally have thick or thin skin located on various parts of our body. So, if your skin has always felt thin but appears healthy, there’s probably no cause for alarm. Watch for changes to your skin that give you a reason to be concerned. Some worrisome symptoms of thin skin are:

  • Dry or transparent-looking skin
  • Skin that can be easily torn, such as by scratching (especially on forearms)
  • Skin that easily bleeds or doesn’t easily clot
  • Flaking outer layers of the skin, not relieved by moisturizers
  • Easily bruised skin that takes a long time to heal (especially on arms and hands)
  • Photosensitivity

Where is Thin Skin Found?

Thinning skin can be found on all areas of the body, but some areas tend to be more prevalent than others.

Typically, problematic thin skin is located on arms and hands (especially forearms), and on the face. The skin around eyes is usually thin, but may more likely be caused by lack of sleep than a serious issue. If your skin under eyes is baggy or dark-looking, try drinking lots of water and getting to bed early.

Thinning neck skin can cause turkey neck. When collagen and elastin production slow, the neck becomes saggy and loose.

The chest skin can also become thin, along with skin on feet, hips, and shins. When these areas become thin, the underlying bony structures may become more visible.

How to Thicken Skin

Medical Spa treatments, like those offered at Novuskin in Denver, may provide exceptional results for those who want to thicken skin.

  • Microneedling – Microscopic pins are injected into the dermis layer causing harmless micro-injuries. These tiny pricks (similar to acupuncture needles), encourage the skin to generate collagen and elastin as part of the skin’s healing.
  • Laser Resurfacing Treatments – It may sound like laser treatment would thin the skin, but laser resurfacing does the opposite. Lasers stimulate the growth of new cells. They also cause the epidermis (outermost layer) to slough away dead cells, further triggering the body to undergo cellular regeneration.
  • Intense Pulsed Light and Photodynamic Therapy
    IPL can help with thinning skin by helping to heal damaged tissues. IPL and light therapy would be a great option for those with sensitive skin or contraindications to more aggressive treatment.
  • Injectable skin and dermal fillers
    For thin skin on the cheeks, jaw, or forehead, dermal fillers may help. Injectable dermal fillers are a safe way to fill thinning or aging areas of skin and can replenish a fuller more contoured look.


Texture of human skin, closeup

How to Help Thin Skin

Wondering what to do for thin skin? In many instances, it can be thickened again. Sometimes, home remedies are enough to help, but successful treatments will depend on the cause. To improve thin skin, try these simple home remedies.

  • If your thin skin is caused by medication, ask your doctor if there’s an alternative. In the meantime, use collagen-boosting moisturizing cream to help combat the loss of proteins.
  • Eat plenty of vitamin-rich foods, especially citrus and green veggies that contain a lot of vitamin C.
  • Eat fish regularly, especially salmon. The omega-3 and 6 fatty acids are excellent for repairing skin and helping it to stay plump and hydrated, and provide anti aging effects.
  • Take care of your skin and protect it from further harm by not smoking, drinking moderately, and avoiding the sun. 

How to Prevent Thin Skin

In some instances, it’s impossible to fully prevent the skin from becoming thinner. However, we can do some things to slow the progression and battle against damage. It’s much easier to prevent skin thinning than it is to reverse it. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends these techniques to protect skin from damage.

  • Apply sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher, every day, to all skin not covered by clothing.
  • Avoid tanning and tanning beds.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet (or be sure to take your vitamins and supplements).
  • Drink less alcohol, which is very dehydrating.
  • Get regular exercise, which can boost the immune system, and may give skin a more youthful appearance.
  • Wash your skin gently and regularly, especially after sweating.
  • Apply moisturizer daily, to lock in skin’s moisture for a more supple appearance.
  • Discontinue use of skin products that sting or burn, unless prescribed by a doctor.

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