Accordions. Linen. Shar Peis. Raisins. We expect these things to wrinkle. But, nobody wants to start seeing wrinkles on their bodies.
Whether we like it or not, aging skin is as certain as death and taxes. It’s a natural part of the aging process caused by skin becoming thinner, drier, and less elastic than it once was. But though it is natural, we don’t exactly welcome it into our lives with open arms and a hot cup of cocoa.
The problem is – as we grow older, our skin can slowly become looser and thinner – it’s crepey skin. And though it is bound to happen, there are a few things you can to do help reverse or even postpone the damage.
Turns out, crepey skin can happen almost anywhere on your body – including your neck, shoulders, décolletage, back, chest, face, and hands.
We may not be able to turn back the clock, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t research aging skin a little deeper. Because some lifestyle factors can greatly contribute to speeding up, or slowing down, the rate at which skin visibly ages.
To begin with, there are different types of skin aging, each unique in it’s own way. Let’s take a look at the difference between two of the most obvious – wrinkles and crepey skin.
What Are Wrinkles?
Wrinkles first arrive as creases in the skin and, over time, they can appear more like deep crevices. Some of the most common types of wrinkles form on our face around our daily facial expressions (like smiling, frowning, or squinting). When we’re young and we use our facial muscles, our skin springs back, but with age, the skin doesn’t spring back as quickly – so a groove begins to form in that spot. That groove eventually becomes a full-fledged wrinkle.
The types of wrinkles that we can control a little better are those caused by prolonged exposure to environmental factors, like UV sunlight or smoking. Ultraviolet radiation speeds up the natural aging process by breaking down your skin’s natural collagen and elastin fibers, which lie in the deep dermis layer of your skin. Smoking constricts the blood flow, and therefore the oxygen supply, to your skin – which also degrades theses collagen and elastin fibers.
What is Crepey Skin?
Well, crepey skin is what happens when your body reacts to lower levels of collagen and elastin – these are the natural proteins that allow your skin to stretch and contract. When you get older, your body produces fewer and fewer of these proteins. The result – soft, fragile, and paper-thin crepey skin.
Crepey skin is related to the thinning of larger areas of the skin, both the top epidermis layer and the deeper dermis layer, as well as a drop in production of collagen and elastin. The skin begins to appear more saggy, crinkly and thin, like a piece of tissue paper or a crêpe – and hence the term “crepey” was born.
Crepey skin can take years to appear, but it often starts to appear in your 40s – though other triggers can cause it to show up earlier or even later.
Genetics may also play a part in when you first start to notice the signs of crepey skin. People may joke about you getting those good genes from your mother, but there’s actually a whole lot of potential for you if your mother did age well.
What Causes Crepey Skin?
Age is the biggest, most unavoidable “intrinsic” factor involved in crepey-looking skin. Genetics is another.
Crepey skin can be caused by several factors, including a slowing down in the production of super proteins elastin and collagen. These once allowed the skin to stretch and bounce back with a youthful suppleness that we likely took for granted. But when the body slows down its production of these proteins, the skin begins to sag and wrinkle. Skin also becomes much drier with age, as less oil is produced. Additionally, fewer new skin cells are made. Dehydrated skin is another big catalyst when it comes to crepey skin.
Finally, crepey skin is thinner skin, caused by a loss of fat. And, loss of fat is due to aging.
Let’s review that one more time in an easier-to-digest format:
What are the primary causes of crepey skin?
1. Habitual muscle movement – Repeated muscle patterns can be the cause of wrinkles and fine lines that develop around your eyes, mouth, knees, elbows, and hands – anywhere skin is continuously stretched and pulled.
2. Exposure to the sun – Sun can contribute to the breaking down of elastin.1 And when your skin loses these fibers, it also loses elasticity, and it can’t quite stretch the way it should – or snap back to its normal taut position.
3. Time – Most of us start to notice crepey skin when we enter into our 40s. Depending on where you live and how much time you spend in the sun, crepey skin can also start to make itself known as early as in your 20s.
4. Weight gain/weight loss – If you happen to be someone who has gained and lost weight – and we’re talking about more than your typical 5 pounds up, 5 pounds down – then you might notice crepey skin earlier than others. Because the skin thins and doesn’t have the usual fatty layer underneath, tiny wrinkles can form.
Now, when cared for properly, your skin’s elastic fibers can repair themselves, but if they’re simply left to degenerate over time … or they’re hammered by the sun time and time again, they’ll lose their ability to bounce back – they become slack.
So, What Actually Happens To Make Skin Crepey?
First, as elastin and collagen production slow, skin begins to wrinkle, droop, and sag. Of course, everybody’s different. Some people may discover a few very deep lines and facial crevices as they age. Others may notice plentiful wrinkles that appear all over their faces, necks, and hands.
Now, the process of skin aging consists of two independent processes.
- Intrinsic skin aging – this process is simply the effect of chronological aging – it’s the natural process that affects your skin and internal organs as well.2
- Extrinsic skin aging – is the result of external factors and environmental influences, like exposure to the sun and ultraviolet (UV) rays. Smoking, insomnia, malnutrition, and pollution also fall under this category.3
As a result of these processes, crepey skin simply doesn’t have the thick, plump look of younger-looking skin. The distinctive characteristic is its thinness. Like the thin paper or wrinkly pancake for which it’s named, the thinning of the dermis and epidermis make the skin shrivel.
As time goes on, these smaller, more subtle creases and markings become exaggerated. This is when you can really begin to tell that the collagen and elastin are wearing down – because your body isn’t producing the right amount.
Again, extrinsic triggers that produce crepey skin, or be made worse are:
- Drastic weight loss
- UV Exposure
- Cigarette smoke
- A high sugar diet
- Dehydrated skin
All of these factors play havoc with the very sensitive collagen and elastin proteins which we now know are critical to maintaining a youthful appearance.
Though everyone is ultimately susceptible to crepey skin, some skin tones fare better than others. Fairer skin tones, which are also the most prone to sun damage, tend to see signs of crepey skin faster. African American skin is thought to offer more protection against “photo-aging” from UV light. This is often seen in not only a lower incidence of sun-related skin disease but also in visible signs of aging.
Unfortunately for women, a decrease in female hormones also leads to drier skin, and therefore a predisposition to crepey skin.
Is Everyone Susceptible To Crepey Skin?
Yes. Crepey skin does not discriminate. That means everyone is susceptible.
However, if you’re prone to sun damage or have less melanin in your skin – for instance, if you’re more of a fair-skinned or lighter-toned type – you’ll notice crepey skin more quickly.
Also, if you’re a sun baby and you bake under the summer sun or frequent tanning salons, you’ll likely see the signs of crepey skin develop earlier and more intensely.
Wrinkles Vs. Crepey Skin
Wrinkles are usually caused by repeated motions over one area of skin. This may result in a single wrinkle or several wrinkles, but they are triggered by the workings of that muscle. Examples of this include the wrinkles we often see between people’s eyes (the worry crease), on the outside of eyes (squinting creases), on the forehead (frowning creases) or around the mouth (smiling creases).
Crepey skin instead affects the skin texture, resulting in saggy, crinkly areas, as opposed to a furrowed crease or line. Crepey skin is most often recognizable around the very fragile neck area, on a woman’s decolletage, on the face, and on the hands.
Getting Sun Smart
It’s been said before and it can’t be said enough, UV radiation really is everything when it comes to the speed of your aging process.
Though genetics and health will play a part, the most effective way to slow down aging is to use an effective SPF 30 (or higher) daily sunscreen, and to cover up in the sun. And, you need to be doing this NOW. If you need to see solid proof that the sun can seriously age your skin, try this simple comparison on your own body. Take a look at the skin on an oft covered part of your body – like your inner thighs or backside. No doubt the skin here will appear plumper, smoother, less freckled, younger and with zero sunspots – because the sun has never had the chance to damage it. Now take a look at your shoulders, arms, or the part of your chest that’s always exposed above your t-shirt. It’s a rather surprising difference, no?
So, How Can You Prolong the Onset of Crepey Skin?
For starters, you can educate yourself.
And there are ways to catch it early. For instance, crepey skin may at first seem to just be an increase of tiny dots and markings on the skin, like little pinpricks. Eventually, however, these dots and marks will merge into lines, and you begin to see a crepey look. If you’ve noticed these subtle initial changes in the appearance of your skin, it’s time to take real action. But what can you do?
1. Make sure you’re getting the right nutrients
It’s been said the skin can act as a general indicator of your internal health and age. In fact, the effects of nutrition on your skin are at the forefront of scientific research.
Vitamins, carotenoids, and phytonutrients like flavonoids possess potent antioxidant properties that you can use – either topically or as an oral supplement – to prolong your skin’s youthful appearance. Conversely, if your diet lacks such nutrients, your skin could suffer. It’s widely accepted that nutritional habits are linked to the visible signs of aging skin.4
Prevention really is the most effective way to fight against extrinsic skin aging effects.
To stay away from the dangers of extrinsic damages – focus on some of the following strategies –
- Reduce calorie intake
- Keep stress levels low
- Eat a balanced nutritional diet rich in antioxidants.5
A diet rich in antioxidants, like carotenoids and vitamins A, C, D, and E, is essential.
A quick breakdown of vitamin C…
Vitamin C is water soluble and photosensitive, and it helps stabilize the structure of collagen.6 Because it’s not naturally synthesized by the human body, you’ve got to make sure you get enough into your diet.
The best natural sources of vitamin C are fresh fruits and vegetables –
- Lemons, limes, oranges
- Chili peppers
L-ascorbic acid can be used orally and topically to help your skin.
In addition, omega-3-fatty acids and specific proteins and lactobacilli have been determined to be capable of promoting skin health.7,8 So, do your best to fill your plate with antioxidant-rich ingredients like dark chocolate, pecans, artichokes, cranberries, and other great foods.
2. Hydrate, Hydrate!
It is generally assumed that drinking water helps your health in general, but it turns out it’s especially important when it comes to dermatological benefits – even more so when discussing the prevention of the visible signs of aging – like crepey skin and fine lines.
It makes sense since water’s a major component of your cells, tissues, and fluids – and it does make up 60% of your body’s composition. It’s essential – acting as a carrier with a central role in cell homeostasis – the process by which a cell’s health is maintained. Simply put, you need it to prevent dehydration. Hydration is an important shock absorber and lubricant.9
So, make skin hydration a priority too. You can keep your skin well-hydrated with a good moisturizer – not only will it help prevent dryness, tears, and even injuries on or to your skin – it’ll also prevent crepey texture.
3. Stick to the shade
It almost goes without saying, but if the sun is as great an offender to the skin as we know it is – just stay out of it.
Bring an umbrella with you when you know you’ll be walking in the sun for a long stint. Wear shades, a hat, and most importantly – apply sunscreen. It’s so important to protect your skin when you’re going to be under the sun (regardless of the weather).
4. Quit salt
Believe it or not, too much salt can cause you to retain water. Sounds like it’d be a good thing for your skin, right? Wrong. Water retention can actually cause swelling. This is especially bad if you’re trying to avoid crepey skin around the eyes. The skin around the eyes is already so thin – so it swells quite easily. Kick salt to the curb and your skin will thank you.
5. Don’t forget basic skin care
Regularly exfoliating your skin will remove dry, dead skin cells which can clump together to make skin look older and drier. Though exfoliation won’t fix crepey skin, it can greatly improve the look of your skin overall.
However, exfoliating every day can strip the skin of its natural oils, or irritate the skin. Try for 2 -3 times per week, depending on how sensitive your skin is.
For the same reasons, also make sure that your cleansing products, for both your face and your body, are gentle enough that they won’t strip away the skins natural lipid and protein barrier.
And, don’t forget to always, always, always moisturize. Remember, one of the key causes of crepey skin is dehydrated skin.
6. Turn to high-quality smoothing and toning formulas
A great way to hydrate and get rid of crepey skin all over your body is to look for specific high-quality toners and smoothing compounds. You want to find a complex that can –
- Firm and tighten sagging skin
- Smooth out thinning and loose skin
- Infuse your skin with 24-hour hydration
- Diminish the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
Crepe Correcting Body Complex by Beverly Hills MD is a cutting-edge, top-of-the-line formula that can help firm and hydrate for both immediate and long-term results.
7. Talk to a professional about radiofrequency
Your dermatologist might recommend a radiofrequency, ultrasound, laser, or pulsed light treatment if your crepey skin is around your face and neck. Unfortunately, skin that’s attached to muscles, like the arms, doesn’t quite respond as well.
These treatments heat up small patches of the skin and as the body tries to heal itself the collagen will kick into gear. This can make the skin appear tighter.10
With modern technology on your side (thankfully!), radiofrequency no longer requires anesthesia and is a much simpler process. Laser treatments, though common, can require some substantial downtime, however.
It can feel like we have zero control when it comes to the aging process – and the life of Benjamin Button suddenly looks quite appealing. But age we must. However, understanding the different types of aging, and their causes, can also give us back a little more control. Wrinkles and crepey skin may both be scary changes to stare down, but if we do so with a face full of sunscreen and free of cigarette smoke; we may just give ourselves a bit of a head start.
Though crepey skin happens to everyone, you don’t have to just sit there and take it. You can start taking action now to postpone or prevent crepey skin from taking over your face, hands, neck, knees, and hands.
Now you know, there’s a host of things you can do – from avoiding the sun to … yes, I’ll say it … plastic surgery. (And if you decide to go that route, give me a call). Otherwise, keep it simple. Stick to the tips above, or work with your dermatologist to figure out what’s best for your lifestyle.
Article updated: March 29, 2018
For more health and wellness tips, keep reading:
Why You Should Massage Your Face While Cleansing