Fact: While there's certainly nothing wrong with aging, it can come with some disconcerting side effects. Crepey skin being one of them. When skin loses collagen and elastin—proteins that are responsible for fending off fine lines—the skin can appear saggy, crinkled, and loose. That said, crepey skin is not interchangeable with wrinkles. “Wrinkling is related to genetics, facial movement, and some sun damage,” explains board-certified dermatologist Ranella Hirsch. “Crepey skin, on the other hand, is related only to sun damage whereby the sun is breaking down the elastin.”
Luckily, there are a slew of treatment options—and ingredients—that work to both prevent and mask the appearance of crepeyness. We tapped Hirsch as well as board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner to fill us in on how to get rid of crepey skin.
Meet the Expert
- Joshua Zeichner, MD, is the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology and an Associate Professor of Dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
- Ranella Hirsch, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Keep scrolling to learn what causes crepey skin and how to get rid of it.
Wear SPF 30 to Protect the Skin
We preach it all the time: Always wear sunscreen—yes, that means rain or shine. Not only will this help ward off gnarly sun spots, sun cancer, and age-related wrinkles, but it'll also keep your skin looking youthful and line- and crepe-free. Zeichner suggests using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to protect against the sun’s harmful rays right from the start. We love this mineral pick by Supergoop!, which doubles as a SPF and a CC cream for days we require a little more coverage. (PS: don't skimp on bringing your SPF down your neck).
Reapplying your sunscreen every two hours will prevent sun damage.
Add Hydration With Hyaluronic Acid
Crepey skin combined with lack of hydration can be a dermal disaster for many, but Hirsch recommends looking for products that seal in the natural moisture your body already produces. Cue hyaluronic acid, which promises to attract and add more moisture back into the skin, keeping it radiant and smooth for longer. If your skin lacks plumpness or is dull in tone, hyaluronic acid can also help restore the dew. This water-based serum from First Aid Beauty lists hyaluronic acid as its MVP—so you know it's ultra-hydrating and improves skin's moisture levels.
Use Retinol to Stimulate Collagen Production
According to Zeichner, retinol stimulates collagen and helps thicken the skin’s foundation, making fine lines and crepeyness less apparent. Retinol products can be used on any parts that look crepey, including hands, neck, elbows, and face. Because retinol-based products can cause the skin to flake, its best to apply a moisturizer over them. Retinol is known to deactivate with sunlight, therefore, it's best to apply in the evening. Zeichner recommends looking for products that contain retinol to combat the crepe, like this one from Neutrogena, which not only promises to help reduce the appearance of fine lines, but will also help brighten your complexion.
Consider Incorporating Elastin Stimulators into Your Routine
Think of elastin stimulators like ingredients that boost the skin's ability to combat aging. Look for ingredients like blackberry extract and dill that have been shown to stimulate elastic fiber production and improve the skin's look and feel, according to Zeichner. He likes this night cream from Aveeno—it's made with a blackberry complex along with vitamins C and E meant to restore skin elasticity, improve moisture, and strengthen the skin barrier.
Protect the Skin Barrier With Petrolatum
Petrolatum has a bad rap in the beauty world, but the key is to look for the purified form, which means it's free of the nasties. According to Zeichner, loss of hydration and the resulting inflammation that comes from it can make crepey skin appear more, well, crepey. He recommends looking for purified petrolatum in your moisturizer, as it protects the skin’s barrier, prevents water loss, hydrates, and plumps up thin skin.
Double Up on Protection With Antioxidants
Antioxidants are to skincare what a Beautyblender is to a foundation—they're essential to a positive outcome. Hirsch likes to use the following analogy when explaining antioxidants and their benefits to patients: "If you’re going away on vacation, the first thing you do is lock your front door. The second thing you'll do to protect your home is turn on the burglar alarm. Antioxidants are that burglar alarm, the second level of protection underneath sunscreen that your skin needs to guard against aggressors, such as UV rays," she notes. She also recommends this serum from Skinceuticals, which is made with vitamin C meant to help neutralize free radicals from penetrating your skin’s natural protective barrier.
Reduce Signs of Aging With Squalane
"Squalene is a fat, made naturally by our bodies as a component of sebum," says Hirsch, explaining how the amount our bodies produce after age 30 dramatically decreases, creating the need for a synthetic version to make up for the loss. "In addition to helping provide lipids to the epidermis (a major part of the moisture barrier of the skin), it has antioxidant properties," says Hirsch. This body treatment features age-defying squalane along with moisture-locking cocoa butter and glyceride. The result is smoother, firmer, crepe-free skin.
Apply Niacinamide to Increase Cell Turnover
"There is a natural process on the top layer of the skin where cells at the bottom lose their nuclei and flatten as they mature," says Hirsch. "When cell is turning over with a stimulus, it revs up that process, leaving the top layer of the skin more neatly organized." She explains that part of what makes skin look dull and aged is how sun damage disorganizes this process, but by using ingredients that reorganize that process, skin can clinically appear better. Niacinamide is one of those ingredients that allows greater cell metabolism, including cell turnover. We love this serum by Banila Co, which utilizes niacinamide to reduce the look of pores, promote even skin tone, and defy crepey skin.
Cleanse Daily for a Radiant Complexion
Skin looking lack-luster? Re-evaluate your face wash routine. Cleansing your face both in the morning and evening plays in an important role no matter your skin concern, but for those with crepey skin, it's essential, as it sets the stage for the entirety of your crepe-combatting regimen. It's a time to wash off dirt, oil, and impurities from the day and create a polished surface for the rest of your products to shine. Choose one with anti-aging in mind, like this one from Arbonne's AgeWell line. It's made with provitamin B5 meant to attract moisture to the skin and vitamin C meant to support the production of collagen.
Johns Hopkins Medicine. Sunscreen and your morning routine.
Ganceviciene R, Liakou AI, Theodoridis A, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):308-319. doi:10.4161/derm.22804