As the body ages, the skin is more easily damaged because the epidermis thins and the amount of collagen in the dermis decreases. Skin infections are more likely, and repair of the skin occurs more slowly. A decrease in the number of elastic fibers in the dermis and loss of adipose tissue from the subcutaneous tis-sue cause the skin to sag and wrinkle. A decrease in the activity of sweat glands and in the blood supply to the dermis results in reduced ability to regulate body temperature. The skin becomes drier as sebaceous gland activity decreases. The number of melanocytes generally decreases, but in some areas the number of melanocytes increases to produceage spots. Note that age spots are different from freckles, which are caused by increased melanin production. Gray or white hair also results because of a decrease in or a lack of melanin production. Skin that is exposed to sunlight shows signs of aging more rapidly than nonexposed skin, so avoiding overexposure to sunlight and using sunscreen is advisable.
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