Our skin goes through many changes as we age. Each stage is marked with some specific findings that are more or less common, but it is normal to ask: “What is happening to my (or my child’s) skin and hair?”
Infants: Seborrheic dermatitis, or “cradle cap,” is very common in infants. While the condition will generally pass with use of gentle cleansers, in severe cases a prescription medication may be necessary. It is also important not to confuse run-of-the mill cradle cap with a true fungal infection.
Infants also may have different lesions, like congenital nevi (generally called “birth marks”) that may appear normal, but it is important for a trained dermatologist to evaluate these. While some birth marks need to simply be observed, others may need to be sampled or even removed.
Toddlers: Although eczema can first appear in newborns, it is also common for it to occur around age two. Parents are usually most concerned about the distressing itch that their children experience as well as how unsightly eczema can look. While thorough moisturization is the most common relief of very mild eczema, it is often prescription medications, including topical steroids, that keep flares under control.
Adolescents: This is a very active time for changes in the skin as hormones are changing rapidly during this time. Acne is usually the number one skin complaint for teenagers. Often by the time they reach the dermatologist they have already tried many over-the-counter agents and it is time for something stronger. Early treatment of acne with topical retinoids and sometimes oral antibiotics can help to prevent long-term scarring and pigmentary changes.
Adults: Even after we have passed through teenage hormonal changes, there are still common problems that can occur. Many adults still struggle with adult acne well into their forties. At that point, acne may have transitioned into a different condition known as rosacea which will often require different treatments than for teenage acne. Also, many adults notice new “growths.” These generally fall into a few common categories. First, there are seborrheic keratoses, which are harmless growths that can appear almost anywhere. These are often referred to as “age spots.” In darker-skinned patients, these growths my be centered on the face and are referred to as dermatosis papulosa nigra. Although harmless, they can be of considerable cosmetic concern for patients.
There are several different treatment options for these, if desired. Changes in the hair can also be a huge concern as we age. Men and women lose hair in different patterns as they age. Depending on how much hair has been lost and the causes of hair loss, oral medications can be used for men (such as PropeciaÆ) or topical for women (such as Minoxidil).
Skin cancer is also much more common as we age. Although the majority of the lesions that patients are concerned about tend to be normal, particularly if you have an area that is bleeding, burning, itching or nonhealing, there may be cause for concern. Also, what sometimes looks like a normal sun spot may require a dermatologist’s attention.
Establishing a relationship with a dermatologist can provide medical care, as well as comfort and preventative ease of mind, to you and your family.
Angela J. Lamb, M.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
Director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology Faculty Practice
638 Columbus Avenue at 91st Street
New York, NY 10024
Tel: (212) 828-3280