What Is Crepey Skin?

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Crepey skin is a common sign of aging. When skin thins over time, it can take on a crepey, sagging appearance.

Thinning skin is a normal part of aging. However, it can also happen for non-age-related reasons, the most common being sun damage. There are several ways to reduce the appearance of thin, crinkled skin. 

Aged, crepey skin

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Crepey Skin Symptoms

Crepey skin is very thin, fragile skin that has a crinkly, papery appearance. Thin, crepe-like skin is not the same as wrinkled skin

Crepey skin can occur anywhere on the body, but it’s common in areas that are frequently sun-exposed, like the face, arms, and legs.

Elastin gives skin its bouncy, stretchy feel. A loss of elastin means that skin won't bounce back as easily as before. The skin may become saggier as a result. Elastin can break down for several reasons.

Causes

There are several known factors that contribute to crepey skin. 

Sun Damage

Sun damage is the most common reason for crepey skin. The sun’s harmful rays break down elastin in the skin, eventually leaving behind a saggier, thinner appearance. 

You’re exposed to the sun a lot throughout your life, and typically, people start to get crepey skin when they reach their 40s. If you’re a frequent tanning bed user, though, you may notice crepey skin much earlier.

Aging

Skin also loses its elasticity as you age, which can eventually cause skin to thin and take on a crepey appearance.

Weight Gain

When a person gains a lot of weight, their skin may stretch and become thinner than before. Crepey skin will be more apparent if you gain and then rapidly lose weight. 

Medications

Some medications can affect the skin’s appearance. Prednisone, for instance, can cause thin, crepey skin if taken on a long-term basis. 

Lack of Moisture

When your skin is not well hydrated, it can incur damage that will eventually lead to crepey skin. Being dehydrated can also have the same adverse effects on the skin.

Can Poor Sleep Cause Crepey Skin?

While no research directly links crepey skin to poor sleep habits, sleep can impact skin health. A study from 2015 suggests that people who don't sleep well on a regular basis are not as happy with their appearance and have reduced skin barrier function—the skin barrier helps prevent dehydration and keeps bacteria from getting inside the body.

Diagnosis

Crepey skin is thin, wrinkled, and saggy. You can consider seeing a dermatologist if you’re unhappy about the appearance of your crepey skin. They can recommend a personal treatment approach that’s right for you.

But you might need an evaluation even if your crepey skin isn't bothering you. If you notice any changes in your skin it's best to talk to a dermatologist to rule out skin cancer or another medical condition.

Signs you need to see a dermatologist include:

  • If your skin is discolored
  • If you experience any kind of skin discomfort or irritation
  • If skin cancer runs in your family
  • If you’re concerned about sun damage

Crepey Skin vs. Wrinkles

Crepey skin can appear wrinkly but, unlike wrinkles that crop up with age, it also looks paper-thin. Skin that is wrinkled due to aging won't look like crepe paper and isn't necessarily damaged.

Treatment

Here are a few ways you can treat crepey skin. 

Over-the-Counter (OTC) Treatments

Moisturizers and other hydrating products can help mildly crepey skin, but they won’t work in cases where the skin is severely damaged. 

Products that contain retinoids can exfoliate the skin and promote cell regeneration. Keep in mind that they can also dry out the skin and make matters worse. If you use retinoids, always make sure to moisturize too.

Prescription Treatments

If you're not satisfied with the results of OTC at-home treatments, you may want to see a dermatologist. But keep in mind that crepey skin is one of the hardest things to treat. Cosmeceutical products typically sold at doctor's offices can help improve skin texture. And sometimes interventional procedures are recommended.

Procedures your dermatologist may recommend include:

  • Laser treatment: As areas under the skin are heated, laser treatment can stimulate collagen production, which smooths out the skin. Laser resurfacing provides faster results than other types of laser therapy.
  • Ultrasound: This treatment also uses heat to stimulate collagen production. One treatment may provide modest results, but you’ll likely need to go back multiple times.
  • Injectable fillers: Fillers are another option that can help restore the appearance and texture of crepey skin. They also promote collagen growth.

Interventions like micro-needling with radiofrequency, ultrasound, and laser may help moderately, but they usually require multiple treatments to achieve modest results.

Can Vitamin C Supplements Help?

While vitamin C plays a role in stimulating collagen production, there is no research suggesting that taking supplements will directly impact skin health and reverse crepey skin.

Plastic Surgery 

Plastic surgery to remove crepey skin can be an effective option, but it does pose some risks. It’s best for cases where there is a lot of crepey skin to remove (e.g., in the case of extreme weight loss.)

Prevention 

There are a few ways to prevent excessively crepey skin. Here are a few strategies:

  • Use sun protection: Stay in the shade and avoid exposing your skin to UV rays if you’re not wearing sunscreen. 
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking water helps keep your skin hydrated and prevents skin thinning.
  • Moisturize: Regularly use a moisturizer or hydrating products to prevent your skin from drying out. 

Coping

If crepey skin is bothering you, there are a few ways to deal with thinning, damaged skin. Some of the treatment interventions can help improve the appearance of crepey skin, but dealing with the skin damage is most important. Taking care of your skin and always wearing sunscreen can help prevent further damage and future thinning of your skin.

Cosmetic

Sometimes makeup and other products can provide coverage and help even out the appearance of your skin. If you opt for cosmetics, make sure to use moisturizer in addition to products that temporarily improve your skin's appearance.

Itching and Discomfort

Because crepey skin is thinned and damaged, it can become irritated. Moisturizing regularly can help relieve itching.

If your skin is red and inflamed, you may have an infection or another medical condition that requires a medical evaluation.

Word From Verywell

You might feel self-conscious about crepey skin, but it's not usually harmful. If you’re young and notice crepey skin, you should consider seeing a dermatologist. Premature skin aging is often the result of sun damage, and a professional can check for skin cancer and recommend how to prevent further damage. 

At any age, if your creepy skin is bothering you, talk to a dermatologist to find treatment options.

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Article Sources
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