A Dermatologic View: Thickness of Aging Skin

This is the last of three literature reviews examining the facts and misconceptions about aging skin. Articles on cutaneous blood flow and cutaneous biochemistry were reviewed this year in the July and September issues, respectively.

This review examines the medical literature on the thickness of aging human skin and the common assumption, based on appearance, that elderly skin is thinner. In fact, among dermatological researchers there is great controversy about the effects of aging on the thickness of skin strata. Even a single aspect of aging—the presence or absence of various sex steroids—may have an impact on the thickness of various skin strata (see Effect of Sex Steroids on Skin Thickness).

Despite extensive data, it is difficult to define the effects of aging on skin thickness. It appears that the SC likely maintains its thickness during aging, but it is by no means obvious whether the other strata or the whole skin change in thickness with age. Individual and regional variations likely play a large role in the answer to this question. Also, elastoic effects of chronic sun exposure probably are involved. More concordant future results might be obtained by greater standardization of body site and ultrasound method, such that different laboratories use the same frequency and gain curves.

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