Crepey skin gets its name from crepe paper, that thin, wrinkly paper that has the ability to stretch, bend, and create shapes no other paper can. Like the paper it was named after, crepey skin has little elasticity or resilience. When stretched, it does not return to normal like the healthy skin of youth does. In fact, the fragile, thin skin usually starts to appear in your 40s, though genetics, skin type, and environmental factors may cause it to begin earlier.
There are a number of possible causes of crepey skin, though lifestyle choices are frequently at the root of the issue. While aging does make your skin thinner, dryer, wrinkled, and saggy, it’s often what you’ve done in that skin that can exacerbate the issue. UV damage resulting after a long period of time of sunning, frequent visits to the tanning booths, or worse, both, can do damage. Exposure to the sun breaks down elastin, the fibers in your skin that enable it to stretch and return to its normal position.
Smoking is another habit that can have a disastrous impact on the quality of your skin as it chronically deprives the skin of oxygen and nutrients. There are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco and many of them cause the destruction of fiber and elastin. It’s as if your skin is a rubber band that, over time, becomes more slack until it eventually cannot retain its original flexibility. The results of smoking are often poor skin tone, deep wrinkles, sagging skin (including breasts and arms), age spots, lip lines, and, of course, crepey skin.
Lack of sleep, rapid loss of a substantial amount of weight, dehydration, hormonal changes, stress, excessive alcohol use, and medications (especially long-term prednisone) are also major contributors to crepey skin.
There are many procedures and treatments that can help with crepey skin and overall skin health. The best protocol will be determined largely from the location of the crepey skin and its causal factors. The first step is to consult a dermatologist to assess the state of your skin. Once a proper diagnosis has been determined, a customized treatment plan can be created for you.
Your dermatologist might initially recommend a topical retinoid in either cream or gel form, alpha hydroxy acids, or peptides that stimulate collagen, help thicken skin, promote exfoliation, and hasten the cell turnover in skin. It is important to use these products as directed and to stop if they cause stinging or burning. Equally important, however, is patience. Some of these products can take months before they have any noticeable effects.
Fractional laser treatment has also proven to be effective when treating crepey skin. This is a non-invasive procedure that resurfaces your skin with a fractional laser to erase imperfections, while also stimulating collagen. The goal is fresher skin with more elasticity and younger appearance. These lasers promise both a quick recovery and longer-lasting results at less than half the cost of its competitors. Consult your dermatologist before undergoing any laser treatments.
In addition, there is an ultrasound technique that uses heat to stimulate the cells below the skin to grow collagen and tighten the skin. This treatment is typically only used on the face and the neck area.
Cryolipolysis, is known for fat layer reduction, but it can also significantly reduce skin laxity. The way the skin tightening occurs is not understood, but it may be dermal thickening that results in improved appearance for crepey skin.
Fillers are often used in areas with crepey skin to help stimulate collagen production. They can be directly injected into your face, arms, under eyes, neck, knees, backside, or any other area you’d like to plump wrinkled skin or folded areas of skin. Though these injections are a non-surgical procedure, they are considered invasive, since they require penetration of the skin and pharmaceutical schedule 4 medications. It is recommended that after having fillers you do not fly and avoid hot saunas, alcohol, exercising, and extreme temperatures for several days after the injections.
Surgery is often a treatment used for people who have lost a large amount of weight and have significant crepey skin. Your physician (plastic surgeon) might recommend this procedure, but it is a surgical procedure with some risks. Other surgical procedures that may improve crepey skin include facelifts, eyelifts, and necklifts. These are also surgical procedures that carry risks and involve a period of recovery.
Your skincare routine is extremely important to your overall skin health and to ameliorating your crepey skin. Most experts recommend exfoliation 2-3 times per week with a body wash that contains glycolic acid or salicylic acid to help lift off the outer layer of dead skin cells (be careful not to over-exfoliate). The next step is to moisturize with a high-concentration glycolic body lotion 2-3 times per week, alternating with a deep hydrating body lotion on the other days. Finally, and most importantly, always use sunscreen SPF 30 or higher. There are also products that contain retinol that are made for hands and other body parts that are getting excellent results. But you must be patient, as the results take time.
Other at-home foundational efforts people make to remedy crepey skin include massage of the face, arms, and legs, physical exercise, stress reduction such as yoga and meditation, developing consistent sleep habits, increased hydration, and a nutrient-rich diet.
There should be no surprises when you look at a list of foods that may be beneficial to your efforts to firm your skin and alleviate crepey skin. A healthy, nutrient-rich diet that includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats seems to be a cornerstone to good health. This study concludes that fruit and vegetable consumption may be the safest and healthiest means to maintain a balanced diet and youthful-appearing skin.
Avocados are loaded with good fats and, as a result, have been associated with anti-aging and potentially reducing UV damage in this report.
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring are abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, Astaxanthin (carotenoid), vitamin E, and CoQ10, all of which are important nutrients in promoting healthy skin and hair.
Flavonoids are polyphenols found in fruits, vegetables and some plants. Isoflavones and coumestans belong to the group of flavonoid phytoestrogens which can have photoprotecting properties. Soy contains isoflavones which can exhibit moderate antioxidant-like properties. This review demonstrates the potential skin promoting benefits associated with soy.
Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that promotes healthy skin with photoprotective properties and skin stabilizing properties. Grab a handful wherever you go.
Dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach contain powerful antioxidants such as carotenoids that neutralize oxidative stress. You can’t go wrong with these greens.
Citrus fruits, like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit, are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant that is essential for collagen formation.
Dark chocolate is packed with nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants that can protect your skin from UV rays and promote healthy skin. Eat up, it’s good for you! It should be noted that the highest concentration of flavanols associated with all the wonderful benefits of dark chocolate are found in cocoa beans and the benefits can be lost quite easily through processing. So be sure to look for specially produced chocolate with high flavanol content.
Bone broth is rich in collagen and amino acids that can be used to support collagen production. Collagen-rich foods support skin hydration and elasticity. Be careful with how much bone broth you consume and the quality as recent studies report concerns surrounding potential heavy metal content.
Collagen peptides can help with skin elasticity and moisture. In this double blind palcebo controlled study, those who supplemented with collagen (between 2.5g and 5g daily for 8 weeks) reported significant improvements in skin elasticity in comparison to the placebo group.
Flax seeds are rich in oxmega-3 fatty acids and may even help protect the skin from UV damage. Preliminary research has been done on animal models and results appear promising. As an oil, flax seed has numerous topical benefits that can promote smooth, well-hydrated skin barrier function as demonstrated in this 12 week study.
Green tea has many antioxidant properties that are beneficial for your skin. It can also be used as a topical for minor skin irritations. Devotees claim that drinking two cups per day for six months reduces wrinkles, though there is no scientific research to validate this claim.
Protein-rich foods are essential sources of amino acids that can encourage healthy, tighter skin, and balanced collagen production. Fatty fish, collagen rich bone broth, and collagen peptides are among the richest sources of protein, but there are plenty of plant-based sources such as chickpeas, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, tempeh, and peanut butter.
If your skin is breaking easily, you have open wounds, or are just concerned about the state of your crepey skin, consult your physician. If you are interested in treatment options for crepey skin, you should talk to a dermatologist for your best options.
Crepey skin is not only about getting older. Though it tends to begin around 40, it gets its start long before then. Exposure to the sun, smoking, dehydration, alcohol consumption, stress, lack of exercise, and poor sleeping habits are among the biggest causes of crepey skin. But most experts agree that the UV rays that come with sun exposure are the number one cause. You can’t go back and undo what you’ve already done, but there is good news. There’s plenty of things you can do now about your crepey skin. Whether it’s changes to your lifestyle, diet, medication, new or improved skincare routines, or even surgical procedures, you can get back some of that elasticity and flexibility in your newfound beautiful, smooth, youthful skin.