Elastin and Youthful Skin

While collagen is a key factor in maintaining healthy, beautiful skin, there is another protein in our skin that is equally important for the health and appearance of our skin: elastin. Elastin is a protein found in the skin and connective tissue throughout our bodies. It keeps our skin flexible and tight, allowing tissue to return to its original shape after stretching or contracting. Elastin also keeps skin smooth as it stretches to accommodate our daily activities, such as muscle flexing and talking.

What is Elastin?


Elastin is composed of the protein fibrillin and 830 amino acids such as glycine, valine, alanine, and proline. It is made by linking soluble torpoelastin protein molecules, and serves important functions in our arteries, assisting blood flow, as well as our lungs, elastic ligaments, skin, bladder, elastic cartilage, intervertebral disc above the sacroiliac, and large elastic blood vessels such as the aorta.

As with collagen, elastin is produced by fibroblasts—connective tissue cells present in the dermis. These fibroblasts secrete soluble tropoelastin molecules, an immature form of elastin, that are cross-linked in a reaction catalyzed by the enzyme lysyl oxidase. This reaction creates a durable, resilient network of elastin fibers that operates similarly to latex.

The younger and healthier your skin is, the more elastin it contains, and the faster it goes back into place when contorted. Older skin takes several seconds to be restored to its natural place, while young skin does so instantaneously. You can test the elastin level in your skin by pinching the back of your hand and watching how quickly it snaps back into position when you release it.

Elastin levels in our skin reach their peak during our adolescent years, and decline once we reach our twenties. The fibroblasts present in older skin are significantly less capable to develop new elastin, most likely due to changes in the skin’s biochemical development. Elastin production appears to just stop over time, without any loss of fibroblasts or alterations in elastin-encoding genes. Theoretically, elastin production should thus be able to be stimulated by providing the appropriate biochemical signals to

The levels of elastin in the skin usually reach a high in the adolescent years and decline as the individual reaches their 20s. Older skin's fibroblasts have a considerably reduced capacity to develop new elastin. This lack does not seem to be a consequence of the loss of fibroblasts or alterations in elastin-encoding genes. It is more likely that aging has an effect on the skin's biochemical development and that elastin production just stops over time. In theory, elastin should be able to be produced at youthful levels if given the appropriate biochemical signals.
 

How Can I Raise the Elastin Levels in my Skin?


With a disproportionate emphasis being placed on collagen in dermatological research and the cosmetic care industry, elastin is a commonly overlooked area of skin care. The strong focus on collagen has actually led to research into elastins being neglected over time. Numerous collagen enhancing products and procedures exist, such as topical compounds like absorbic acid and copper peptides, and treatments such as laser procedures, peels and resurfacing. The same can unfortunately not be said for products and procedures to boost the skin’s elastin levels, despite it’s comparable importance in the rejuvenation process and overall health and appearances of our skin.

A few methods, however, have had some level of success in maintaining or restoring elastin levels in aging skin. Though unproven, the following substances and means are thought to achieve this task to some extent.
 

Retinoic acid


Retinoic acid, also known as tretinoin, Retin A or Renova, has been proven to increase the growth of elastin up to 2.8% in the embryonic vascular smooth muscle cells of chicks. Retinol, a form of vitamin A, often considered to be an alternative to retinoic acid in the skincare industry, had no effect on elastin production in the study, however. While topical retinoids may raise elastin synthesis on human skin, there hasn’t been any conclusive study done on the subject. (See also: articles on tretinoin and other retinoids)
 

MMP inhibitors


Skin rejuvination is about more than just stimulating production of the key components that make up our skin. It’s important to also protect our skin from excessive breakdown, caused by matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) enzymes, which come in various forms. These enzymes are responsible for breaking down elastins in our skin, and slowing them down may increase overall elastin content.
 

Controlled Tissue Injury Procedures


Laser treatments and peels are just two of many procedures done to rejuvenate the skin. This is done through controlled tissue injury, followed by remodeling the skin to produce a new skin matrix, and often has the effect of making skin look younger and healthier. While the main protein produced during the healing process is collagen, elastin levels are also raised, at least in the interim. It’s currently unknown whether such procedures can lead to continuing improvement of the thickness and quality of elastin, or whether the effects are merely temporary. (See our section on noninvasive procedures).
 

Topical tropoelastin


Fibroblasts synthesize the immature, insoluble form of elastin (tropoelastins), which then attach themselves as an elastic web to the dermis. A product has, in fact, been created to topically apply tropoelastin to the skin in the form of a cream that allegedly boosts elastin levels, reduces wrinkles, and tones the skin. The effectiveness of this product is unknown, and none of their relevant research has been published in research journals. In fact, it is unusual for proteins with a large molecule makeup, such as tropoelastin, to penetrate the skin to the extent of having a measurable result. While minor skin penetration, to the level of the dermis, is occasionally possible, this occurring to the drastically rejuvenating extent boasted by the producer of this product is unlikely. More solid, published scientific evidence is needed on this subject.
 

Ethocyn


Ethoxyhexyl-bicclooctanone, commonly known as ethocyn, is a small molecule, and can thus easily be absorbed down as far as the dermis. While his molecule is believed to raise elastin production levels to those of the young adult years, again, concrete scientific evidence is lacking.

Skin is actually an organ, and it is indeed, the largest organ in the body. Skin serves a very important set of functions in the body. It regulates body temperature, maintains water and electrolyte balance, and senses painful and pleasant stimuli. The skin keeps vital chemicals and nutrients in, while providing a block against dangerous substances trying to access the body and it also ensures a shield from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun.
The skin is the body’s largest organ, measuring about one eighth of an inch thick, and comprising roughly 10% of our total bodyweight. Skin consists of two layers: a protective outer layer, just 1/250th of an inch thick, known as the epidermis, and a slightly thicker inner layer, called the dermis.
Our skin plays an important role in maintaining a normal core body temperature. When the body overheats, fewer nerve impulses are sent to the blood vessels in the skin.
The main skin matrix fillers are glycans (a type of glucose based polymers that include glycosoaminoglycans and proteoglyans). In so far as skin rejuvenation goes the key glycan is hyaluronic acid (otherwise known as hyaluronan, hyaluronate or HA).