Collagen and elastin, collagen and elastin. You’ve probably heard these two words and over again when it comes to skincare. They’re what your skin needs to delay the appearance of aging, they say, and you nod your head and agree.
Yes, give me more collagen and elastin!
We talked about collagen in a previous post (“Could Collagen Hold the Key to Smooth Skin and a Healthy Heart?”), but we haven’t given elastin the same level of attention. We figured it was time to remedy that! So here’s all you need to know about elastin, and why it’s so important when it comes to the health and beauty of your skin.
What is Elastin?
Like collagen, elastin is a protein found naturally in the skin. The two proteins have different functions, though.
Both are made up of amino acids—the building blocks of proteins. Both form fibers or bundles that are woven together within the skin to give it structure and strength.
But while collagen is most responsible for the foundation basic structure and form of the skin, elastin is most responsible for the skin’s elasticity, or “stretchiness.” It’s made from a rubber-like protein that has elastic properties, which means it can “bounce back.”
When you have enough elastin, your skin can stretch and compress as needed—such as when you form an expression on your face—and then snap back to its original shape. Both collagen and elastin fibers can stretch, but elastin can be stretched much further and still return to its original shape.
Whereas collagen helps make your skin plump and full, elastin helps it to be pliable and firm. If you pull on your skin—on the back of your hand, for instance—and then let it go, the time it takes for it to snap back into place is a sign of how healthy your elastin is.
What Happens to Elastin As We Age?
Unfortunately, as is the case with collagen, elastin can degrade over time. The fibers become damaged, which means that your skin will not be able to rebound as well.
What’s worse, though we have many genes helping us to create collagen, we have only one gene that encourages the making of elastin. Once our supply of that gene starts to decline—which happens earlier than you may think—our supply of elastin can do the same.
Like collagen, elastin can also be damaged by UV rays, smoking, poor diet, and pollution. You can tell that your elastin is struggling when you start to see “expression lines” on your face, like the line that forms between your brows when you frown. If it fails to go away when you stop frowning, that means there is no longer sufficient or healthy enough elastin there to help the skin snap back.
Other signs that you are either low in elastin or that your elastin is damaged (or more likely, both), include the following:
- Permanent expression lines
- Thin and crinkly skin
- Wrinkles and fine lines
- Saggy, loose skin
How to Minimize Elastin Loss and Damage
The natural process of aging will affect the elastin in your skin, no matter what you do. You can, however, take several steps to minimize elastin loss and damage, so that the effects are delayed and less visible.
1. Protect Your Skin from UV Rays
As noted above, UV rays from the sun can damage both collagen and elastin fibers, and once they are damaged, elastin fibers, in particular, are usually very difficult to repair. Indeed, some studies have found that long-term UV radiation leads not only to wrinkle formation but decreases in skin elasticity and the curling of elastin fibers in the skin.
2. Eat a Healthy Diet
The nutrients in healthy foods help nourish the skin and repair damage. As long as you’re eating mostly fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, your skin will benefit. Try not to eat too much sugar and simple carbohydrates. They break down quickly in the bloodstream and can cause inflammation, which damages elastin.
3. Use Retinoids
Retinoids are a family of compounds derived from vitamin A. Several forms are used in skin care products for anti-aging purposes. They help encourage cell turnover, stimulate collagen, soften wrinkles, and fade pigmentation. They vary depending on their strength and side effects. More gentle forms are found in over-the-counter products, while stronger forms are found in prescription-only products.
There is some evidence that in addition to boosting collagen production, retinoids may also help increase elastin synthesis and improve skin elasticity.
4. Use a Quality Moisturizer
When your skin lacks moisture, it’s unable to repair itself as well as usual, and it also becomes more vulnerable to damage from UV rays and pollution. Using a quality moisturizer helps keep your skin hydrated and strong, so it’s better able to fight back against daily assaults.
Try our Calming Moisture! It’s packed with nourishing ingredients that help protect against damaging elements, boost collagen production, and help improve elasticity and firmness.
5. Get Enough Sleep
We talked about how sleep deprivation can make you look older in a previous post. The skin uses those nighttime hours to perform repairs. If you’re not sleeping long enough, you’re likely to see puffy, sagging skin. Shoot for 7-8 hours a night and if you’re having trouble, make sure you’re leaving your cell phone out of the bedroom.
6. Try Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs)
Gentle fruit acids like glycolic, lactic, and malic help promote cell renewal while stimulating collagen and elastin production. They can also help fade any fine lines and wrinkles you may already have. If you have sensitive skin, try spraying our Rescue + Relief Spray over your skin after your AHA treatment.
7. Practice Stress Relief Daily
When you are stressed out, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol, and we know that cortisol breaks down the collagen and elastin fibers in the skin. The higher your stress level, the more cortisol is produced, and the more skin fibers are damaged.
You can’t avoid stress completely, so make it a habit to practice a stress-relieving activity every day. Good options include going for a walk, meditating, doing yoga or tai chi, journaling, spending time with good friends or even with a pet, and playing a musical instrument or painting a picture.
Are you losing skin elasticity?