What Causes Crepey Skin & Can It Be Avoided Altogether?

What Causes Crepey Skin & Can It Be Avoided Altogether?

Reference Lab

SEPT 05, 2022

Whatever your skin texture type is, signs of aging will inevitably manifest. Aging is often accompanied by wrinkles and loose skin, which can compromise both your aesthetics and overall health over time. Thin areas of the skin on the body–from your legs and arms to your neck and eyes– can cause the appearance of a wrinkled, paper-like texture known as crepey skin, making your body vulnerable to both extrinsic and intrinsic stressors and impacting system-wide health. This blog will highlight the tell-tale signs of crepey skin, the mechanisms that cause it, and, most importantly, ways to prevent crepey skin from developing in the first place.

What does crepey skin look like?

Crepey skin gets its name from crepe paper: the thin, crinkly paper used for party streamers. Crepey skin manifests on delicate areas of skin that can accumulate fine lines and wrinkles from stress and damage to the skin, leading to a saggy appearance. However, crepiness differs from general wrinkles, and development is not necessarily related to skin aging. Unlike wrinkles near the eyes and mouth that form due to excessive movement, crepiness is caused by sun damage and physical damage to the skin.

What areas of the body are more prone to crepiness?

Crepiness is likely to occur on areas of skin that experience increased sun exposure, leading to a thin skin thickness. Dry skin areas are also likely to develop crepiness. These areas can be anywhere on the body, depending on lifestyle, but common areas include the upper arms, eyelids, and neck.

Why is my skin crepey all of a sudden?

First of all, there is no need to panic! Crepey skin can be prevented and reversed with proper care and treatment. How do you improve your skin texture? There are many causes of crepey skin, including rapid environmental changes or excessive stress to your most susceptible skin areas. Avoiding these exposures allows the skin to maintain a strong quality and a healthy appearance.
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What causes crepey skin?

Crepey skin develops due to the loss of a supportive framework formed primarily by collagen and elastin fibers underneath large areas of thin skin. A few external and internal factors that can lead to the destruction of these structures include:
  1. Excessive sunlight
    The leading cause of skin crepiness is excessive exposure to sunlight's ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV radiation has been shown to directly reduce the production1 and the stability 2 of structural collagen, reducing skin’s tight appearance and damaging skin health. UV rays can also “crack” elastic structures and irreversibly reduce elasticity in the skin3. Excessive UV exposure via sunlight and tanning beds, especially in your early 20s, can reduce the skin's ability to repair and regenerate these essential structures. This can be avoided through sunscreen and sticking to the shade when possible.
  2. Rapid weight change
    Significant changes in weight through gain or loss can often lead to loose and crepey skin. As the skin stretches during this process, thick collagen fibers become excessively thin, and elastic fibers become less dense4. This leads to skin sagginess, particularly in thin layers of skin.
  3. Lack of moisture
    Breakdown of the skin’s structural layers ultimately lowers the skin’s ability to maintain moisture. Use of moisturizers containing alpha-hydroxy acids such as lactic acid help to hold water in the skin and improve skin texture.
  4. Pollution
    Pollutants are unavoidable, which is why a proper skincare routine is essential in maintaining clean and clear skin. Air pollutant chemicals such as particulate matter may accumulate on the skin areas at risk for crepiness and must be removed through proper cleansing and antioxidants.
  5. Medication
    Long-term use of some steroids and other drugs (i.e., Prednisone and hydrocortisone) can also inhibit the skin’s ability to maintain collagen production and proper moisture5.

What role do collagen and elastin play in the development of crepey skin?

The biological mechanisms of crepey skin involve the impairment of two important structural proteins in the skin: collagen and elastin. Collagen is produced by skin cells in the dermal layer. These proteins are present in thick layers within the skin and give structure to the cellular matrix. Elastin is responsible for skin recoil, and most of the skin’s elastin is only produced during fetal development and early life6. Loss or impairment of these structural proteins and their production are directly involved in developing crepey skin. While the causes listed above play a major role, aging and genetics also play a role in developing crepey skin.

What causes crepey skin on the face vs. the body?

The skin on the face is more at risk for sun exposure, accumulation of toxins from air and cosmetics, and lack of moisture due to the thin, fragile patches near the mouth and eyes. Crepiness on the face can mostly be prevented through a proper skincare routine and protection from the sun. On the body, crepiness can also occur through environmental factors, with those undergoing rapid weight loss or gain being more prone to developing crepey skin across the body. While all body sites can be treated, excess skin can be removed by laser treatment, dermal filler, or plastic surgery.

What are early signs of crepey skin developing?

New or worsening areas of sagging, wrinkled skin near the face, neck, and upper arms may constitute increased sun protection, proper moisturizer application, and/or dermatology treatments. Skin that feels thin, loose, and papery to the touch should be monitored and adequately protected.

Do lifestyle and diet play a role in crepey skin formation?

Nutrition is an essential part of skin health. Increased fruit and vegetables with high carotenoids and antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Vitamin E can increase the skin’s tolerance to UV damage7,8 and allow efficient maintenance and cell turnover. Those with lifestyles that involve spending more time outdoors are at more risk for UV-mediated crepey skin, but this can be prevented by using sunscreen. Stress and sleep deprivation also play a role in the development of crepey skin due to increased inflammation and less moisture retention. Poor nutrition can lead to depletion of nutrients needed for dermal function and allow inflammation and damage. Smokers may also suffer from crepey skin, particularly near the face, due to cigarette smoke compromising skin elasticity and reducing collagen synthesis9.

How can crepey skin be prevented and treated?

How do you get rid of crepey skin? Crepey skin can be prevented and reversed with the following lifestyle habits and products:
  • Protection from the sun is essential in preventing crepey skin. If you find yourself outdoors, use sunscreen with SPF 30+. And if you find yourself in a tanning bed, get out.
  • Keep your skin clean with a proper cleansing routine to remove cosmetics and pollutants. OneSkin’s gentle facial cleanser, PREP, helps to remove these materials without disrupting your skin’s barrier function and microbiome.
  • Use products with ingredients that delay aging skin, such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, ceramides for skin, and allantoin for skin.
  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Water retention in the skin is essential for barrier function and efficient cell turnover. OS-01 FACE and OS-01 BODY are both daily moisturizers powered by the OS-01 peptide, which has been scientifically proven to increase epidermal thickness and activate genes associated with collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid.
  • Maintain a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and avoid smoking.
  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15331399/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3299808/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5614723/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33145720/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4171912/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6036518/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12239422/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4976416/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11966688/
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