No matter what you call it - 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 aging to prevent because it has so many different causes and can occur anywhere on the body. But, just because your skin is starting to have a mind of its own and lacks the firmness it used to have, doesn’t mean you have to live with it like that.
Why Skin Ages
As we enter our 40s, the thinning of your skin accelerates. This isn’t a change seen overnight—it more likely takes weeks, or even months, for the texture of your skin to transform. Founder and President of Theraderm Clinical Skin Care, Dr. James Beckman, says there are a few elements that cause the skin to become crepey. The sun, a loss of collagen and elastin, and a decline in moisture due to aging can all cause changes in texture. Crepey skin becomes more pronounced when there’s a significant amount of fat loss in the area (from aging or weight loss). A decrease in female hormones, which leads to dry skin, contributes to crepiness on the arms and thighs more so than the face.
What it Looks Like
Skin that has turned crepey is thin, loose and flaccid with a certain degree of sagging. The crepey skin doesn’t look nearly as thick or plump as younger skin does. Often compared to the thinness of a piece of paper or a crêpe, it’s the thinning of the dermis and epidermis that make skin look like this. Crepey skin differs from other types of skin aging. It first appears as an increase in skin markings, which look like little dots around the hair follicle that start to merge into linear or diamond-shaped marks and connect the dots together. Over time, the subtle creases and pores in the skin slowly become exaggerated as the breakdown of collagen and elastin becomes more evident. From there, skin folds accumulate and skin starts to thin out. Whereas a stretch mark is the cause of a dermal tear in the skin and a loss of elastin, and a wrinkle forms from repeat motions in one area, crepey skin is more so the result of a lack of skin thickness.
What Causes It?
As stated earlier, there are several causes of crepey skin, but here are the most common:
- Drastic weight fluctuations
- Sun exposure
- Cigarette smoke
- Side sleeping
- High-sugar diet
Who it Affects
Everyone is susceptible to crepey skin, but some skin tones and types are more likely to experience it than others. Anyone who’s prone to sun damage and has little melanin in their skin—think fair- and lighter-toned types—and those who bake in the sun or use tanning beds, may see signs of it faster or more intensely. Certain ethnicities, such as Latinas, African Americans, and Asians, inherently have thicker skin than others, which may hinder the effects of crepiness to some degree.
How to Prevent It
While crepey skin is harmless and a natural part of the aging process, it can wreak havoc on our self-esteem. Luckily, there are some preventive measures we can take to maintain healthy-looking skin.
Surgery or Injections
Some people opt for surgery to get rid of crepey skin. It can work, but it’s a pricier option.Injectables are more cost effective and can be used on the face and even hands. Unfortunately, those with decollete wrinkles would be wasting their money with these choices.
To prevent the sun’s UV rays from damaging and wrinkling your skin, we recommend applying an SPF 30 or 45 sunscreen to any exposed skin before you leave the house every day. Even if you just commute to work and back and don’t really spend any time outside, you are still exposed to UV rays all day long. This all-day exposure can build up over time and lead to the crepey skin that we are working so hard to prevent. Our favorite is Platinum Protection Facial Sunscreen. It has an SPF of 40+, provides broad-spectrum protection and is lightweight. It also doesn’t burn eyes or leave behind that icky white sheen and sunscreen scent.
Adding moisture is a great way to prevent crepey skin. Adding with moisture with an AHA in it is even better. The preferred AHA is lactic acid. It is naturally occurring in the body and it gently sloughs away dead, dry skin cells allowing hydration to go deep below the surface so that it can actually restore the lipid barrier. Dr. Beckman recommends Body Restoration Creme that contains both of these highly-touted ingredients!
Obviously avoiding smoking and a high-sugar diet will help wonders as well. If you are a side-sleeper, there are devices available to help hold your chest in place that will prolong the formation of crepey decollete skin.