How can I best care for my mom's hair and skin?

Linda. asked...

How can I best care for my mom's hair and skin? Although my mom is only 77, Alzheimer's Disease has really accelerated her aging process. She looks a lot older than 77. Her skin is very thin and dry and her hair is thinning and wiry. I only wash her hair once a week with a combination shampoo/conditioner and then put a little leave-in conditioner in her hair. Even so, her hair looks terrible. It is a short bob style (she doesn't want it shorter) and we get her hair cut and colored every 6 to 8 weeks.

Her skin is so thin you can see her veins clearly through it. I only have her bathe once a week because it is just too drying.

Any suggestions from the pros out there?

Expert Answer

Jessica J. Krant, MD, MPH, is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology, including Mohs micrographic skin cancer surgery. In addition to her work in private practice, Krant is assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

Linda, I can hear the distress in your words. Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's is heartbreaking enough, but when you know your mom was always so attentive to her appearance, it can be a struggle to try to help her keep it up. Caring for elderly hair and skin can be very tricky. You are right. Skin does thin and get drier with age, as does hair. Hair also grows less well, so long, thick, strong hair strands are rare.

You are smart not to overbathe your mom's skin. She really only needs a spongebath under the arms, in the groin area, and maybe on the feet. The back too, if she spends a lot of time lying down. Limbs don't really need soap and water. I'm sure you are putting a moisturizer on her skin too, to keep it more supple, but one ingredient that could be helpful to keep the skin more robust is some lactic acid (such as in Am-Lactin or Lac-Hydrin moisturizers). Lactic acid signals some skin thickening and helps the cells plump up to withstand friction better.

For her hair, I am not sure if you are aware of some of the "dry shampoos" that can take oils out of the hair and allow it to be fluffier throughout the week, without washing. For the thinning, there isn't much you can do but if it's a matter of her feeling better about how she looks, you and she might consider the sprays that "fill in" thinning with hair-like fibers, or even a wig that looks like how she used to style herself.

Since I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "her hair still looks terrible" (too thin, too greasy, too dry, doesn't hold style), it's hard for me to think of other suggestions right now, but the ones I mentioned may be helpful. I wish you luck. You are doing the right thing, trying to help her feel she looks her best.