How To Treat Crepey Skin: 5 Science-Backed Tips To Try ASAP
Skin is skin is skin is skin—no matter what area of the body it's covering. Sure, there is some variability in the thickness of skin under the eyes versus skin on the feet, but overall, there are more similarities than differences. This is why skin concerns we often experience on the face can also be present elsewhere on the body. Dark spots, for example, show up on the face due to age and UV exposure—but they're also common on the chest, shoulders, hands, and other areas that are more exposed to sun damage.
Another example: crepey skin, which is thin skin that develops fine lines and a crinkly appearance, much like crepe paper. Crepey skin may be more noticeable on large and highly visible areas such as the neck and chest; it's also present under the eyes, on the arms, and on the legs. The good news is that to tend to it requires similar tools no matter where it shows up. Here, skin care tips to treat crepey skin head to toe:
Hydrate throughout the day
Priority No. 1 is hydration. "Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize—this can improve the appearance," board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., tells us about crepey skin. Keeping the skin hydrated will help it appear plump and supple, and on the contrary, dehydrated skin can exacerbate the fine lines and folds.
On the body—especially on the arms and legs—opt for one of these body lotions that specifically targets maturing skin. For the neck and chest, there are dedicated topicals for that specific area, as it's quite sensitive skin. Personally, I allow my hand cream to play double duty. High-quality hand creams—like mindbodygreen's postbiotic hand cream, and those found in this roundup of the best healthy aging hand creams—can treat the skin, usually at a fraction of the cost.
Take, for example, mbg's hand cream. It contains coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant fruit complex, oat oil, organic cold-pressed moringa seed oil, organic aloe vera, and a biotech postbiotic that improves epidermal framework reconstruction on the skin. The robust formulation not only deeply hydrates, but it provides ample antioxidant protection and improves skin structure.
Use a gentle retinol
Here's the caveat, though: Areas that develop crepey skin tend to be areas where the skin is thin and sensitive inherently, such as the eyes and neck. Retinol is often not well tolerated in these spots.
So, in order to incorporate the ingredient into your routine, you'll need to make some adjustments. First is to find a product formulated specifically for the area, such as a retinol-infused eye cream or retinol body cream. You can also buffer the ingredient by sandwiching it between two layers of moisturizer (more tips on how to use it here). Finally, you can utilize my favorite hack: skin cycling, which is where you'll use retinol one night but then take a few recovery nights in which you stick to calming moisturizers.
Prioritize sun protection
Much of what we associate with aging can be attributed to sun damage. In fact, research says up to 80% of all signs of premature aging are caused by UV exposure1. If you want healthy, vibrant skin, the best thing you can do is be smart about your sun care.
The key to exfoliation is finding your sweet spot. You don't want to do it too frequently or with too abrasive products, as you'll run the risk of compromising your skin barrier. (A compromised barrier means damaged collagen, increased dryness, and inflammation—so ultimately, you're back where you started.) However, when done correctly, exfoliation can keep skin looking vibrant, improve product penetration, and even spur more collagen production.
When exfoliating the face, chest, or neck, err on the side of caution. These are really delicate areas, so you don't want to go overboard. Look for gentle chemical exfoliants such as lactic acid, mandelic acid, and low-level glycolic acid, the latter of which has been shown to improve collagen production and dermal thickness2 in the skin.
Support skin internally
While this isn't an instant fix, eating a well-balanced diet and prioritizing protein can help support your skin structure. As board-certified dermatologist Carl Thornfeldt, M.D., told us "Years of ingesting insufficient or poor-quality protein is also a major contributor." For healthy adults, the recommendation for overall protein intake is about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. If you're physically active, your needs may be higher.
Collagen (a structural protein) is made up of amino acids, so ensuring you're getting your fill can mean your body has the adequate tools it needs to create more collagen over the years.
One way to supplement your protein intake is through collagen powders. Collagen is a protein made of peptides, but it's not a complete protein—it doesn't have all nine of the essential amino acids (it's missing tryptophan and is on the lower side on a few others)—but can absolutely contribute to your overall daily protein goals and needs. Not only can collagen help folks meet their daily protein intake3, but hydrolyzed collagen has been shown to support skin elasticity and hydration levels and promote youthful texture4.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.