- Crepey skin is skin that has become dry, loose and wrinkled.
- The condition is common, occurs naturally with aging, but can be worsened by several lifestyle factors.
- Crepey skin often appears on the face but can also appear on the neck, chest and arms.
- The appearance of crepey skin can be delayed or reduced with a wide range of measures, including lifestyle changes, as well as topical and professional treatments.
What Is Crepey Skin and How To Identify It
Crepey skin is loose, sagging skin that has lost its elasticity and become thin and dry, with fine wrinkles resembling crepe paper. This occurs naturally, and results in fine wrinkles, especially on the face, neck and arms.
Crepey skin develops over time, and is particularly common in women over the age of 40. However, it is also caused by other factors such as sun exposure, smoking, chronic dehydration of the skin or rapid weight loss.
Crepey skin vs. wrinkles
Some wrinkles are created over time by repeated movement. For example, the wrinkles that often form with age at the corners of the mouth are the result of shaping your face into a smile again and again over the years.
The fine lines that characterize crepey skin, by contrast, are created when key proteins within skin break down, causing it to lose its firmness and elasticity.
Unlike the creases and deep wrinkles created in specific areas by repeated movement, crepey skin tends to impact larger areas of the body.
Crepey skin on the face and body
While it can occur on any part of the body, crepey skin is especially prevalent in certain areas such as the face, due to a number of factors.
Facial skin is particularly affected by smoking (causing wrinkles), photoaging (causing thinning, loosening and discoloration) and the structure of deep collagen fibres that maintains skin elasticity on the face.
Other areas most affected by crepey skin include the neck, décolletage (upper chest) and inside of the upper arm. The finger joints, knees and the skin under the eyes can also be problematic.
If you’ve started to notice areas of sagging, wrinkled skin in these areas that feels loose, thin and papery to the touch, you may wish to consider the treatment methods listed below.
What Causes Crepey Skin?
There are a wide range of factors that can contribute to crepey skin. Understanding those that may be impacting your body will help you make more informed and effective choices when it comes to treatment.
In most cases, crepey skin is caused by collagen depletion. This depletion can be the result of numerous different causes, from sun exposure to smoking.
The link between collagen and crepey skin
Crepey skin generally occurs when collagen and elastin—two proteins that give skin its supple elasticity—break down. This happens naturally as a result of the aging process, since the body slows its production of these proteins over time.
However, several other factors can speed up the degradation of collagen and elastin. Notably, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun has been known to break down these proteins. This causes crepey skin through a process known as photoaging.
Cigarette smoke has also been shown to degrade and slow the replenishment of collagen in the skin. Both smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke can cause the onset of crepey skin, even prematurely in one’s 20s or 30s.
The regular consumption of alcohol beyond recommended levels is another common cause of premature crepey skin. Alcohol depletes the body’s store of vitamin A, a substance which helps to replenish collagen and elastin.
Chronic dry skin is thin and fragile and can cause crepey skin. This can be a result of dehydration and lack of natural oils but is also a result of aging, as the body produces less of the natural oils that keep our skin soft and supple. This reduction in oil means skin loses the ability to seal in moisture, resulting in dry crepey skin. Dehydration also makes it more difficult for the body to process collagen, which can reduce skin elasticity.
In some cases, rapid weight loss can be an additional cause of crepey skin. When body mass is reduced at an unusually fast rate—due to surgery, illness or intensive weight loss programs—this often results in areas of loose, sagging skin.
Topical Treatments for Crepey Skin
Many topical creams and ointments are available to slow the onset and/or reduce the effects of crepey skin. The number of options can be daunting, but it is important to assess the specific benefits of each product in order to select one that is right for you. Here are some popular topical treatments for crepey skin and some information on what they do.
Peptides are amino acids naturally produced when collagen breaks down. They signal to the body that more collagen must be produced. When lotion containing added peptides is applied to areas where collagen depletion has caused crepey skin, this stimulates the body to produce additional collagen, improving firmness and elasticity.
Retinoids are a category of molecules chemically related to vitamin A, which help to stimulate collagen production over time when applied topically with creams and lotions. Retinoids have been shown to be particularly helpful in repairing crepey skin caused by photoaging.
Skin care products containing milder retinoids, such as retinol, are available for purchase over the counter (OTC) but may be less effective in reducing crepey skin than stronger formulas requiring a prescription. However, these stronger products can cause skin irritation and dryness in some cases, and users should consult their dermatologist regularly while undergoing treatment.
Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs)
Acids from the AHA group include citric acid, glycolic acid and lactic acid. This is another category of molecules that are often included in lotions designed to reduce crepey skin caused by photoaging. While effective, AHAs can also cause irritation to some if used at higher concentrations.
Adhesive silicone pads applied to areas of crepey skin overnight can fill out wrinkles by drawing moisture to the surface of the skin, making it appear plumper and firmer. These pads are typically used on the face and decolleté.
Since collagen plays such a key role in maintaining our skin’s firmness and resilience, many anti-aging creams designed to combat crepiness include collagen among their ingredients.
It should be noted, however, that there is minimal evidence to suggest that the topical application of collagen is an effective way to treat crepey skin. This is largely due to the lack of research on this topic. Oral collagen supplements or treatments, such as the application of peptides and retinoids which stimulate collagen production within the body, seem to be far more useful.
Professional Crepey Skin Treatments
In addition to OTC treatments, there are professional treatments for crepey skin. Should you decide to seek treatment, consult a dermatologist for more detailed information to see which procedure is right for you.
Fillers are suited to counter crepey skin as they address areas of loose skin by adding volume and reducing wrinkles. Fillers are a common and relatively noninvasive procedure that are most effective on the face rather than the body.
This procedure is typically used for fat reduction. Cryolipolysis breaks down fatty tissue by cooling it; the broken down fat is then naturally expelled from the body. Skin tightening is merely a side effect of this process, and the mechanism by which it occurs is not entirely known.
Research suggests, however, that this may be a more effective alternative to fillers in areas of the body commonly afflicted by crepey skin, such as the upper arms.
Ultrasound and fractional laser treatment
These two noninvasive procedures are used to tighten and lift skin, primarily on the neck and upper chest. Using different methods, both procedures heat and break down molecules in crepey skin, stimulating collagen production.
DIY Natural Crepey Skin Remedies
Several natural treatments for crepey skin are said to function as alternatives to the above clinical methods. It can be difficult, however, to ascertain the effectiveness or potential long-term consequences of such treatments.
Cupping, the process of applying specially designed cups to the skin to generate suction, is widely promoted as a traditional remedy for a wide range of ailments, including crepey skin.
While this procedure is unlikely to produce adverse effects, little research has been done to determine whether it is actually effective in treating this particular condition.
Home remedies, such as applying coconut oil or castor oil to the skin, may slow the onset of crepey skin by helping the body stay hydrated. However, they have not been proven to replenish collagen and elastin, or to reduce or reverse the effects of crepey skin.
How to Prevent Crepey Skin
While crepey skin is a normal part of the aging process, there are several steps that can be taken to reduce its appearance and/or slow its onset.
Whether you’re already experiencing the development of crepey skin, or you simply wish to prevent it from appearing prematurely, you can integrate some or all of the following simple changes into your lifestyle in order to achieve results.
Stay out of the sun
Photoaging caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays is one of the leading factors behind crepey skin, therefore taking precautions to protect yourself from sun damage is a simple and effective way to keep your skin smooth and supple longer.
Protect your skin by regularly applying a high SPF sunscreen to exposed skin, wearing protective clothing, remaining in the shade whenever possible when outside and avoiding tanning beds. Keep in mind that even in winter, when you can’t feel its heat, the sun still releases UV rays.
Hydration is key
Because dryness is a key feature of crepey skin, staying hydrated and moisturized can go a long way toward maintaining healthy skin. Be sure to consume adequate amounts of water daily, especially during hot weather. Additionally, ensure your regular skin care routine includes an effective moisturizer.
Eliminate or reduce unhealthy habits
Smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol both contribute to depleting your reserves of collagen, and can lead to the appearance of crepey skin as early as your 20s.
Reducing or eliminating these habits can have a significant impact on the health, resilience and elasticity of your skin. Reducing your intake of unhealthy food while integrating more antioxidants into your diet would also improve skin health.
Crepey skin is a common condition that is a result of loose, dry skin and fine wrinkles that develop slowly over time. As a natural side effect of the aging process, it is particularly common after the age of 40.
While this process is inevitable, there are lifestyle choices, skin care products and professional treatments available that can reduce wrinkles, lift skin and lessen the appearance of crepiness.
These include avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, OTC creams to increase collagen levels and improve skin elasticity, and professional procedures such as fillers and laser treatments.
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