Crepey skin is one of the most common skin concerns. It’s characterized by the appearance of crepe paper, which results from the thinning and wrinkling of the skin.
Fortunately, crepey skin can be treated and prevented. This guide from Nourishing Biologicals will cover everything you need to know about crepey skin, including what causes it, how you can prevent it, and the different ways to treat it.
What Is Crepey Skin?
Crepey skin refers to skin that is thin, dry, and wrinkly.
Crepey skin primarily results from loss of firmness. Two proteins responsible for keeping the skin firm — collagen and elastin — can degrade due to multiple factors. Over time, this can make the skin lose its suppleness, causing all sorts of texture issues and fine lines.
Crepey skin can occur on any part of the body. However, because collagen and elastin degrade due to sun exposure, sun-exposed areas are more likely to have crepey skin. This includes the upper arms, chest, neck, and eyelids.
While crepey skin is more common in old age, it can affect virtually anyone who experienced significant skin damage.
What Causes Crepey Skin?
There is no single cause of crepey skin. Usually, a combination of factors leads someone to develop this condition.
These are five of the most common causes of crepey skin:
Some people are born with thicker skin, which gives it a firmer texture and appearance. However, others have quite thin skin, which can make them more susceptible to the effects of collagen and elastin degradation.
In general, those with lighter skin types have thinner skin. This is due to a lack of melanin, a molecule that gives skin its pigment and a dose of natural sun protection.
However, skin type is just one factor (amongst many) that contributes to crepey skin. People with thin skin can avoid crepiness by being extra diligent with certain lifestyle factors contributing to skin damage.
The remaining four causes of crepey skin are lifestyle-based, which means you can prevent them.
2. Sun Damage
The most common skin beauty advice from dermatologists includes avoiding excessive sun exposure. This is for a good reason: As much as 80% of skin aging is due to the sun’s damaging UV rays.
Intuitively, we may all understand that the sun damages the skin. But how exactly does it happen?
Well, the sun affects the skin in multiple layers.
The sun causes the skin to thicken at the superficial level but then gradually atrophies. This can damage the suppleness of the skin, leading to increased thinning.
Sun damage may be even more prominent in the middle layer of the skin, which is responsible for producing collagen and elastin. The sun’s UV rays directly damage the molecules that produce these skin-firming proteins. In addition, the sun’s UV rays can damage the skin’s collagen and elastin, causing these damaged proteins to accumulate and ruin the skin's texture.
Finally, the sun releases free radicals into the skin. These are unstable molecules that are missing an electron. Because they’re unstable, they steal electrons from healthy cells, which can lead to DNA damage. Aside from the different skin issues this process may cause, oxidative damage can manifest as crepey skin.
All in all, there is a good reason why dermatologists recommend avoiding excessive sun exposure and using broad-spectrum topical sun protection.
Of course, the key word here is excessive. The sun is needed to make vitamin D, which is an important hormone that regulates hundreds of important physiological processes. Avoiding the sun entirely may lead to health problems.
That said, about 10 minutes of sun exposure may be enough to get your daily fix of vitamin D. Anything beyond that is unnecessary and may even promote sun damage.
3. Environmental Toxins
The skin is highly porous, which means environmental toxins can easily seep into it.
Air pollution is especially damaging because of its high prevalence.
Air pollution can increase skin inflammation, which may impair the skin’s ability to repair itself. In addition, those with skin inflammation may experience faster collagen and elastin degradation, which can promote the appearance of crepey skin.
4. Hormonal Changes
Hormonal changes can occur due to the natural aging process, as well as preventable lifestyle factors.
Estrogen plays an important role in the skin’s appearance. Greater amounts of this sex hormone are associated with increased skin elasticity, thickness, and hydration, promoting firmness and suppleness.
As women undergo menopause, their estrogen supplies may begin to decrease, leading to thin, dry, and wrinkled skin. You may be able to partially restore dwindling estrogen by following a certain diet.
Another hormone responsible for thinning skin is cortisol. A stress hormone, high cortisol levels are linked to increased inflammation in the body, blocking skin repair. Cortisol may also directly break down the skin’s collagen and elastin supplies.
High cortisol is the byproduct of excessive emotional stress. Not surprisingly, being stressed out can accelerate skin aging.
Insulin may also accelerate skin aging. While it is essential for converting glucose into energy for the cells, high insulin levels can lead to insulin resistance. This, in turn, may promote excessively high blood sugar levels.
High blood sugar is linked to increased inflammation. In addition, high blood sugar can set off a process known as glycation, in which sugar molecules bind to collagen and elastin, causing them to degrade.
5. Poor Diet
As mentioned above, high blood sugar levels are linked to collagen and elastin degradation, which may contribute to crepey skin. As such, a high-sugar diet is generally damaging to the skin. On the other hand, researchers found that following a low-carb diet can improve skin appearance.
In addition to eating a skin-healthy diet, it’s important to eat slowly and mindfully in order to aid with nutrition absorption. Instead of rushing through meals, it’s important to take your time to chew and savor every bite.
How Can You Prevent Crepey Skin?
In order to prevent crepey skin, it’s important to avoid the skin-damaging behaviors listed above. This includes avoiding excessive sun exposure, limiting exposure to air pollution, reducing emotional stress, and eating a healthy diet.
However, these are just the basics that aid with skin health. In addition to the above, you can do many other things to prevent crepey skin.
First, you want to ensure that you’re getting enough protein and fat to supply your skin with the raw materials for maintaining optimal collagen and elastin levels.
You may even consider taking supplements.
For instance, vitamin C is an essential antioxidant that can protect the skin from environmental damage while assisting with collagen synthesis and production. You can also take hydrolyzed collagen to promote collagen production and boost your skin’s hydration levels.
Lastly, ensure that your skincare routine helps to support optimal skin health. To prevent crepey skin, you want to make sure that you’re supplying your skin with optimal hydration.
What Are the Standard Treatments for Crepey Skin?
If you go to a dermatologist for crepey skin concerns, they will likely recommend different ways to boost collagen production.
Here is an overview of some of these treatments that you may consider:
1. Retinol Cream or Gel
Retinol is considered the “gold standard” for boosting collagen and elastin. A vitamin D derivative, retinol can penetrate deep into the skin, stimulating the fibroblasts that produce collagen and elastin.
Retinol can also speed up skin cell turnover, which may slow down in those with crepey skin. Speeding up cell turnover is another way to improve the appearance of crepey skin.
Retinol use is often associated with initial dryness, flaking, and irritation. You can start with a low-strength retinol cream or gel (a concentration below 0.05%). As you build up a tolerance, you can slowly increase the formula strength.
You can apply retinol anywhere you experience crepey skin, including the arms, legs, chest, and neck. However, it should be avoided around sensitive areas like the eyes.
The one downside of retinol is that it significantly increases sun sensitivity. Before you step outside, it should always be washed off (using a gentle cleanser). In addition, you should avoid sun exposure at least for a week after using retinol. If you’re going to step outside, wear SPF or cover up with a long-sleeve shirt and a hat.
Microneedling uses microscopic needles to make punctures in the skin. This stimulates the skin’s natural repair process, which can ramp up collagen production. Microneedling can fix a variety of skin issues, which includes crepey skin.
Immediately after the procedure, the skin becomes super absorbent. For this reason, microneedling is often combined with active ingredients, such as human growth serum, platelet-rich plasma (PRP), or hyaluronic acid.
Radiofrequency uses radio waves to heat up the tight layers of the skin. This can cause the skin to contract, leading to a tightening effect.
This procedure is often done at a doctor’s office. However, there is an increasing number of radiofrequency devices that you can use at home.
Even though radiofrequency is non-surgical, it provides impressive results. You may see significant improvements in crepey skin after just one session.
Fillers, such as Sculptra, can be used to smooth out crepey skin. This treatment option may also stimulate natural collagen production. The results of a filler can last up to two years.
Originally created as a non-surgical weight loss procedure, some researchers noticed that cryolipolysis tightened the skin in the treated area. Just one session may be enough to produce noticeable results.
What Are Some Alternative Treatments for Crepey Skin?
While at-home treatments may not be as effective as professional procedures, they may provide some results.
One popular at-home treatment is dry brushing. Using a special type of body brush, this technique stimulates blood and lymph circulation and detoxification. This can help to promote healthy, supple skin.
Cupping is another technique that may help with tightening the skin. By suctioning large portions of the skin, cupping can help the body get rid of accumulated damaged proteins that affect uneven skin texture.
Cupping is notorious for leaving large, round bruises on the skin. Fortunately, these tend to disappear within a week. In addition, it may take only several sessions to see results, after which regular cupping sessions may not be necessary.
Keeping the skin moisturized is also important for preventing a dry texture. Crepey skin can be made worse by a lack of hydration, so using active ingredients to boost moisture is a must. Our Moisturizing Body Lotion contains a blend of seed oils that are clinically shown to boost skin moisture.
Last, gaining muscle mass may help improve the appearance of crepey skin, especially if it is accompanied by skin laxity. Building muscle can help “fill out” crepey skin, smoothing out its appearance.
Treating Crepey Skin With Nourishing Biologicals
Crepey skin is caused by a combination of genetics, sun damage, and unhealthy lifestyle factors. It is one of the most common skin concerns.
Fortunately, many treatments can address crepey skin. These range from at-home treatments, such as dry brushing, to more invasive in-office procedures, such as fillers.
While treating crepey skin, it’s important to nourish your skin with high-quality ingredients. Nourishing Biologicals has a selection of clinically proven products to help to reduce the appearance of crepey skin.