Wrinkles and sun damage on the arms. Can it be improved?

I have sun damage and wrinkling on the inside of my arms where the elbow bends. Can I reduce the wrinkles with retinol? I have been using it and it seems that the lines are more noticeable. What type of non-surgical treatment, if any, can I have to lessen the wrinkles? Will lasers help?

I vote for working on sun damage and signs of aging in this order: your face, neck, and then chest. This “syncs up” the most visible areas. We all perceive, whether consciously or not, when there’s a big difference between the face, neck and chest. For example, your face looks pretty good, but your neck is blotchy and sagging, or your chest looks leathery with brown spots. Once your face, neck and chest are repaired, get maintenance steps in place to protect and preserve the skin in those areas. Next, turn to your arms, legs or pocket areas of fat on the body that could be contoured with Coolsculpting. So, on to the arms!

How to improve the skin on your arms (wrinkles and sun damage):

Sagging underarm area: 

First, get those triceps firm. This is easy. Look this up on the web and do the exercises 3 times a week or swim. Below are some great workout examples for your triceps from Real Simple magazine. Do that for 2-3 months. Whatever sag is left over is skin and fat. The newer underarm adapter head from Coolsculpting (more on Coolscultping treatment technology here) is the best treatment for this sagging underarm area. As the fat tightens, most people also see some tightening of the skin. You may need surgery for the excess skin if you are over 50 and have lost over 50 pounds.
Tricep workout for sagging underarms - Skintour skin care blog Tricep workout for sagging underarms - Skintour skin care blog

Inside of the elbow wrinkling: 

There really is not much to do about this that I know of. Stretching of the skin over time causes loss of elasticity there. The retinol you mention might help over time to prevent more. However, it probably won’t do much for what exists. See lasers below for a potential option.

Wrinkled skin on the outside of the elbow: 

Surgically removing the excess skin that causes wrinkles on skin around the elbow is an option. The scars from this are usually quite visible, though. Also, use a filler like Restylane Lyft or Voluma (high G prime), to replace the fat pad that was there. More on fillers, how they work, and average prices on my resource here.

Brown blotches and white spots: 

To treat brown spots on skin, go with a Fraxel Dual treatment. Repeat about 3 times over 6-12 months. The 1550 nm wavelength helps with texture/wrinkling and the 1927 helps with the blotchy part. Fraxel Dual can be combined the same day with a light IPL treatment (do it right before the Fraxel) for faster results.

Redness: 

Combine on same day an IPL treatment (this only is good for skin types 1-3), with a light CO2 laser over the top. Repeat about 3 times over 6-12 months. The IPL helps reduce the red and the CO2 breaks up the networks of blood vessels causing it.

A must have product for protecting skin from sun damage and preventing untimely wrinkling

If you want to improve your arms, sunscreen and protective clothing are a must. Every time natural light hits your skin you should have sunscreen and clothing (including when you’re in a car or sitting near a window). See my shop here for my top recommended sunscreen products for my patients. I have reviewed them all for you there.

Topical creams/lotions help prevent more sun damage and aging on the arms. However, they really don’t make much difference on the repair side (despite the companies claims). Just be aware that your goal here is prevention, not turning back the clock on what has already been done. There is still good value in them. Have correct expectations and you’ll be satisfied.

Hope this helps,  Dr. I

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Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

Ask me your skincare question!

Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skincare advocate.

  • All our content is written and researched by myself.
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