Why Am I Getting Crepey Skin?

crepey-skinThe headline of this blog post summarizes a very common question I get asked almost daily.  Some call it elephant skin, old lady skin or paper thin skin, but in the end, it is all the same.

The term crepey (pronounced CRAY-pee) describes it very well.  The term is undoubtedly derived from the French breakfast delicacy that, while delicious, is known for its rough and curled exterior texture.  Crêpes are great to eat, but anyone wanting their skin to resemble one is unimaginable.

I know no one wants to hear this, but crepey skin is one of common signs of skin aging.  Crepey skin is fairly universal to all of us as we get older, but aging is not the only cause.

sun_bathingAs I have always preached (and will continue to preach), the sun and (natural or artificial) tanning accelerates the aging process in the skin by causing repeated damage and insults to the skin.  The more the skin has to repair itself and the damage of ultraviolet light, the thinner the skin becomes over time.

collagen_elastinAs most people enter their 40s, the thinning of the skin, which has been very slow since puberty, starts to accelerate.  The thickness and elasticity of the skin is caused by two major components under and within the skin: collagen and elastin.  As we lose both of these components through naturally-occurring damage, the aging skin is not able to replace the lost collagen and elastin fast enough.

Loss of moisture in the skin is another significant factor of crepey skin during this time frame.  Frequently, many of us do not drink enough water to hydrate the skin from within.

Most humans require at least 2 liters of water per day to maintain adequate hydration for all of our bodily functions.  My usual rule of thumb is that if your urine has any yellow color in it in the toilet, you are not drinking enough whether or not you are at the goal amount of water or not.

Another aspect of skin dryness involves loss of moisture through the skin itself.  This loss through the skin is frequently worsened by low environmental humidity especially during the winter in our northern latitudes.

The low humidity literally draws the moisture out of your skin if you do not protect yourself.  This is where moisturizers are crucial.

eczema_moisturizeMoisturizers are best applied while your skin is moist, such as after your shower or bath.  Rather than rubbing yourself dry, the best approach is apply moisturizers after showering and letting it soak in before getting dressed.

If all that information is not bad enough, the loss of fat padding, especially within the face due to aging and weight loss, removes another foundational component for the skin.  The loss of the fat under the skin also makes crepey skin more pronounced.

Remember this formula: Fat Loss + Collagen & Elastin Damage + Lack of Moisture = Crepey Thin Skin.

Just because your skin seems to be rebelling and losing its fullness does not mean that you have to live with it looking older year after year.  In the next several blog posts, I will discuss common sense preventive strategies that are key to improving the look and feel of crepey skin.  I will also separately discuss various treatment strategies to reverse the look of crepey skin that is already present.

As always, please feel free to call us at (207) 873-2158 to schedule a free consultation for any of these skin questions that you may have.

About Dr. John Burke

John Burke M.D. has practiced medicine for over 25 years, and is the founding partner of MidMaine Internal Medicine. He established Maine Laser Skin Care in 2004 after devoting years to learning the latest in laser and dermatologic technology. Dr. Burke has treated patients from all over the United States. He is one of Maine's busiest practitioners in laser treatments, and in the use of Botox for upper facial lines and excessive sweating.
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