When you gaze into the mirror and you notice some wrinkling skin appearing on your neck, underarms, chest, and eyes, it’s no small thing to be alarmed. In fact, crepey skin is named for its resemblance to crepe paper, and it appears as thin, wrinkly skin that may also sag or hang loosely. While not harmful to your health, crepey skin is aesthetically unpleasing and one of the biggest aging concerns that the older generation wants to fix.
Fortunately, there are many great non-surgical and surgical treatment options for crepey skin. It’s recommended to first, have a visit with your dermatologist to discuss options and potential treatments before resorting to any alternative remedies that can do more damage.
The causes of crepey skin
Your skin relies on both collagen and elastin to remain youthful, tight and supple, as these main structural proteins found in the body’s various connective tissues prevents skin from sagging and gives it a plump, full look. However, crepey skin occurs when the level of collagen, elastin, and other skin health proteins becomes depleted. While genetics does play a role in collagen and elastin production, there are also natural environmental factors that decrease collagen and elastin production, thereby increasing the risk of crepey skin, such as:
- Normal Aging - Crepey skin becomes more prevalent with age and is most common in those over the age of 40. As you age, collagen and elastin production naturally decrease and can be accelerated by additional risk factors.
- Sun Exposure - Excessive sun exposure is most definitely associated with crepey skin. While UV light breaks down collagen by causing an excessive build-up of elastin, if the two are out of balance, the aging process speeds up, resulting in skin sagging and wrinkles.
- Dryness - Inadequate hydration is a common cause of crepey skin, and may also be related to aging. Remember that as you age, your skin produces less oils. These essential oils act as a protective lipid barrier and seal in moisture. It’s also worth noting that dryness may be the result of hormonal changes at any age, or simply lack of adequate moisture.
- Weight Loss - Sudden or extreme weight loss can result in crepey skin. Your skin has been stretched over a significant amount of time and may lose its elasticity, resulting in skin that’s grown in volume with excessive weight gain. It’s this phenomenon where new cells form to make space for the fat cells underneath them.
- Environmental - Pollution, smoking, stress, lack of sleep, inadequate nutrition, and medications such as prednisone have all been implicated in crepey skin because of their detrimental effect on collagen and elastin.
How to prevent crepey skin
There are ways to prevent crepey skin, and the most effective path is by boosting the body’s collagen and elastin production. Maintaining a healthy level of both of these proteins include:
- Avoiding Sun Exposure - Sun exposure ranks highest as the most preventable cause of early skin damage. Tanning beds are particularly harmful and cause crepey skin in those as young as 20. If you cannot avoid the sun, wear protective clothing and use a full spectrum sunscreen with a rating of at least SPF 30.
- Moisturizing - Crepey skin that appears inconsistently (or seasonally) is most likely due to dryness. To prevent collagen damage due to dryness, keep your skin moisturized by using products with glycerin or hyaluronic acid to hold in moisture so skin not only stays hydrated but appears supple and plump. Moisturizing prevents crepey skin and may also improve its appearance.
- Diet & Supplements - Hyaluronic acid, collagen peptides and other collagen-boosting vitamins are prevalent in supplement form. However, foods that enhance your body’s natural production of collagen may be more effective than supplements. Bone broth, chicken, fish and egg whites are all excellent sources of collagen or the amino acids needed to build it. Vitamin C also plays a role in collagen production, so eat plenty of berries and citrus fruits.
Treatments and remedies for crepey skin
If you treat crepey skin as early as possible, this will produce the best results, especially if crepey skin is bothering you. See your dermatologist right away. Just know that there are several effective and beneficial remedies for treating crepey skin, and the best treatment option for each person depends on several factors including skin type, the cause of creping, the degree of severity, and which area of the body is affected.
Topical Retinol Products
Topical retinol products are creams or gels that help restore your skin’s elasticity and thicken collagen, and it’s primarily because retinoids have an exfoliating effect which hastens cell repair and turnover. Because retinoids are drying and put you at greater risk for sun damage, they can make crepey skin worse if not used properly. Always pair retinoid usage with a moisturizer.
Fraxel Laser Treatments
Fraxel laser treatment uses small lasers to create microscopic holes in your skin, which encourages growth of new collagen. As the skin heals itself, texture and tone even out and thin skin returns thicker. This type of treatment works best for crepey skin around the eyes.
Ultherapy uses ultrasound to heat the tissue below the skin, as some cells break down collagen production and skin repair is stimulated. The treatment can tighten loose, flaccid skin and is most effective in the face and neck. Skin that’s attached to muscle, as in the upper arm, doesn’t respond as well, however.
Thermage also heats the skin to stimulate healing and collagen production, but does so by using radio frequency waves. This remedy works best for those who seek skin tightening in a small area due to minimal or postpartum weight loss or because of general age-related skin sagging.
CoolSculpting is a non-invasive procedure that’s typically used to remove excess fat. The device works by freezing and killing fat cells which are then naturally removed from the body via the lymphatic system. A pleasant side effect of this process is the skin tightening that occurs once fat cells below the skin’s surface are eliminated.
Dermal fillers improve the appearance of crepey skin by stimulating your own body’s collagen production. The relatively non-invasive treatment has the effect of making skin look plumper and more youthful. These fillers work not only on the face, but can target crepey skin on the upper arms as well.
A final remedy for crepey skin is plastic surgery. This may be the most effective option for severe forms of crepey skin or crepey skin that is caused by excess skin due to a significant amount of recent weight loss. Plastic surgery can be done anywhere on the body and may even include liposuction if there’s excess fat to be removed, for example in the lower abdominals or upper arms.