Crepey skin refers to skin that looks similar to crepe paper — in other words, skin that is thin, wrinkly, and dry. Crepey skin can also be accompanied by a loss of firmness and an increase in laxity.
Crepey skin is caused, in part, by our genetics. Some skin types are more prone to developing this skin issue than others. However, external factors — like sun exposure, air pollution, and a high-sugar diet — may have an even more significant impact.
Fortunately, these factors are under our control, which can be comforting for those seeking ways to prevent crepey skin. To help you preserve the health and appearance of your skin, this guide from Nourishing Biologicals provides a thorough review of what causes crepey skin and what can be done to address it.
This is not something we want to hear — because, after all, our genes are not under our control — but our DNA plays a significant role in our skin’s appearance.
Some people are born with (literally) thicker skin, which means that their skin cells are packed closer together, leading to a firmer texture and appearance. Skin concerns associated with crepey skin are less visible in those with thicker skin.
Also, if you’ve ever wondered why skin aging is more visible in areas like the eyes (for pretty much everyone), it’s because that’s where the skin is thinnest.
So, what determines whether someone has thick or thin skin? The most essential factor is melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. Melanin provides natural sun protection, giving someone a “natural” low-SPF sunscreen year-round.
The Fitzpatrick scale categorizes skin tones from number one (for very fair skin that’s prone to burning) to number six (for very dark skin that rarely burns). Essentially, the higher someone falls on the Fitzpatrick scale, the thicker their skin tends to be, which means that crepey skin may be less of an issue for them.
If you fall lower on the Fitzpatrick scale, you’re not necessarily doomed to several skin issues. It just means that you have to be more diligent with practicing sun protection — and engaging in all the other fundamentals of healthy skin.
2. Sun Damage
Amongst environmental factors, sun damage has the biggest impact on skin aging. Studies show that as much as 80% of skin aging can be attributed to the sun’s damaging UV rays.
Sun damage entails multiple processes:
- Superficial skin damage: When the skin is chronically exposed to UV rays, its superficial layer – the epidermis – initially thickens. However, it soon may begin to atrophy, leading to increased laxity, wrinkles, and fine lines. Your pores may also increase due to sun damage, leading to increased inflammation that can wreck all-around skin damage.
- Collagen and elastin degradation: The deeper layer of the skin, called the dermis, may also get damaged from being exposed to UV rays. The dermis is responsible for producing collagen and elastin, which are proteins that give the skin its strength and resilience. The sun can degrade collagen and elastin, accumulating damaged proteins and subsequent skin texture issues.
- Reduced circulation: As if the above weren’t enough, sun exposure also affects circulation. The sun’s UV rays can make the blood vessels very sparse, reducing how much beautifying oxygen your skin gets through circulation.
- Increase in free radicals: Finally, UV exposure increases reactive oxygen species in the skin — also known as free radicals. These unstable molecules are missing an electron, which they steal from healthy cells. When healthy cells are robbed of electrons, they can endure DNA damage, which may show up as crepey skin.
In sum, don’t disregard your dermatologist’s advice to protect your skin from the sun. We understand that getting some sunlight may be necessary for getting vitamin D. But after you’ve got your daily dose of the vitamin, sun exposure doesn’t benefit you in any way!
3. Environmental Toxins
As the porous barrier that protects the body’s tissues, your skin is capable of soaking up moisture, absorbing topical medications, and excreting waste products, such as sweat.
But these fantastic properties also make your skin vulnerable to environmental toxins — a significant cause of crepey skin.
We know polluted air is all-around bad for health, exacerbating various conditions. Researchers are beginning to discover that polluted air may also accelerate skin aging. This is supported by the fact that those living in highly polluted areas have higher age spots, hyperpigmentation, and inflammation rates.
Inflammation is especially concerning as it impairs the skin’s ability to repair itself.
Whenever you cause damage to the skin, such as by picking at a blemish, your skin mobilizes enzymes that absorb damaged collagen. But in those with chronic inflammation, enzymes go into overdrive mode, depleting damaged and healthy collagen supplies.
Loss of collagen leads to less firm skin and is one of the most prominent hallmarks of crepey skin. This makes air pollution a serious risk factor for this skin concern.
4. Hormonal Changes
Hormones are chemical messengers that regulate everything from our appetite to our sleep. Several hormones play a role in skin appearance and may even increase someone’s likelihood of developing crepey skin.
- Estrogen: This is an essential component of skin health. Greater amounts of free circulating estrogen are linked to increased skin elasticity, hydration, and thickness. Once estrogen levels decrease, the skin can start to thin, dry out, and wrinkle — a process that usually begins after menopause.
- Cortisol: A type of stress hormone, cortisol can lead to increased inflammation in the body, making it difficult for the skin to repair itself. In addition, cortisol can break down the skin’s collagen and elastin supplies, increasing skin crepiness. Not surprisingly, high levels of emotional stress are linked to more rapid skin aging.
- Insulin: Insulin is a hormone that shuttles sugar from your blood into your cells, which gets used for energy. Releasing insulin all the time can make the body’s cells resistant to it, raising blood sugar levels and setting off a process known as glycation. In glycation, sugar molecules bind to collagen and elastin, accelerating skin aging.
5. Poor Diet
Your diet significantly affects your skin’s appearance in various ways.
As mentioned above, a high sugar intake is linked to collagen and elastin degradation, which speeds up aging. While plants contain naturally occurring sugars, they are accompanied by other nutrients that mitigate sugar’s harmful effects. However, the refined sugar you’ll find in processed food offers no such benefits — so try to avoid it as much as you can to prevent crepey skin.
Contrary to most standard nutrition advice, you might actually want to reduce your general carb intake. Grains, such as those found in bread, don’t have many nutrients and may not do much for your appearance.
However, healthy fats, such as salmon, avocado, and nuts/seeds, are well-known for their anti-aging benefits.
Not only what you eat, but how you eat makes a difference. The quicker you eat, the fewer nutrients your body absorbs. And when your body is deprived of essential vitamins and minerals, your skin can age faster.
To get the most benefit from your skin-nourishing diet, make sure to eat slowly and be mindful of every bite.
Treating Crepey Skin Is Possible
Knowing the causes of crepey skin can help you prevent it. But what can you do if you have already experienced this skin condition?
Fortunately, there are many advanced solutions to treating crepey skin.
You may benefit from topical creams that stimulate collagen production if it's fairly mild. Retinol (and its many forms) is a vitamin A-derivative clinically proven to boost the skin’s collagen levels. Your dermatologist can write you a retinol prescription of varying strengths to be used anywhere from your face to your chest to your upper arms.
If you experience moderate crepey skin, then collagen induction therapy may be effective. Also known as microneedling, this technique uses tiny needles to puncture the skin, stimulating its natural repair process to promote collagen production.
You can try advanced therapies such as radiofrequency skin tightening for more advanced crepey skin. Using targeted rays, this technique heats the inner layers of the skin, stimulating collagen production and promoting more youthful skin.
Youthful Skin With Nourishing Biologicals
Amidst all the treatments for crepey skin, it’s essential to maintain an effective skincare routine. Nourishing Biologicals offers skin cleansers, serums, and creams with effective anti-aging ingredients.
Our products address the causes, not just the symptoms — for youthful skin from its deepest layers.