I have crepe skin on my legs and arms mostly. What are my options?

It's really starting to bother me. I've tried crepe erase but didn't help.


F, New Jersey

Crepe Erase products are a popular over-the-counter body/skin care product line endorsed by Jane Seymour and manufactured by Guthy-Renker. The ingredients listed on their website include several well-known moisturizers like shea butter and coconut oil -- as well as the rather mysterious sounding "Trufirm Complex".  A little research on their website reveals that Trufirm Complex contains apple, dill and sage extracts.

As a restorative facial treatment, there is some benefit to regularly applying moisturizers -- but none of the ingredients listed in Crepe Erase will significantly contribute to new collagen growth or give your skin a more youthful appearance.

It's important to keep in mind what causes crepey skin in the first place: Crepey skin is generally caused by excessive sun exposure, smoking cigarettes and aging. All three of those things impact our skin's natural collagen production and cause the skin on our upper arms, necks and under our eyes to become loose and wrinkled like crepe paper.

If crepey skin is bothering you, I suggest you ignore the dubious claims of certain internet-marketed skincare products and seek a clinically proven solution. While there are some good over-the-counter products (look for ones containing peptides, retinol or vitamin C) which encourage new collagen production, the results come quite slowly and are usually very subtle.

For the best results I suggest talking with a board-certified dermatologist about laser therapy and other clinical solutions. We’ve had excellent results treating crepey skin with Fraxel lasers and ultrasound therapy as well as in the under eye area with dermal fillers like Restylane. These approaches produce much faster and more visible results.

"Crepey skin" is a term commonly used to describe skin with fine wrinkles that feels thin and delicate. It's often found on the neck, on the insides of arms and in the under-eye area. As we get older, most of us are likely to experience some amount of crepey skin in these problem areas. Some also experience the skin condition earlier in life as a result of sun damage or rapid weight loss.

As we age, our bodies produce lower amounts of collagen and the elastin fibers which give our skin its natural elasticity. Young skin tends to bounce back in ways that older skin doesn't. In cases where sunlight is to blame for crepey skin, the UV bandwidth of the sun's rays breaks down the skin's collagen and causes it to become slack and loose.

The "Crepe Erase" product which you purchased promises younger-looking skin and even offers a money back guarantee.  This over-the-counter treatment does contain a few good moisturizers including beeswax, olive oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and coconut oil.

While these ingredients do help to moisturize dry skin, and may help to provide some plumping action through basic moisturization -- there doesn't appear to be anything in the ingredients which encourages significant cell turnover or stimulates the production of new collagen.

To encourage cell turnover and the production of new collagen, there are a few over-the-counter treatments which have been clinically proven to work. If you're interested in a DIY approach, I would recommend products containing topical retinoids, peptides or alpha hydroxy acids. Other options include products containing Vitamin E, Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid.

For the best results however, I would recommend a professional approach: The best current treatments for crepey skin include fractional laser treatments (Fraxel) and ultrasound treatments (Ulthera). If you're interested in a professional solution to your crepey skin, I encourage you to contact a board certified dermatologist for a personal consultation.

Crepey skin often starts to appear in your 40s – although triggers such as smoking, sun exposure, certain medications, insufficient hydration and extreme weight loss can lead to it showing up earlier. Increasing your water intake, maintaining a healthy diet, using a broad spectrum sunscreen and moisturizing regularly to ensure skin hydration will help improve the appearance of your crepey skin to a certain degree, but for more dramatic improvements there are several cosmetic options you can consider.

Radiofrequency treatments send waves of energy deep into the body to stimulate collagen production. Radiofrequency can be used for both the arms and legs, but comes with mixed reviews. Some patients experience an improvement to their arms and legs following Thermage or BodyTite treatments, while others don’t.

Cellulaze, a cellulite laser treatment approved by the FDA, uses a medical grade laser to encourage collagen formation, which thickens and tightens the skin. Again, this method has produced mixed results, with some patients reporting improvements and others noticing little difference.  Dermal fillers represent another option: Sculptra uses poly-L lactic acid molecules to build collagen in the skin with results improving over time. Sculptra can be injected into both the arms and the legs, and should result in thicker-looking skin.

The most effective method of smoothing out crepey skin on the arms and upper legs is a surgical lift. Brachioplasty (aka an arm lift) can improve the appearance of the underside of your upper arms by removing excess skin and fat between the armpit and elbow. The remaining skin is placed over the new contours to create a more toned, taut look. Thighplasty helps to improve the appearance of crepey skin in the thigh area by removing loose skin and excess fat. Depending on your concerns, the procedure can focus on the inner, outer or medial thigh,. Following surgery your skin will look smoother, although there will be some scarring.

Crepe skin becomes an issue for many individuals as they move into middle-age. Unfortunately, sun damage causes crepey skin. The sun’s UV rays damage the skin's elasticity, causing it to appear looser, thinner and more wrinkled.  

Aging also causes crepe-ing of the skin: as you age, collagen and elastin production start to slow down. Collagen and elastin are natural proteins created by the body that support the skin, allowing it to stretch and contract. Another contributing factor to crepe skin is that it’s oil production decreases with age. Oil provides a lipid barrier sealing moisture in the skin. Reduced oil production and compromised elastin and collagen production results in less robust, more papery-looking dry skin.

Topical creams for crepe skin have limited efficacy because the cause of crepe skin extends beyond the surface layer of epidermis and into the lower layers where collagen and elastin are produced. Some patients experience a slight improvement with tretinoin cream, a derivative of vitamin A, or creams containing stabilized vitamin C, which is high in natural antioxidants. A board-certified dermatologist can provide you with a treatment that will be most beneficial to your skin.

Radiofrequency skin tightening treatments such as Thermage have shown some promise in improving the appearance of mild to moderate papery skin. Radiofrequency uses radio waves to generate heat and penetrate deep into the skin, stimulating collagen fibers. The underlying tissue structure of the skin is improved, providing a tightened appearance. However, results vary among patients: radiofrequency is generally recognized to work better on skin that is not attached to muscles, such as facial skin.

Another more permanent but invasive option you may wish to consider is a thigh and arm lift. These procedures excise loose, stretched skin, leaving scars in places that are minimally conspicuous. Following a thigh or arm lift, you will have younger-looking skin, with diminished wrinkles and laxity.

It is important to understand that you're being realistic - you're curious as to what "might" work. Whether a skin cream "works" or not is all about understanding your expectations from the standpoint of what you're trying to achieve. 

Creams cannot:

  • offer what neurotoxins, like Botox or Xeomin, can do to stop dynamic wrinkles from becoming those that occur at rest
  • fill areas of volume loss of the cheeks or around the mouth like dermal fillers (i.e. Juvederm, Restylane, etc.)
  • stop the effects of gravity, like pulling our cheeks downward to create jowls 

Creams can:

  • make improvements on your signs of aging: dark marks, fine lines, and skin tone
  • slow the signs of aging with adequate moisture
  • provide anti-aging ingredients that have shown to reverse damage

Some of my favorite skin creams for anti-aging and improving signs of aging are Skin Medica's TNS Essential Serum (containing important peptides and growth factors) and HA5 hydrating serum (with long-lasting hyaluronic acid), and Sente's Dermal Repair (containing heparin sulfate technology). Products containing tretinoin or retinol in some form are also clinically proven to reverse the signs of aging if their potencies are high enough.

I recommend you continue your research and seek the advice of a board certified dermatologist to consider your options. We always recommend taking baseline photographs in the same lighting and background before starting a skin regimen so that you can compare and contrast your skin's response 6-8 weeks after continued use. Monitoring your own success is important when you're looking for subtle changes - we easily forget where things started when we consistently/relentlessly check for improvements. Just like weight loss, before and after photos with skin care are necessary to show (and ultimately prove to ourselves) that what we're doing is working. 


Jeanine Downie, MD 

Crepe skin is usually caused by several factors: genetics, skin damage, aging, and skin quality. We can't change our genetics or the fact that we will age, so this is something we all need to accept. However, protection from harmful environmental factors (sun, cigarette smoking, etc.) and providing our skin with the nutrients needed to stay healthy and look healthy are ways we can combat this uncomfortable appearance. 

Prevention of crepe skin starts with sun protection, maintaining one's healthy weight, and proper moisturizing. Wearing an SPF 30+ with broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection is vital to prevent destruction of collagen and the fibers in our skin that keep things tight and smooth. When individuals gain and lose weight on and off, stretching the skin with each cycle can destroy the skin's ability to be elastic and respond to those changes. Many people have been made aware of this skin phenomenon with the increase of patients going through massive weight loss and dealing with excess skin that does not recoil or retract. Moisturizing with products containing potent antioxidants, ceramides, proteins, and hyaluronic acid are great for repairing and improving the skin's quality. 

Lastly, crepe skin can also feel rough and dry, therefore considering a product containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHA's) may improve the skin's texture. More potent options are also available by prescription if your dermatologist feels it may be necessary. 

Rather than considering the purchase of another product via compelling celebrity endorsements, I recommend meeting with a board certified dermatologist for advice on how to tackle this pesky problem. 

Best of luck,

Jeanine Downie, MD

I would recommend an in-office consultation with a board Certified plastic surgeon that also offers non-surgical options such as bodytite. This may be a good option with minimal down time to help tighten and shrink the skin. Good luck!