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Crepey Skin Treatment And Prevention Options

Written by Kellie Reed, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on August 25, 2020 No Comments

crepey skin hand

Crepey skin is named for its resemblance to crepe paper. Crepey skin appears as thin, wrinkly skin that may also sag or hang loosely. It commonly occurs under the eyes, on the chest, or in the upper arms. While not harmful to one’s health, crepey skin is aesthetically unpleasing and one of the biggest aging concerns we discuss with patients.

Fortunately, there are many great non-surgical and surgical treatment options for crepey skin. In the blog post we will discuss what causes crepey skin, ways to prevent it from occurring, and provide information on today’s most effective treatment options.

crepey skin example

Crepey skin on elbow (source Medical News Today)

What Causes Crepey Skin?

Your skin relies on both collagen and elastin to remain youthful, tight and supple. Collagen prevents skin from sagging and gives it a plump, full look. Elastin helps skin return to its original shape after stretching or compressing. Crepey skin occurs when the level of collagen, elastin, and other skin health proteins becomes depleted.

While genetics play a role in collagen and elastin production, there are also environmental factors that decrease collagen and elastin production, thereby increasing the risk of crepey skin:

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. This process can be accelerated by the additional risk factors listed below.

Sun Exposure

Crepey skin is most often associated with excessive sun exposure. UV light breaks down collagen by causing an excessive build-up of elastin. When 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. As you age, your skin produces less oils. These oils act as a protective lipid barrier and seal in moisture. 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. Skin that has been stretched over a significant amount of time may lose its elasticity. Skin can even grow in volume with excessive weight gain, as 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.

Preventing Crepey Skin

Crepey skin can be prevented by boosting the body’s collagen and elastin production. Ways to maintain a healthy level of both proteins include:

Avoiding Sun Exposure

The American Association of Dermatology ranks sun exposure 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.

Products with glycerin or hyaluronic acid 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 boost 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 plays a role in collagen production, so eat plenty of berries and citrus fruits.

Crepey Skin Treatment Options

Treating crepey skin as early as possible produces the best results, so if crepey skin is bothering you see your dermatologist right away. There are several effective treatment options for crepey skin. The best treatment option for each patient depends on several factors including skin type, the cause of creping, the degree 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. 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. Fraxel treatments works best for crepey skin around the eyes.

Ultherapy 

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, responds less well.

Thermage

Thermage also heats the skin to stimulate healing and collagen production, but does do using radio frequency waves. Thermage 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

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

Dermal fillers such as Sculptra 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.

Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery may be the most effective option for severe forms crepey skin or crepey skin that is caused by excess skin due to a significant amount of recent weight loss. This procedure 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.

A consultation with your doctor will help you decide which of the above options will be most likely to improve the appearance of your crepey skin.


Kellie Reed, MD

Dr. Kellie Reed specializes in aesthetic skin care, general medical dermatology, pediatric, and rheumatologic dermatology. She is passionate about her patient care and attention to detail, and her positive attitude provides a sense of comfort for her patients. Dr. Reed is a member of the Travis County Medical Society, Texas Medical Association, Texas Dermatological Society, Austin Dermatological Society, Women’s Dermatologic Society, Rheumatologic Dermatology Society, and the American Academy of Dermatology.


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