We know that aging and sunlight have a big role to play in skin damage. But other environmental factors — heat, cold, wind, chemicals, pollution, smoking — may make it worse. Skin loses about 1 percent of its thickness each year of your adult life until you reach menopause. After that the loss doubles. Add fragile blood vessels, which starve hair follicles of nutrients, and breakage of the collagen that keeps skin elastic, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. (And not just in the areas most on public display.)
Take this quick quiz to see how your skin is faring:
- Do you have lots of wrinkles — especially around your eyes and mouth?
- Do you have lots of age spots — especially on your cheeks, legs, and the backs of your hands?
- Does your skin look crepey when you pinch it — especially on your chest and the backs of your hands? Does it take a moment to regain its shape?
- Do you bleed easily from minor scratches?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you’re likely having problems in the pubic area, too. The trouble is that it’s a hard area to assess — and it’s even harder for women to bring up problems related to vaginal health to their doctors.
Fortunately, a range of diagnostic tools is now available to help your clinician assess intimate skin problems. Portable ultrasound machines that connect to smartphones measure its thickness. Portable elasticity meters measure youthful springiness.
So the next time you see your doctor — and you should be seeing a doctor at least annually — ask her or him about measuring the skin of your vagina — and start using an intimate moisturizer before you start losing 2 percent thickness per year.
The effects of aging aren’t reversible, but they certainly can be slowed.