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What can I do about my wrinkly, crepey skin?

4 minute read
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If your skin is taking on a crinkly, paperlike texture, there is plenty you can do to help firm it up. You can even prevent it from happening in the first place. We’ll show you how.

If your skin is looking different lately, you might just blame your age. And you could be right. Getting older does cause skin to sag and lose firmness. Both can leave you with wrinkles and thinner-looking skin.

But sun damage is one of the biggest reasons that your skin’s tone and texture is likely changing. In fact, almost 80% of facial aging comes from sun exposure.1

“The sun dries out the skin and damages it,” says Laurie J. Levine, MD. She’s an Optum skin doctor in New Hyde Park, New York. “The damage slows down how cell turnover works.”

When skin cells don’t renew at their normal rate, they build up on the surface. And that makes your skin appear dull, dry and more wrinkled. Plus, the sun can damage the protein fibers that help keep skin smooth and taut.

So what can you do about wrinkly, crepey skin? Read on for Dr. Levine’s skin-smoothing tips.

Don’t skip the sunscreen

Already seeing wrinkles and thinner skin? It’s not too late to protect your skin from more ultraviolet (UV) exposure. “I think a lot of people know to protect their face. Or there’s sunscreen in their moisturizer or makeup, so they think they’re protected,” says Dr. Levine. “But it’s easy to forget about your body skin, especially on areas such as your chest.”

Tip: Choose a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. The label should also include “broad-spectrum.” That means the sunscreen protects against rays that cause sunburn and those that damage and age skin. And even though your makeup may have SPF, don’t rely on that alone. Layer on a separate sunscreen, too. 

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Moisturize you skin

Adding hydration to your skin will make wrinkles appear smoother. It will also give a brief plumping to thin, paperlike skin. “Almost any moisturizer will help,” says Dr. Levine. But using one with these ingredients can improve your results:

  • Look for alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). “Products with AHAs help exfoliate dead skin,” says Dr. Levine. “If you can help improve cell turnover, you can make skin look better.” AHAs may improve cell turnover and smooth wrinkles by increasing skin thickness.2
  • Choose hyaluronic acid. It’s hydrating and can help maintain your skin’s moisture.4 You can find it in many skin care products made for dry skin. 
  • Choose creams over lotions. They’re thicker, and can give you better and longer-lasting hydration. You can also add a moisturizer over a serum for more moisture.
  • Go natural. Do you prefer to use more natural ingredients? Dr. Levine is a fan of food-grade oils such as sunflower, sesame seed and coconut.

The Optum Store carries a variety of skin-care products, including a variety of sunscreens.

Rev up collagen production

Collagen is a protein that helps provide skin with structure and support. Retinoids are the gold standard when it comes to helping to produce collagen, says Dr. Levine. They help thicken the deep layers of the skin. That can make it look firmer and more youthful over time.3 You can find retinoids in over-the-counter skin products. (Look for “retinol” on the label). You can also get stronger versions with a prescription from your doctor.

Retinoid-containing products can be pricey. So doctors don’t suggest using them all over your body. Instead, Dr. Levine says to focus on the most sun-damaged spots. This would be the backs of your hands or your chest.

Wondering if you should try a collagen supplement? We’ve got the answers you’re looking for. 

Try tightening treatments

Talk to your dermatologist if your skin is very wrinkled and crepey. Their office might offer solutions to smooth and tighten skin, such as:

  • Chemical peels. These use more potent concentrations of AHA acids. They can remove the skin’s dead outer layer. A smoother surface will be uncovered.
  • Microdermabrasion. This is another way of gently removing the outer layer of the skin. “When you remove that dead layer of skin, you don’t see the lines as much,” says Dr. Levine.
  • Microneedling. This creates tiny needle pricks in the skin. They boost collagen production and promote healing.
  • Radiofrequency treatments. These can be done with or without microneedling. They heat the deeper layers of the skin. The heat causes collagen fibers to shrink and tighten.

If you’re concerned about your skin, reach out to a skin doctor. They can help find the best products and treatments for you. 


  1. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. Effect of the sun on visible clinical signs of aging in Caucasian skin. Published September 27, 2013. Accessed July 18, 2022.
  2. Molecules. Dual effects of alpha-hydroxy acids on the skin. Published April 23, 2018. Accessed July 18, 2022.
  3. Journal of Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. A clinician’s guide to topical retinoids. Published July 22, 2021. Accessed August 9, 2022.
  4. American Academy of Dermatology. Your winter skin survival kit. Last updated May 27, 2021. Accessed August 23, 2022.