Have you recently discovered that skin in areas around your body is starting to appear thinner, almost crinkly and tissue-like in texture?
This combination of dark spots, ropey veins, loss of volume, and thin, crisscrossing lines is what cosmetics companies are now coining ‘crepey skin’—and waging war against it is the newest anti-aging trend.
But can topical cosmetic creams really provide the same wrinkle-smoothing, skin-tightening results as professionally administered injections or plastic surgery?
To learn what we can expect from over-the-counter crepey skin creams and lotions, as well as which ingredients work best, we asked board-certified dermatologist Dr. Kally Papantoniou for her expert advice.
But, before we get to Dr. Kally’s picks for best over the counter lotions for crepey skin, let’s learn a little more about why skin starts to crinkle.
What Is Crepey Skin?
According to our expert, “crepey” is a general term used to describe the changes in your skin that are associated with aging.
“Skin becomes thinner, more fragile, and wrinkles more easily,” says Dr. Kally. “You’re likely to first notice this occurring on the backs of hands, décolletage, and around the eyes.”
How early your skin starts to show signs of crepeyness depends partially on your genetics.
However, the process can be accelerated by exposure to UVA and UVB rays without protection.
According to Dr. Kally, sun exposure leads to the breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers, causing the skin to lose its elasticity and become thinner.
While you can’t prevent aging altogether, the most effective way to prevent crepey skin is to protect yourself from sun exposure.
“UVA and UVB rays are the leading cause for creepy skin,” says Dr. Kally. “Thus daily photoprotection [sunscreen] is key in preventing creepiness.”
Learn more: The Science Behind Crepey Skin
What Are the Best Over-The-Counter Lotions for Crepey Skin?
If you’re searching for crepey skin solutions, your skin is probably already showing signs of aging.
However, trying a bunch of different anti-aging skin care products can get pretty expensive, not to mention you might spend months waiting to see results.
To help save your time and money, we asked Dr. Kally her top picks for the best over the counter crepey skin lotions and creams depending on which body part you’d like to treat.
So, what crepey skin lotions does a board-certified dermatologist recommend?
The Best Crepey Skin Face Cream:
Dr. Kally states that her favorite face cream to treat crepey skin is SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Interrupter. ($161 for 1.7 oz.)
What makes it work?
According to the SkinCeutical’s website, A.G.E. Interrupter is an advanced treatment that is formulated with an unprecedented 30% concentration of Proxylane™, 4% blueberry extract, and 0.2% phytosphingosine to help restore the loss of visible skin firmness caused by the glycation process.
The Best Treatment for Crepey Skin Around Your Eyes:
The area around your eyes is delicate. Experts are split as to whether or not the eye area requires a separate cream.
However, if your skin is sensitive, or you would like to treat crepey skin around your eyes with extra care, you might consider a separate product.
Dr. Kally’s recommendation for the best eye cream to treat crepey skin is Revision D.E.J. Repair Eye Cream. ($63 for 0.5 oz.)
This product includes Dipalmitoyl Hydroxyproline, which helps to firm and moisturize the skin, and Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38 to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
The Best Lotion to Treat Crepey Neck Skin:
Crepey skin on your neck can be difficult to treat since the area often develops deep horizontal bands that can emphasize your thinning skin.
To help rejuvenate the area, Dr. Kally recommends Revision Nectifirm. ($60 for 1.7 oz.) This collagen-boosting cream is formulated with peptides, and potent plant extracts that they claim can are specifically combined to treat crepey neck skin.
The Best Cream to Treat Crepey Skin On Your Chest:
According to Dr. Kally, SkinCeuticals Neck, Chest & Hand Repair is her go-to choice to help smooth and rejuvenate crepey skin on the chest and décolletage. ($70 for 2 oz.).
This lotion includes skin brightening agents that claim to fade the look of accumulated damage and age spots while improving the appearance of texture.
The Best Lotion to Treat Crepey Skin on Your Arms & Legs:
Crepey skin can show from head to toe, but there’s no way we can afford to use the suggested skin creams on larger body areas, such as arms and legs. So, what’s the best lotion to treat crepey skin on your extremities?
To smooth out the skin on your arms, Dr. Kally suggests SkinCeuticals Body Tightening Concentrate. ($78 for 5 oz.)
What’s the best lotion to treat crepey skin on your legs? Dr. Kally suggests reaching for either Excipial 10% ($12 for 6.7 oz.) or Amlactin ($14 for 7.9 oz.). Both of which, thankfully, can be found at your local drugstore.
What’s the Best Way to Apply Crepey Skin Lotion or Cream?
According to Dr. Kally, it’s important to always cleanse an area before applying a crepey skin product. She adds that applying a cream or lotion twice a day will provide the best results.
Which Ingredients Work Best to Treat Crepey Skin?
Dr. Kally recommends that you look for crepey skin creams that contain proteins called peptides, such as Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5. “These act on the cellular level to help prevent the degradation of collagen, and can help promote synthesis.”
What else should you look for in addition to peptides?
“Hyaluronic acid will help plump and hydrate skin, which improves the immediate appearance of creepy skin,” she says.
Additionally, look for antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E. “These have the effect of reducing oxidative stress and damage to skin and can stimulate new collagen growth.”
Peptides, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants—check! Dr. Kally also suggests that certain plant extracts can also be found as ingredients in tightening creams for their natural properties.
She adds that “using a retinol-containing product can also have a great effect on rebuilding collagen and rejuvenating skin.”
Is Expensive Always Better When It Comes to Crepey Skin Creams?
According to Dr. Kally, shoppers shouldn’t base their assumptions about the effectiveness of a product on its price. Instead, research which ingredients it contains and read reviews to help guide your selection.
On that note, Dr. Kally warns to watch out for creams that don't contain any active ingredients and are essentially just moisturizers.
What Can You Expect From Over The Counter Crepey Skin Creams?
We mentioned above that skin creams such as Crepe Erase and Crepe Correcting Body Complex claim that they can firm and plump thin, crinkly skin almost as much as a medical procedure.
Can any over the counter product work as well as an in-office procedure?
Dr. Kally states that you can expect a short–term reduction of the appearance of crepey skin from a product that contains the active ingredients we listed above.
Over time, a crepey skin cream can also somewhat help prevent new wrinkles due to keeping your skin hydrated. Additionally, applying certain ingredients can help your skin to heal and induce new growth.
However, it’s very unlikely that over-the-counter creams will be able to match the results of a medical procedure.
Remember That Crepey Skin Creams Are Cosmetics, Not Drugs
Dr. Kally states that over-the-counter products can actually be very helpful in treating crepey skin.
“The only prescription medication that will perform better is retinoic acid, but retinol can still be very effective is used regularly,” she says.
However, “helpful” is a long way off from “the same as a medical procedure.”
When you’re evaluating a product’s claims, it’s important to remember that, if creams or over-the-counter lotions could accomplish the same thing as medical procedures, then the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would classify these products as drugs, not cosmetics, and regulate them as such.
Policing cosmetics companies is an uphill battle for the regulatory agency since the law doesn't require cosmetic firms to register with FDA or to submit their products, ingredients, labeling, or claims for approval before the products go on the market.
Instead, all the agency can do is look for when a cosmetic maker goes over the line in making a claim. Take, for example, the FDA’s latest warning letter that went out to Strivectin. The language FDA objects to?
- “Clinically proven to change the anatomy of a wrinkle.”
- “This superb age-fighting serum is supercharged with …potent elastin-stimulating peptides.”
- “Potent elastin-stimulating peptides help enhance skin structure.”
The claims made by Strivectin—and many other anti-aging creams—insinuate that these products can “affect the structure or any function of the human body, rendering them drugs under the (Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic) Act," the FDA says in a warning letter sent to Strivectin.
The result? Strivectin has since changed the wording on their website from claims that their creams can restore the elastin fiber architecture to the claim that, “Over time, the visible effects of gravity appear reversed for even more refined and toned definition of the neckline, profile, and décolleté.”
However, consumers looking for a cream, lotion, or potion to help combat crepey skin can’t rely on the FDA to police every single product that’s on the market, since the agency simply can’t keep up with cosmetic companies’ claims.
Learn more: The Big Skin Cream Con
How to Treat Crepey Skin At Home
Still having trouble deciding which crepey skin products have substance instead of just overblown beauty claims? Remember to shop for products with ingredients that can achieve the following:
1. Peel Away Fine Lines
As Dr. Kally suggested, look for products that include alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), an ingredient proven to help soften sun-damaged skin and encourage new collagen production.
AHAs are naturally occurring acids derived from substances such as milk (lactic acid), sugar cane (glycolic acid) and apples (malic acid), and have been shown to help reduce fine lines and wrinkles, fade age spots, and moisturize the skin with regular use.
How to implement AHAs into your routine? AHA masks and at-home peels can be applied to face and body, including the top of hands, elbows, arms, and on top of knees.
These treatments effectively slough off dull, dead skin and help speed cell turnover. When the new, healthy cells reach the surface, they give skin a smoother texture, making crepey skin less noticeable.
2. Build New Collagen
When it comes to effective crepe-fighting creams, remember that collagen is key. Look for ingredients proven to stimulate collagen production, including retinoids, (available in both over-the-counter and prescription concentrations) and tretinoin (found in Rx products like Renova).
While both AHA peels and retinoids exfoliate the skin, only retinoids are proven to penetrate deeper, increasing cell turnover and triggering new collagen production. The more collagen you have to support and strengthen the skin, the smoother and plumper it will look!
To use retinols effectively, try a peel or mask in the morning and a retinoid at night—AHAs may deactivate retinoids, so apply them separately. Just note that peels and retinoids both make skin more sensitive to sunlight, so always use SPF to protect your skin.
A note about prescription vs. over-the-counter retinoids: WebMD clarifies that over-the-counter retinol creams are at risk of being less effective since brands are not required to state how much of each ingredient their product contains.
However, while these non-prescription versions might not be as effective, they do “smooth out the skin and minimize the effects of sun damage.”
3. Promote Healing
Pentapeptides are the hot new kid on the block in crepey skin creams and some scientists claim that they are a legitimate breakthrough in fighting the most stubborn signs of aging, such as thinning skin.
These amino acids were initially researched in relation to wound healing and have been found to be instrumental in increasing cells in the skin to produce more collagen.
However, this WebMD article warns that while you might see some healing activity with pentapeptides, many doctors remain dubious that pentapeptide compounds can really make the jump from wound healing inside the body to anti-aging effects when applied on top of the skin.
Echoing the FDA’s struggle to continue defining the difference between cosmetics and drugs, WebMD quotes one doctor as saying:
“I think there is a question of degree – you have to think of not only the effect but the magnitude of the effect—plus whether or not any product has enough of the ingredients to actually bring about a change in your skin.”
The bottom line on the healing abilities of pentapeptides? Think of an ingredient like Neosporin: Available over the counter, it’ll certainly help heal your skin.
However, you’re not going to depend on it to reduce serious damage—something best left to the professionals.
4. Reverse Moisture Loss
Even if a combination of good genes and sun smarts has saved your skin, the look of dryness and cracking can still make skin appear crepey. With the passage of time, cell membranes become more porous, so they can't hold as much water. Make sure your skin stays well hydrated by applying lotion daily.
With the passage of time, cell membranes become more porous, so they can't hold as much water. Make sure your skin stays well hydrated by applying lotion daily.
Not only does moisturizing with any lotion have a plumping effect since you're restoring moisture to the area, but there's also another way it helps to temporarily de-crepe skin.
As a lotion dries, the molecules contract, causing a certain amount of tensing or firming—that is until the stuff gets washed off, you sweat, or you put on additional moisturizer.
Which ingredients to look for in a lotion? Glycerin, a gentle base commonly used in sensitive skin cosmetics, grabs water from deeper tissues to soften the top layers. Another go-to is petrolatum, which effectively traps water next to the skin so that it doesn't escape.
Finally, dimethicone—an ingredient that’s typically found in pre-makeup primers—is often included in crepey skin creams to temporarily fill in skin cracks and leave a smooth, greaseless feel.
While dimethicone won’t make a long-term difference in the appearance of your crepey skin, creams and lotions that include this ingredient can certainly give your skin, and your confidence, and effective short-term boost.
5. Slough Off Dead Skin
Failing to exfoliate before moisturizing is like watering your lawn before you rake it. That’s because dead surface cells are to skin what dry, crackly leaves are to grass: They prevent adequate hydration.
To exfoliate effectively, use a scrub with gentle synthetic or jojoba beads, or easily dissolved sugar or salt. Remember to avoid ground-up shells, which can scratch the fragile skin.
Alternatively, try dry brushing your body with a boar bristle brush or loofah sponge.
Since dry brushing doesn’t allow water to soften the surface of your skin, it’s one of the fastest ways to rid yourself of dry, dead cells, revealing fresh younger looking skin that’s ready for that above-mentioned moisturizing.
Treating Crepey Skin at the Dermatology Clinic
What if you want to plump it up with more power than topical treatments can provide? These non-surgical treatments offered by most dermatologists can work fast and require little downtime.
Be warned, the more effective the treatment is at fighting crepey skin, the harder it will hit your wallet.
This option is best for resurfacing hand and neck skin, by building and tightening collagen. How do they work?
Lasers like the Fraxel and Nd:YAG direct thousands of tiny bursts of energy that heat the collagen layer, stimulating new growth and improving texture. Skin will be pink for a few days afterward, and perhaps even rough or peeling.
Note that to see results, you should expect three to six sessions, each of which cost $1000-2000.
Are you just starting to see surface crepe-ing? Peels could help! Superficial glycolic acid peels (blending lactic and salicylic acids and other ingredients) and medium-depth trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels remove surface discoloration and smooth out skin by increasing cell turnover.
The deeper TCA produces faster results and can also stimulate collagen production. Just note that many doctors say neck skin is too prone to scarring to risk deep peeling, so these treatments are best saved for the skin on your face or hands. Expect to purchase five treatments, each about $150.
One of the only methods proven to plump up thinning skin, fat injections are frequently used to make crepey hands appear more youthful. How do they work?
A small amount of fat is taken from the buttocks via a needle and then injected beneath the skin. Fat transfer can be more economical than synthetic fillers like Sculptra and Radiesse because the fat is harvested just once, then frozen for later use.
While the procedure only takes one session to harvest fat, which costs around $1,500, future injections are $500 each.
With all those options, which procedure does Dr. Kally recommend to treat crepey skin?
“My favorite treatments for crepey skin is the Thermismooth 250, which feels like a hot stone massage, it can be used under the eyes, neck area, and almost anywhere on the body,” she says.
How does it work?
“Thermismooth 250 stimulates your skin to produce collagen and rejuvenate. It tightens and can even help the appearance of cellulite.”
Another treatment Dr. Kally recommends is the Ulthera. “It’s a powerful, energy-based machine that uses ultrasound energy to stimulate tightening and new collagen.” Dr. Kally adds that the Ulthera is especially great for the face, neck, and chest areas.
Want even more of a lift? She also recommends ThermiTight. “It’s a minimally invasive procedure in which radiofrequency energy is placed under the surface of the skin, and stimulates skin remodeling.” The results, states Dr. Kally, are impressive.
Bottom Line on Combating Crepey Skin
Ultimately, over-the-counter crepey skin creams can have a very subtle firming effect. However, they won’t lead to sustained firming to the same degree as an in-office procedure—even with sustained use.
Your best bet is to focus on ingredients, such as retinoids, that encourage collagen production.
Since your body has a process where old collagen is broken down by enzymes and new collagen is generated, anything that stimulates new collagen is going to help eradicate the damage that results in aging skin’s crepey appearance.
And while diligence is key, there is no instant fix. Even daily, long-term use of the best crepey skin creams won’t deliver the same results as the more intense, in-office procedures listed above.
Finally, remember that even if you already have signs of crepey skin, all your efforts to turn back your skin’s clock will go to waste without proper protection!
You could cover your body in all the wrinkle creams in Sephora, but your crepey skin, sunspots, wrinkles, and other age giveaways will continue to develop without sunscreen, so make sure you’re slathering it on routinely before considering an alternative, and more expensive, crepey skin fixes.
Now Read: Learning to Take Great Care of Your Skin
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