6 Reasons Why Your Skin Is Getting Thinner

6 Reasons Why Your Skin Is Getting Thinner
Thin isn’t always a good thing. At least not when our skin is concerned. Think thin, saggy, wrinkled skin. Not very pretty huh? So having thick skin is good for once. But it’s a fact that as we age, our skin naturally becomes thinner due to a loss of collagen and elasticity. Our lifestyle and our choices of products and treatments may even accelerate this skin thinning process if we aren’t careful.

So what are the contributing factors to giving us thinner skin aside from medical problems? Here are six that I’ve come across based on reading as well as personal experience:

1.  Excessive sun exposure
Excessive sun damage is always a bad thing when it comes to our skin. I’ll say it’s the number one skin enemy that causes us to age rapidly. Why? Prolonged exposure to the sun breaks down collagen and elastin fibers in the deep layer of your skin. Over time, your skin looks thin, crepey and full of pigmented marks. Just look at the skin of those who love to sun tan and you’ll see what I mean.

Hence, to avoid having your skin lose elasticity and become more fragile too quickly, you should always use a sunscreen with SPF30 or higher. Most importantly, ensure your sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection. Believe me, this is going to be your skin’s long term savior!

2.  Over exfoliation
While exfoliation is often said to be an important step in skin care as it removes dead skin cells that build up on the surface, forced exfoliation result in an emergency message from the epidermis to the dermis requesting immediate assistance. And the only way to get replacement cells to the surface quickly is to increase turnover temporarily, according to Dr Ben Johnson.

It appears that if we “forcefully” repair the epidermal layer, it will then grab nutrients from the dermis layer, and as such, will cause the dermis layer to thin faster.  When our dermis layer thins, then our skin becomes prone to wrinkling and sagging. Also, remember that exfoliating the epidermis increases photodamage, which will further hasten skin aging.  So cosmetic procedures like microdermabrasion is not too good for our skin and might even cause it to become sensitive.

3.  Frequent aggressive treatments
While it is said that skin that is thin and fragile can be significantly rejuvenated with aggressive treatments such as peels and resurfacing with either chemicals or lasers, these cosmetic procedures can thin the dermis by 30% in one application (source).

I can’t say if it’s really 30% but I can definitely attest to laser treatments thinning out my skin after getting a few sessions of IPL done many years ago. So while laser treatments may help even your skin tone, you may have thinner skin to live with after one session too many.

6 Reasons Why Your Skin Is Getting Thinner
4. Ingredients that have exfoliating properties
Tretinoin creams like Retin-A or Renova; vitamin A derivatives called retinoids and including retinal and retinyl palmitate; AHAs like glycolic, lactic, tartaric, malic, alpha-hydroxyethanoic or alpha-hydroxycaprylic acid and sugar cane extract; BHAs such as salicylic acid – are said to be ingredients that contribute to our skin thinning. This is because these ingredients have exfoliating properties. In the same vein, we should also minimize our usage of natural and botanical ingredients with exfoliating properties.

5.  Long term usage of topical steroids
Long-term use of topical topical corticosteroids (simply called steroids for short) can weaken skin and the blood vessels in skin.  Topical steroids work by getting absorbed into the skin cells to stop these cells from producing various inflammation-causing chemicals that are normally released when the skin reacts to allergens or irritation.

Hence, avoid using topical steroids for longer than necessary. Some of these include Triamcinolone Acetonide, Betamethasone Valerate, Clobetasol Propionate, Diflucortolone valerate. amongst others and are said to be extremely potent in strength (source).

6. Low estrogen level
A low estrogen level in women can cause our dermis to become drier and more fragile. As such, women in their late 30s may begin to experience more wrinkles and sagging due to a reduction in their skin elasticity. If you’re experiencing this, you have to take care of your skin, avoid frequent exfoliation and harsh treatments plus maintain a healthy lifestyle in order not to accelerate the thinning process.

You may also want to know that there is also a variation in skin thickness during the menstrual cycle, with skin thickness lowest at the start of the menstrual cycle, when estrogen and progesterone levels are low, which then increases with the rising levels of estrogen (source).

I am not too sure if I have naturally thin skin but in the years I had acne, I used to exfoliate more than necessary because I want get rid of my acne marks quickly. So sometimes, I can exfoliate every day for a week.  However, it was good I kept that as a short term solution and reverted to my once-a-week exfoliation afterwards.

I also try to avoid using harsh ingredients whenever possible.  Of course I’m also looking at ways to thicken my dermis layer – as naturally as possible. I’ll discuss that in another post soon.


  1. youngorgeous says:

    does consuming collagen-based products help? I’ve been drinking Meiji collagen powder mix for about a week now…

  2. Gaelle Lehrer Kennedy says:

    What do you think of exfoliation? Do you think that the skin-thinning occurs if exfoliation is done too aggressively, or that it is always an issue with exfoliation, no matter how gently you do it? My experience has been that a gentle rub a couple of times a week really improves skin tone.

  3. youngorgeous says:

    I suppose it has to do with the products that we use? If the exfoliator is gentle enough for frequent use, it should improve skin tone without having any adverse effects.

  4. Raelynn says:

    garden of wisdom recommended me this serum for thinning skin although they did add a personal note that being gentle to the skin (i.e less/gentle exfo and less/no harsh procedures) should thicken the skin as well if care has been taken to help it rebuild.

    i do think that people who used over the counter skincare or treatments for acne during their puberty tend to have sensitive and thinning skin much earlier because these treatments tend to be too harsh even for skin that’s raging oil and pushing blemishes everywhere. and you’ll only come to realise the longer term damage it has done until it is too late.

  5. Susanna Hess says:

    You make some really good points. Thinning skin is no fun, and mine is naturally thinner as well. One of my daughters is the same way.

    One thing that also helps is eating plenty of fish and omega-3. This is because it’s not only the skin that’s thin, but we all have a healthy layer of fat under the skin of our face. This goes away as we age and consuming lots of healthy fats keeps the skin from thinning out so much, or so fast.

    I love your article, and those are all very great tips.


    Susanna Hess

  6. sesame says:

    The doctors will say no but those who have consumed will say yes. I’ve taken imeedeen some years back and they do plump up the skin while I was on it.

  7. sesame says:

    I think it depends on the type of exfoliation products, your age and your skin type. If the ingredients are gentle, it should be okay as you’re not stripping your skin unnecessarily. And with age, the advice is that we shouldn’t exfoliate as frequently. I do notice an improvement in my skin tone too…just that sometimes what we see maybe temporary and what goes behind that is not visible to us. So I say, exfoliate with care.

  8. sesame says:

    You’re right about the acne treatments. Many of my readers indicated that it gave them temporary relief but damaged their skin in the long run.

    There are many products that promise delivery to the dermis, just that do they really work? If they do, then yes, there would be that collagen thickening effect.

  9. sesame says:

    Ah…that’s an excellent tip! Eating more omega-3 foods can help. Avocado is also good, with its monounsaturated fat.

  10. tina says:

    hello sesame ! my comment has got nothing to do with the post , hehe but my sister recently tried putting thin potato slices on her scars and it helped with the fading . (: just to let you know to see if it helps since you did say before you have acne scars . i think she left it on for 15 mins then rinse off with water .

  11. zhenling says:

    i have thin skin too =[

    cant use anything too acidic and that rules most whitening skincare out.

    my skin breaks easily under extraction too. are there other solutions for clearing out pores?(other than exfoliation)

  12. youngorgeous says:

    the thing now is, I don’t know how to verify if I have thin skin or not..help?

  13. Ceriene says:

    I’m only eighteen, got fairly- er- durable skin and no problems with keeping my skin from getting thin. (I do wear sunscreen on a daily basis, naturally.

    My mom is a different story. She has rather delicate and dry skin, so she’s very careful about what she uses, putting on sunscreen, and exfoliating. However, she then went ahead and tried SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence, and while it seemed to improve her complexion in the short term, it severely thinned out her skin. After some investigating, I found that this wasn’t an uncommon thing, and that quite a few women found that the pitera (bacteria) in SK-II FTE thinned out their skin, as it is an exfoliating agent.

    It’s recommended for daily use, and I think that’s the main downside of it. It’s far too strong to use daily as instructed, and there aren’t any warnings about the skin-thinning/dulling side effects. And I’m sure SKII isn’t the only company to do so.

    Sorry for going off on a tangent there. It’s just something I wanted to bring up.

  14. stella says:

    this is why i’m not so keen on whitening products or laser procedures myself even though they work. however, am undergoing some laser resurfacing recently to get rid of old teenage acne scars (been putting up with them way too long especially now that i’ve clear skin!) and hope to stop after they’re gone!

  15. Raelynn says:

    personally i also dont know, because although my veins are not visible, they are constantly red from the weather, go red very easily from touching even when putting skincare products. so either way i know i have fragile skin. what makes you think that you have thin skin??

  16. Hanns says:

    great post! just a question: I’m planning to buy collagen supplements, the DHC ones.are they okay? it would be my first time.i dont have any ideas on how it affects the skin, good or bad.can you share a bit about using collagen supplements?thank you! I’d really appreciate it =)

  17. pf1123 says:

    For a while last year, I had thin skin.

    Its like the skin feels like its gonna break/peel if you stretch the facial muscles. If you use a sponge to wash your face, you will feel that your skin might crack and bleed upon the abrasion. (I have the habit of using a sponge to wash my face. At that time, I was not using too much strength.)

    But after a while, the condition is gone.

  18. Rinka says:

    great advice! but how can we tell if our skin is thin or not? like does it have a certain feel

    i never understand the point of microdermabrasion. i remember when l’oreal released the at-home microdermabrasion kit everyone went crazy, but isnt it basically very abrasive exfoliation? dermatologists dont really recommend it unless you have severe skin issues, not for everyday women…

  19. Joanna says:

    I have thin skin as well.. cos i have blackheads and i use to exfoliate very often to get rid of them, as well as acne marks too (just like you!) And also I’ve had allergic reaction on my face where i need to use topical steriods, otherise it’s itchy like hell!

    well what’s done is done, but I would be interested in how to thicken skin dermis!

  20. sesame says:

    Oh that’s interesting! Thanks for sharing. I know about potato slices on dark circles but didn’t think about it for marks! Will try it out soon as I’ve got some new potatoes. ?

  21. sesame says:

    How about purifying masks that you leave on and wash off? That’s one but whether it’s better than exfoliation is a question mark. The other is peeling mask. I’ve tried one from Living Nature where you apply, leave on for a couple of minutes and then roll off. So it’s not too harsh.

  22. sesame says:

    When you pinch your skin, is it thick or thin? Also, veins show up very easily on thin skin. And if your skin leaves marks and you get pigmentation easily, it’s probably thin too.

  23. sesame says:

    Oh no, you did not go off tangent! Thanks for sharing the info about what your mom used. I don’t think many pple are aware of Pitera being an exfoliating agent. I didn’t know that!

    I tried SK-II many years ago when they were just launched but I think I missed using the essence. I didn’t like it so never continued. As a whole, I stay out with those products that states whitening. I’ve used enough to know they don’t work well for me. Now, I only go for natural alternatives. My fave ingredient is vit C.

  24. sesame says:

    If you do laser, you must take care of your skin thereafter. The problem is, dermatologists do not generally tell us that laser will cause skin to become drier and we need to use more hydrating products. But mine did remind me about using sunscreen.

  25. sesame says:

    I can see my veins since I was a child. Many skincare experts who have seen my skin tells me the same too. And apparently, it’s genetic. But the interesting thing is, my skin is considered firm for my age.

  26. sesame says:

    From my experience, collagen supplements are good as long as you use them. If they work, they’re good. Most pple seem to be okay using them. I’ve read many raves on Fancl’s. But I had a friend who reacted badly to the Meji collagen drink though…so need to be careful.

    Personally, I would rather go for fish oil or omega supplements that can help the skin and the health.

  27. sesame says:

    Sounds kind of bizarre…but good thing your skin is back to normal. Could be something you used or just a change in your skin…

  28. sesame says:

    Try feeling your skin – when you pinch your skin, is it thick or thin cos if there’s not much feel, then the dermis is probably quite thin. Also, veins show up very easily on thin skin. And if your skin leaves marks and you get pigmentation easily, it’s probably thin too. Or ask an expert’s opinion.

    I think some women like microdermabrasion cos it gives them that clear skin. Some get it from the beauty salons and not the dermatologists so you can guess they’ve usually not well adviced.

  29. sesame says:

    Okay, I’ll do a bit more research before I write that post. But for a start, antioxidants are good! So is taking fish oil, omega supplements or avocado.

  30. stella says:

    yea i moisturized furiously! i love the results, my scars are really much less visible with one treatment, but i do wish i had all this info and the web when i was growing up to prevent the scars! i have thick skin to begin with so hopefully, the treatments wouldn’t thin it out too badly

  31. youngorgeous says:

    leaves marks and pigmentation? definitely! so thin skin am I then! Thanks dear!

  32. Lissy says:

    Hi Sesame
    Your postings are very informative, thanks. My problem is about thinning skin on my face and people have told me I look tired, and I’ve especially thin skin under the eye area. My forehead also has small indented pores, probably again due to fat loss. Was thinking about seeing a dermatologist to ask about Retinol A cream as it can help collagen production under the skin, but now I found out it may thin out the skin! Am also interested in yout thoughts on how to thicken the skin dermis.. besides putting on weight ?

  33. sesame says:

    Yeah, I wish I have more info when I was growing up. *sigh*

  34. sesame says:

    I think when our skin is dull, then we can possibly look tired. I used to have that problem. Sometimes, the issue is internal. I found detox, healthy diet and exercising helping me tremendously. Of course, the products I use help too but that’s contributing only 40%.

    I’ll put up that post about thickening dermis soon!

  35. Ceriene says:

    I don’t think it’s necessarily bad for you (the pitera), but I suppose it’s better to use it every once in a while, rather than regularly.

    But yes, I agree with you on loving Vitamin C as an ingredient. If you use it in the long term, it really gets your skin looking radiant. ? I am trying some natural products now (Jojoba Oil mix as a moisturizer and Tea Tree Hydrosol as a toner), but I don’t think I have the self-discipline to go all natural. I enjoy my korean and japanese skin care too much.

  36. sesame says:

    I’m more particular about going natural/organic for my face cos it’s counter effective to mix. But I do get curious about some of the Japanese brands.

  37. Lissy says:

    I’ve been doing some research Retin-A and Renova thin the epidermis but thicken the dermis (inner layers of the skin where collagen is produced). Can anyone share their experience about Retin-A cream? Thanks!

  38. Jo says:

    sorry but I am not very clear abt thin skin. how do u distinguish thick and thin skin?

  39. sesame says:

    Thin skin wrinkles up easily, is more prone to pigmentation and you can most probably see the veins or dark circles under the eyes. Thick skin, well, it’s the opposite. Those with this type of skin do not have so many lines even when they’re older.

  40. Jo says:

    that is very helpful info. thanks.

    i cannot find the link that you wrote abt how to thicken thin skin naturally….

  41. Shane says:

    Sadly, this is all another contradiction added to the never ending list. You had stated that Retin-A/Tretinoin etc. Thins the skin, yes we know, and with excessive use it is quite true. Though, the benefits from Retin-A also contribute to more collagen production, which increase elasticity and with that comes firmer skin. It’s yet another contradiction within itself. It’s like yes you can eat Lay’s Potato chips in moderation/healthy proportions, but consuming too much could very possibly cause cancer.

  42. sesame says:

    That ingredient is quite tricky. I met a couple of suppliers of beauty products and most of them mentioned that they would only recommend products containing that ingredient to those of really matured skin. It sounded like a last resort kind of thing to me…

  43. Ravi Dagar says:

    My Dr. treated my face with 50% Glycolic acid for ice pick scars, My skin is too down then non-peeled are, can somebody tell me how to restore this faded fat on my chick fastly? Or is it get equal to non-peeled area with the time.

    What is the speed of skin cells production in mm??

    Please reply soon

  44. Thelma says:

    Would taking a Vitamin C tablet or capsule form be as good as applying it to the face? Thanks!

  45. Sesame says:

    No, not as effective.

  46. Lara says:

    You said that the use on retin a cause skin thinning. I saw here a doctor who said that retin a help skins get thicken,here is the link http://www.realself.com/question/anything-thicken-thin-skin
    I also see in some forums about people who use steroids with retin a to avoid skin thinning.
    so ,retin a thickens or thin the skin?

  47. Sesame says:

    There is a outer and inner layer conflict – thins outside and thickens inside. But I’m uncomfortable using this ingredient over the run long.

  48. Kim Yong says:

    If you’re noticing that there is shinning on your face even if you don’t have oils on it, that can be considered as a sign. This can also be test by taking a picture and look to it. (Base on my experienced, there’s a spot on my face that shines)

  49. chhivhung says:

    Hi, So nice your article.
    I’m curious that Are there any ways to thicken the skin? I got laser treatments and it seems my skin face is redder. It had done 3 months already. Do u think my skin will turn normal? Could i apply Raw Honey alone on my face? Will it benefit my skin?

  50. Sesame says:

    You can try taking collagen supplements. Raw honey cannot thicken the skin nor increase the collagen. Topical application of vitamin C products can help too. I think your skin has become sensitized based on your description of it turning red after laser treatments.

  51. chhivhung says:

    So do u think, it will turn normal? i can see tiny blood vessel on my cheek… Do u know any thing can help this situation? Only my both cheek get redder under the sunlight. how much should i take Vitamin C perday? Im 21.

  52. shemina says:

    hai .i have some discoloration on my cheeks, dnt know wheather i have a thin skin, so how can i remove that discoloration?

  53. Sesame says:

    Try using vitamin C. But it depends on what’s causing your discoloration.

  54. En says:

    I read about your conversation with the other reader about SK II thinning the skin and I can’t help but butt in! I am also a victim of SK II facial treatment essence! :'( Not only did the SA not warn me about the exfoliating factor of FTE, she denied it when I asked her! And even persuaded me to carry on using it since I need at least 3 mths to know if a product suits me or not. My skin is now papery thin and there are many tiny lines on my forehead when u get up close. My skin is “radiant” but the shine is really from over polished skin! My pores are also opened up due to dryness/over-exfoliation. Someone should sue this unethical company with SAs who know nothing about their products yet charge so high prices. Can anyone advise me how to treat thin skin, what products should I use instead? Is this condition even reversible? I have been using retin A as I heard that it can help thicken the skin, my tiny lines seems to get a bit better but the skin remains very shiny and polished so I don’t know whether I’m doing the right thing or not.

  55. Ivan says:

    I heard from a friend told me that long term of using XX II products from Japan will thinner our skin easily . It that truth or it depand on the products ingredients? I like ur post so much n thanks for sharing Great Info:)

  56. Ivan says:

    Hi Viva, My skin is oily to combination with large pores on T zone plus mild sensitive , after using 2 weeks of SK II products , my skin getting better but what I concerned is I heard from friend told me that after prolong using SK II , the skin might getting thinner ?What do you think about SK II products? I am using the Men Facial Treatment Essence, Clear lotion,Skin Refining Treatment, Skin lift up lotion on daily basis, it that too much for me? Any other recommendation for my skin concern for an alternate skin routine regimen ?

  57. Sesame says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I’m not really familiar with SKII products but a reader pointed out the same thing you mentioned. Scroll up a little to see her comments. According to her, pitera is an exfoliating agent.

  58. Caroline says:

    Very informative post!

    For more skincare info, acne and acne scar product and treatment reviews, visit:-

  59. mark says:

    yes stocks from bones tightens skin visibly. as does sauna.

  60. Donna Warndorf says:

    How about using the dermapen? I’ve had that done several times and while I think it helps the face not look wrinkled I worry that it could case too much damage to the epidermis…it causes bleeding and swelling.

  61. Sesame says:

    I looked up dermapen…sounds a bit like dermaroller.

  62. Maddisen says:

    I’m only 19 but my skin is dry, dull, sensitive, saggy, crepey and easily impressioned (like if I give a light smile -no teeth smile- the lines stay visible for about 11 seconds. It’s VERY thin, you can see all my veins and my undereyes are dark as hell because you can see all that’s beneath it -kinda transparent almost.

    It’s also reluctant to take on product no matter how thin. I’m currently on Accutane (severe cystic acne too, yay) which speeds up cell turnover so I shouldn’t be exfoliating..so I don’t think it’s that my skin is too scaly + it’s too think naturally for that.
    Please note that my skin was this way long before Accutane. In fact, my skin was so dry before I haven’t even noticed a difference since being on Accutane. But yeah, product just has such a hard time absorbing into my skin -no matter how little I use at a time.
    I am VERY GENTLE with my skin -using ring fingers, tapping for absorption, sweeping motions are only done upwards and only JUST touching the skin, etc.

    I go out in the sun like..once every 3 months but I still wear sunscreen everyday.
    I always drink 4L water daily
    I eat a very healthy diet
    Honestly, I don’t exercise these days but when I did, it was no better
    Get as much sleep as I can (I have a great difficulty sleeping)
    I do soo much research into everything I put on my face.

    I have had crows feet since I was 8. PLEASE HELP, WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?
    Am I deficient in something perhaps?

    I can’t go to a doctor. I brought it up to two derms while trying to get prescribed Accutane but where I come from, doctors don’t care unless you’re dying from it. Skin is of priority in the beauty standard here -unlike in Asia.
    Ever time you’ve got a problem they just tell you to get some benzoyl peroxide and epiduo. It’s a nightmare.
    Besides that, my mum just thinks I’m a hypochondriac -she doesn’t care about skin.

  63. Maddisen says:

    that was no matter how thin the product was, just to clarify.

    I had my makeup done professionally once. Makeup artist are always harsh on skin but this one was okay because I told her about this. She was using a medium pressure but by the time she was done..my cheeks had become big, inflamed, saggy jowls. I looked like an Eddie Murphy character they had to use prosthetics to achieve. I looked like Will Smith in Hitch after he skilled the Benadryl.
    OH! another thing. I find it impossible to sleep on my back and whenever I wake up in the morning..my eyes are SUPER SWOLLEN..sometimes you can’t even see my mobile lid because the immobil lid just swallowed it up. Sometimes the swell lasts all day and I look disgusting. I can’t put any makeup on it.

    I imagine you’ll suggest that I’m VIT D deficient based off previous post but I live in what is known as ‘the sunshine state’ in Australia. Highest rate of skin cancer there than anywhere else. The sun is so harsh. In summer 15 min is PLENTY -it’s even listed as so on Gov. Sites. Besides that, I burn quicker than anyone I’ve ever met.

    I’m iron deficient if that helps.
    I hate red meat.

    Do I not have any..
    This VIT or that VIT
    This mineral or that mineral

    Alpha linoleum acid???
    I brought a WAY device and it said my skin was over %90 dehydrated and that my skin was in danger

  64. Holly says:

    Hi I have very thin skin.When taking a bandaid off it rips my skin off. I bumbed against a box and put a hole in my leg.I get steroid shots every 2 months for a bad back and I am also on fentanyl patches.Could this cause thin skin? Help!

  65. Andrewwwwwww says:

    Recently, I noticed how my skin gets thinner and thinner every time I use products for anti-acne and pimples. At first, those product cleared my face however, it made my skin as this as paper and I am easily get wounded with just bumps. I tried getting rid of those products but my pimples went back. Now, I am hooked up with the decision of using it again or not. What should I do now?

  66. Sesame says:

    What kind of acne products do you use? How about not using them? Try Thursday Plantation…they have some great acne prevention products. I get my son to use them now.

  67. Sahil says:

    My skin become thin because i am using steroids cream from last 2 years now recently i am using this from 4 month …brown spots on my forehead how to repair my skin can use retin a

  68. Sahil says:

    My skin become thin because i am using steroids cream from last 2 years now recently i am not using this from 4 month …brown spots on my forehead how to repair my skin can use retin a

  69. Naina Magrati says:

    Actually I wonder how people keep their skin so tight and healthy and super glossy. Here I found some major reason. Thank you very much for sharing your article.

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