You look in the mirror one day and there it is: crepey skin.
How did that happen? And what can you do about it?
What Is Crepey Skin?
The main way we identify crepey skin is by its thin, crepe-paper-like appearance. (Imagine that crepe paper you buy at stores to make streamers—it’s skin that looks like that.)
As we age, many of us develop crepey skin on our necks, upper arms, under the eyes, and inner thighs, though crepey skin can show up anywhere. This skin looks thin and typically sags. It’s the opposite of firm, youthful skin.
Crepey skin is not the same as wrinkled skin, though. Wrinkles are crevices that form in the skin to create lines. Crepey skin is an overall thinning of the skin so that it looks more fragile than it should. You may see wrinkles in the crepey skin, but wrinkled skin isn’t necessarily crepey.
What Causes Crepey Skin?
Most dermatologists agree that crepey skin is most commonly caused by sun damage. That’s because it commonly appears on areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun—the arms, neck, chest, and legs.
The ultraviolet (UV) rays coming from the sun break down the collagen and elastin in the skin. These are the components that give skin its form and shape and help it stay tight against the muscles and bones.
As UV rays break down these components, the skin can loosen, thin, and wrinkle. The underlying structure weakens, gaps develop, and suddenly it looks like you have excess skin on certain areas of the body.
Age is also involved. You won’t see crepey skin on people in their 20s unless they have been tanning regularly. Starting about the age of 40 and up is when crepey skin begins to make an appearance.
That’s because regular wear and tear can damage the skin’s elasticity. It also reduces the amount of collagen and elastin the skin naturally creates. Again, this leads to structure breakdown, sagging, and loss of firmness.
Age also tends to make the skin drier on the whole. When the skin isn’t getting enough moisture, the outer layer is compromised and can no longer protect the skin. This accelerates damage and can lead to crepey skin.
Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during menopause, can create changes in the skin that make it crepey. A drop in estrogen, for example, contributes to the decrease in collagen and elastin, resulting in thinner skin.
Pollution and Toxins
Exposure to pollution and other damaging elements in the environment also contributes to aging and can accelerate the development of crepey skin. Those who smoke regularly are more likely to suffer from crepey skin too, as the toxins in cigarette smoke more quickly break down skin fibers. Consuming too much alcohol can have similar effects.
Finally, if you have close family members who have crepey skin, you are more at risk for developing it yourself.
How To Prevent and Treat Crepey Skin
The best cure is always prevention, so it’s best to start as early as you can. Follow these steps to reduce the appearance of crepey skin.
Protect Yourself from the Sun
Wearing sunscreen helps, as does making sure you cover up those areas that are likely to develop crepey skin first. (The neck, chest, and under-eye areas are particularly vulnerable!) Always wear sunglasses, and try not to burn your neck and chest or the upper arm area.
Dryness is a key contributor to crepiness. A daily skincare routine that includes the application of a quality moisturizer is one of the best things you can do to delay the development of crepey skin.
Keep in mind that just any moisturizer won’t do. Many commercially available brands include cheap ingredients that evaporate quickly and leave your skin dry within an hour. Look for quality oils, butters, ceramides, and extracts to make sure you’re giving your skin what it needs.
We recommend effective moisturizers like our Calming Moisture for the face, under eyes, and neck, then our Body Repair Lotion for the chest, upper arms, inner thighs, and other areas. Apply twice daily to protect your skin and keep it looking youthful.
When you exfoliate the skin, you slough off the dead skin cells that are resting on top of it. This reveals newer cells underneath and encourages younger cells from deep within the skin to rise more quickly to the top. You can use a loofah sponge or washcloth and a gentle exfoliating cleanser, or step it up with gentle fruit acids like glycolic, malic, and lactic acids.
Be careful not to over-exfoliate. If you notice signs of irritation—like redness or breakouts—exfoliate a little less often.
Baby Your Elasticity
The breakdown of collagen and elastin is the main cause of crepey skin. You can help by giving the skin what it needs to keep up with elastin and collagen repairs.
Retinol products are known to help improve elasticity and increase collagen production. They help the skin cells regenerate more quickly so that the skin maintains more of its youthful firmness.
Peptides can also help. These are the building blocks of proteins. When topically applied, they can help to support the skin’s strength and structure.
Vitamin C creams can even out skin tone and improve skin structure while protecting the skin from environmental assaults.
Both alpha and beta hydroxy acids encourage exfoliation and help maintain the skin’s structure.
Our CV Skinlabs products all contain our exclusive Tri-Rescue Complex—a solution made up of turmeric, Reishi mushroom, and alpha-bisabolol. Together, these ingredients encourage repair, healing, and calm, reducing the stresses of the environment on the skin while taming inflammation. All of these actions help encourage youthful skin that avoids crepiness.
Finally, look for hyaluronic acid, as it helps battle dryness while plumping up dry, crepey skin.
Remember that whatever you eat can affect your skin. It needs helpful nutrients from food to regularly carry out its repair duties. Try to make sure you’re getting enough fruits and vegetables, as these contain key antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that work together to protect the skin from premature aging.
Then try to limit fast food, high-sodium foods, and high-sugar foods as they can accelerate the breakdown of skin.
Choose Your Skincare Products Carefully
Harsh ingredients, chemicals, and preservatives in your skincare and cosmetic products can accelerate the damage to the skin that occurs over time. Harsh soaps, in particular, dry out the skin and make you more vulnerable to crepey skin. Look for fragrance-free, gentle cleansers, then always follow with a toner and moisturizer.
Avoid products with parabens, petrolatum, synthetic fragrances, harsh sulfates, and other ingredients listed here. Choose products manufactured by conscientious companies (like CV Skinlabs!) that are made with only safe and nourishing ingredients the skin loves.
What Not to Do for Crepey Skin
One quick recommendation: For now, avoid collagen supplements. It may seem to make sense that consuming collagen would help because the skin produces less as we age. But collagen is a large molecule. When you consume it, it has to go through the digestive tract where it’s broken down. It doesn’t reach the skin intact, so it doesn’t help.
Topically applied collagen is no better. The molecule is too large to penetrate the skin.
Do you struggle with crepey skin?
Featured image courtesy of Karolina Grabowska via Pexels.