Crepey skin on the body. Is there anything to do? Part 1 of 3

Q1: I am a 73 years old African American woman with crepey skin on my arms, thighs, and legs. Any advice you offer will be greatly appreciated! Thanks!!!

Q2: Hi, I am a 59 year old veterinarian. I have thin skin on my forearms and hands. Pets jump on me and leave purple scratch purpura. I have started Tretinoin 0.025% on my arms on the advice of the PA dermatologist. Are there any lasers that can decrease the bruising from minor bumps and pressure?

Crepey skin is usually skin that’s more fragile too so I decided to put these questions together; their issues are similar.

This post is to help understand the factors contributing to crepey and thin skin but, let’s focus first on prevention. Part 2 will be on specific body areas and the new RF and laser technologies. Part 3 will be on what is possible now, and what may be possible in the near future.

Many people think now that crepey skin on the body is just due to sun/UV damage. While that does contribute, it’s not the whole story. The characters in this story are sun/UV damage, intrinsic aging, your internal health, and environmental stresses.

I know some of the below requires some effort, but we are much happier about our results if we are realistic.  The skin thins, gets crepey, and fragile because we lose the thickness and integrity of the barrier layer (epidermis) and also collagen and elasticity in the dermis, the deeper layer.

First let’s look at you!

  • Have you recently lost weight greater than 5 pounds and are over 50ish years of age, or over 10 pounds and are under 50ish years of age? Why? Because skin will contract after weight loss, but since we lose elasticity as we age, it contracts less. If you are older, it’s unlikely you’ll get a lot of contraction on your own.
  • Do you lift weights and how is your muscle mass? You may be thinking …is she nuts? But truly, almost every woman over 50 needs to be lifting some weights; either at home or at the gym. Why? Because we all lose a lot of muscle mass as we age, and muscle helps fill out the skin. Inexpensive weight sets are easy to find and things like squats are easy to do. Bless all the great trainers now who have put their routines online. I think a gym is more fun, but not everyone can do that. This woman completely inspires me; she is 84 year old, Ernestine Shepard.
  • Protein – your skin has a lot of protein and it’s being replaced all the time. Unless you have kidney disease, most women need between 40-90 grams of protein a day; depending on your activity level. If you are a championship rower, for example, you may need even more. The lower end is more appropriate if you are an elder, or very petite, sedentary, etc. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist.
  • Vitamin C.  I still think most of us need at least 500-1,000 mg of vitamin C a day more than we get and collagen needs vitamin C to be produced in our skin.
  • Sunscreen.  I won’t belabor on this but if you expose your body to the sun/UV damage, it will make your skin crepey. Please cover up with clothing or use a high zinc (10-20%) sunscreen daily. Some sunscreens are reef safe, but only if they consist of pure minerals.
  • Skin thickness Skin thickens in response to rubbing. Think about callouses and the bottom of your feet. Try a vigorous total body scrub in the shower once a week, or use a dry brush (see the web) before the shower, or a loofah. You will start to see a difference in 30-60 days. It ups the activity of the cells. In my opinion, using a 2% BHA body lotion works better than Tretinion for this problem. Try the one at Paula’s Choice Weightless Body Lotion 2% BHA.
  • Medications. Many times these can’t be stopped. Just be aware that diuretics will cause some dehydration of the skin; aspirin, NSAIDS and blood thinners will increase bruising, and some statins for high cholesterol seem to increase crepeyness in the skin also.

You can do these!!! And I hope these help.

I Hope this Helps,

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD
Founder of SkinTour
Follow my skin tips and travels on Instagram!

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