Understanding and Addressing Crepey Skin: Expert Tips and Solutions

Understanding and Addressing Crepey Skin: Expert Tips and Solutions featured image
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Call it what you will: elephant skin, paper-thin skin, or grandma skin—it’s all the same, and it’s all crepey. “Crepey skin is one of the most difficult signs of skin aging to prevent because it has so many different causes and can occur on so many different parts of the body,” says New York dermatologist Macrene Alexiades, MD. But, just because your skin is starting to have a mind of its own and lacks the firmness it used to, doesn’t mean you have to live with it like that.

  • Macrene Alexiades, MD is a dermatologist based in New York
  • Anita Saluja, MD is a dermatologist based in Melbourne, FL
  • Suzanne Kilmer, MD is a dermatologist based in Sacramento, CA
  • Noëlle S. Sherber, MD is a dermatologist based in Washington, D.C
  • Ivona Percec, MD is a plastic surgeon based in Philadelphia, PA

What Causes Crepey Skin?

Crepey skin is a common but complex sign of aging. According to New York dermatologist Macrene Alexiades, MD, “Crepey skin is one of the most difficult signs of skin aging to prevent because it has so many different causes and can occur on so many different parts of the body.” 

Excessive sun exposure and damage can accelerate crepey skin, says Melbourne, FL, dermatologist Anita Saluja, MD. Another contributing factor is weight loss. “Crepey skin becomes more pronounced when there’s a significant amount of fat loss in the area from aging or weight loss,” she explains. “Chronic use of medications like steroids can also be a causative factor.”

A decrease in female hormones, which leads to dry skin, contributes to crepiness on the arms and thighs more so than the face. Hormonal replacement therapies may help improve the look of the skin.

What Does Crepey Skin Look Like?

Crepey skin is characterized by its thin, loose, and sagging appearance. Sacramento, CA, dermatologist Suzanne Kilmer, MD, notes that “crepey skin doesn’t look nearly as thick or plump as younger skin does.” It often resembles the thinness of a piece of paper or a crêpe due to the thinning of both the dermis and epidermis. 

Dr. Alexiades explains that crepey skin first appears as an increase in skin markings, which evolve into linear or diamond-shaped marks as collagen and elastin breakdown continues. This results in exaggerated skin folds and thinner skin over time.

Who Is Affected?

While everyone is susceptible to crepey skin, certain skin tones and types are more likely to experience it. Individuals with fair or lighter-toned skin, who are prone to sun damage and have less melanin, are more vulnerable. On the other hand, certain ethnicities, such as Latinas, African Americans, and Asians, inherently have thicker skin, which may delay the onset of crepiness.

What Vitamin Is Lacking for Crepey Skin?

A deficiency in vitamin E can contribute to the development of crepey skin. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect the skin from oxidative stress and UV damage. Ensuring adequate intake of vitamin E through diet or supplements can support skin health and potentially reduce the signs of crepey skin.

Can It Be Reversed?

Yes, crepey skin can be addressed with various treatments, though complete reversal might be challenging. Treatments range from skin-care products to nonsurgical and surgical interventions. Washington, D.C. dermatologist Noëlle S. Sherber, MD, recommends the injectable Skinvive as an effective solution. Skinvive delivers hyaluronic acid microdroplets just beneath the skin’s surface, boosting hydration and improving smoothness. Dr. Sherber highlights the unique advantages of Skinvive, noting, “I think it’s amazing to have something that’s not filler or an ablative laser.”

Can You Really Correct Crepey Skin?

Reversing crepey skin involves a combination of preventive and corrective measures. Skin care is the first line of defense. Using products containing retinoids, hyaluronic acid, and peptides can boost collagen production and improve skin elasticity. Dr. Sherber recommends hyaluronic acid for its powerful hydrating properties, which can make the skin look and feel more supple.

Sun protection is another vital step. Regular use of sunscreen can prevent further damage and slow the progression of crepey skin. “The sun, a loss of collagen and elastin, and a decline in moisture due to aging, can all cause changes in texture,” she notes.

Professional treatments offer more advanced solutions. Philadelphia plastic surgeon Ivona Percec, MD, emphasizes the importance of incorporating nonsurgical options to tighten crepey skin on the body. “For crepey arms and legs, I’ve been utilizing Sculptra, fat grafting, skin-care treatments, and lasers. We’re really addressing the issue directly: excess skin that you don’t want to cut and risk having a scar along the length of your arm.” This approach is becoming more popular as more individuals experience sagging skin due to weight loss or maintaining a fit physique.

Finally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle supports overall skin health. A diet rich in antioxidants, regular exercise, and adequate hydration are essential for keeping the skin in optimal condition. Combining these preventive and corrective measures can significantly improve the appearance of crepey skin.

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