The term crepey skin refers to when the skin looks thin, wrinkled, and similar in appearance to crepe paper.

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Although crepey skin can be associated with aging, it can occur in younger people.
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Although similar to wrinkles in many ways, crepey skin is a different skin condition that can occur as people age or due to genetic and environmental factors.

Crepey skin is more common in older people, but there are other causes. A common cause of crepey skin is UV radiation. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that exposure to UV radiation is the most preventable cause of early skin damage.

This damage can result either from exposure to the sun or the use of tanning beds. Over time, UV radiation will break down the elasticity of the skin. With normal elasticity, after the skin stretches, it is able to quickly bounce back to its normal position.

When skin loses its elasticity due to UV damage, it becomes laxer after stretching and does not quickly return to its normal position. While the skin has the ability to heal, long-term exposure to UV radiation will make the skin laxer, less elastic, and less able to completely repair any damage.

Other causes of crepey skin may include:

There may also be an association between crepey skin and some genetic disorders that disrupt skin integrity or cause premature symptoms of aging. These include Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Werner syndrome, and progeria. However, these conditions are rare and also cause many more visible and systemic issues.

There are several things a person can do that may help protect their skin against premature aging and the development of crepey skin.

Sun protection

The most effective way to prevent crepey skin from developing is to protect the skin from UV exposure by seeking shade, wearing sun-protective clothing, and wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher when outside during daylight hours.

A person should wear a broad-spectrum chemical or physical sunscreen with protection against UVB and UVA radiation, thereby better protecting the person’s skin from early aging and skin cancer. The AAD recommends that people with sensitive skin use physical sunscreens, also known as mineral sunscreens, which contain titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or both.

As people age, it is essential that they adapt their skincare routines accordingly. With age, a person’s skin can be more prone to irritation and inflammation.

Exposure to UV radiation from tanning beds damages the DNA of skin cells, which can lead to premature skin aging and skin cancer. Experts advise people not to use them.

Hydration

People can keep their skin hydrated by using a good moisturizer to trap water under the skin to keep it looking healthy.

Another component a person can incorporate into their skincare routine is hyaluronic acid, a hydrating ingredient in many cosmetic products.

Elasticity

Using topical creams that contain retinol can help improve the skin’s elasticity and increase collagen production in the skin. Retinoids help skin cells regenerate faster, which might reduce the chance of developing crepey skin.

However, it is best to use a small amount and moisturize immediately afterward, as retinol can dry out the skin. A person can find retinol both in prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) form.

Another ingredient in topical creams is peptides. These act as a signal to tell the skin that it is damaged and to make new collagen, which helps firm the skin. People can find this ingredient in either OTC or prescription topical creams, depending on the concentration.

Nutrition

What people eat can affect their skin. To try and reduce the chances of developing crepey skin, it is essential to include the following in a balanced diet:

Home remedies

People have also found the following home remedies useful in treating and preventing crepey skin:

  • massaging the face, arms, and legs
  • doing physical exercise
  • reducing stress
  • getting a good night’s sleep
  • exfoliating with a homemade scrub made from sugar and olive oil 1–2 times a week, as exfoliating too much can damage the skin

A person who wants to try any of these home remedies should talk to their dermatologist first.

There are many different treatments for crepey skin, depending on how severe it is, what has caused it, and where it occurs on the body. Many of the preventive measures can also serve as treatments.

People who have crepey skin can speak to their dermatologist to find out the best course of treatment for them.

OTC products

Many OTC products contain retinol, which is a member of the vitamin A family.

Products containing alpha hydroxy acids have a positive impact on skin elasticity and may help reduce wrinkles. Other products include glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, citric acid, and tartaric acid.

It is important to use these products as directed, stop using them if they sting or burn, and limit the number of products used. Also, people should give them time to work as some can take months before having any effect.

Prescriptions

Tretinoin is a topical retinoid prescription cream that a person can apply directly to the affected area. It is also part of the vitamin A family and is often used on the face to protect the skin from UV exposure.

Other topical treatments may contain peptides in lower concentrations or stabilized vitamin C, which works as an antioxidant and may help prevent skin damage.

Radiofrequency, laser, or ultrasound

Dermatologists may use a radiofrequency device, ultrasound, or pulsed light device, often known as laser treatment, to help treat crepey skin from the inside out.

The device heats small areas of skin, putting energy deep into the skin. This procedure helps the collagen to remodel and makes the skin tighter as a result. Recovery time can last from a few days to 1–2 weeks, depending on the exact device used.

Fillers

Fillers such as injectables with hyaluronic acid or calcium hydroxylapatite, which can help decrease wrinkles, can effectively treat crepey skin, particularly on the upper arm.

A doctor injects the filler into the skin, where it has a volumizing effect. This remains a relatively non-invasive treatment.

Surgery

Surgery is most often a treatment for people who have lost a large amount of weight and have an excess of crepey skin.

A plastic surgeon may recommend an operation to remove the skin, but people should consider this carefully as it does carry some risks.

Surgical procedures that may help improve crepey skin include facelifts, blepharoplasties to tighten the upper eyelid, and neck lifts.

Below are some images of crepey skin.

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Crepey skin may have an almost leathery appearance on darker skin tones.
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The skin of the neck area is crepey skin, while the lines by this person’s eyes are wrinkles.
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Crepey skin can be seen in larger surface areas, such as the arms and neck in this photo.
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Age and skin type can predispose a person to crepey skin, but other factors can also play a role:

Genetics

Genetics determines both how fast a person ages and how fair the person’s skin may be. The faster the person ages and the fairer their skin, the more they may be susceptible to crepey skin.

Environment

Exposure to UV rays, cigarette smoke, limited nutrition, or certain medications may increase a person’s risk of developing crepey skin.

In addition, these factors may increase the risk of developing other skin conditions. When crepey skin is related to UV exposure, the risk of skin cancer is also higher. Most skin cancers occur due to UV damage to the skin, with the most common cancer being basal cell carcinoma.

As people age, their skin can become more loose and flaccid. But crepey skin is different from wrinkled skin. It is a breakdown in the skin’s elasticity that occurs due to prolonged sun exposure or other environmental factors. It can also be genetic or occur as people age. Crepey skin typically affects large areas of skin and can make it noticeably more fragile and thin.