Crepey Skin

krayp · y –skin

Crepey skin is skin that’s lost elasticity and appears finely wrinkled like tissue paper.

Also Called

Tissue skin, thin skin, thinning skin, fragile skin

Frequently Found On

Neck, chest, arms, stomach, and eyelids

What is crepey skin?

Crepey skin is skin that has the texture and appearance of crepe paper, like hundreds of very fine lines that may gather or sag in certain areas, like the upper arms, elbows, eyelids, and neck. It’s common in dry, older skin because as the body ages it produces less collagen and elastin, proteins that make skin smooth and taut. But it’s not always an aging issue. People who’ve lost a significant amount of weight in a short period of time and women who’ve just given birth may also experience crepey skin.

“Crepey skin can be just due to the natural causes of aging,” says Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Entière Dermatology in New York. “We inherently lose important proteins and structural content in our skin, whether that's collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid, other natural moisturizing factors, as well as structural components. Crepey skin could also be due to lack of moisture, whether that's from the aging process or just from environmental exposure.”

Illustration depicting crepey skin at a cellular level
Crepey skin is skin that has the texture and appearance of crepe paper, like hundreds of very fine lines that may gather or sag in certain areas.

Crepey skin is a colloquial term, not a medical one. Scientists and doctors usually rope it in with the signs of aging skin along with wrinkles, sun spots, and wearing fluorescent pink lipstick to play Bridge on Tuesdays. It’s an aesthetic issue, it causes no harm other than to our vanity, and like so many skin conditions in the same boat, it’s not extensively studied. But dermatologists, cosmetic dermatologists, and plastic surgeons have a variety of treatment options you can explore based on your skin type. “Crepey skin is not the end of the world,” says Dr. Levin. “But there are fantastic treatments that we can do that stay on top of it, or even treat it, for sure.”

Crepey skin can be somewhat prevented with thick moisturizers and creams to rehydrate the skin, and retinoids that stimulate collagen production beneath the skin’s surface. Skin that’s already crepey can be treated with tightening treatments, laser therapies, and fillers, among many other options.

“I often say that dermatology is a really interesting intersection between medicine, beauty, artistry, science, but also psychiatry,” says Dr. Levin. “Oftentimes our skin reflects what's going on internally, systemically, but the skin also exists as a barrier, our first line of defense.” So if you’re panicking about your crepey skin, she adds, “The important thing is to normalize it. These are natural things that happen. They're not disease processes, but they’re natural conditions of human existence.” Aging is inevitable, so some may choose to do nothing about their crepey skin and get on with their life—and that works too.

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