What Is Elastin and Why It’s Important For Springy Skin
Learn more about this powerful protein and its role helping your skin stays bouncy, tight and minimize sagging.
When it comes to skin care, you’ve probably heard the word collagen often and learned about the importance of what collagen does for your skin.
However, many of you might not have heard much about elastin and why this little compound in your skin dermis could be the missing link to having tight and bouncy skin.
As it turns out, collagen and elastin are two key proteins found in connective tissue that work together to maintain strong and firm skin.
With time, however, this duo of youth proteins sees a decline in production. While collagen and elastin are often mentioned together, there are many differences between these two proteins as each of them serve a different function.
Difference Between Collagen and Elastin
The emphasis in skincare and anti-aging products is often collagen, collagen, and more collagen.
The most abundant protein found in connective tissue, collagen is like the glue that holds cells together. It provides the skin with plumpness and firmness. While laser treatments, filler injections, and other procedures focus on replenishing collagen, the elastic and resilient qualities of the skin will be missing if the decline of elastin production is not addressed.
So it should not come as a surprise when it comes to maintaining beautiful, youthful skin, collagen and elastin work hand in hand.
Collagen makes your skin look plump and provides rigidity, while elastin keeps it elastic and pliable.
If you want to have firm, bouncy tight skin, you can’t have one and not the other.
What Is Elastin?
Elastin is present in many tissues in the body, including the dermis, lungs, and large blood vessels. But what does elastin do for our skin, exactly?
Although elastin only makes up about 2% of total protein in the dermis (unlike collagen that makes up more than 75%), it is crucial for providing the skin with resilience.
How Elastin Works
Elastin is a rubber-like protein that has elastic properties, as its name suggests.
Elastin allows the skin to “snap back” to its original shape after being stretched or contracted. As your skin loses elastin, it is no longer able to bounce back, so if your skin gets stretched, it will remain stretched.
An elastin fiber consists of a number of fibrils grouped together, and an elastin fibril is formed by multiple elastin molecules.
An elastin fiber can be stretched to about 200% of its original length before it breaks. In contrast, a collagen fiber is more similar to a shoelace in that it is not extensible, though it is strong.
A collagen fiber can only be stretched to about 110% of its original length.
So you can see why elastin is the missing link to bouncy, springy skin, which indirectly can help slow down and reduce skin from sagging.
How Loss of and Lack of Elastin Impacts How You Look
According to an interview with New Beauty editor Dr. Steven Fagien, in which he describes how lack of elastin impacts how we look:
“If you look at old skin, it’s obviously wrinkled, saggy and loose—that’s a sign that it’s missing collagen,” says Boca Raton, FL, oculoplastic surgeon Steven Fagien, MD.
“A loss of elastin in skin is like an old leather seat that has been sat in for years. At one time, the leather was tight, plump and cushiony, but over time, it buckles, thins and gets crinkly. The same phenomenon happens to skin. We lose the fabric in skin, plus what’s in between the layers of elastin.” Dr. Fagien adds that even if lasers are used to address aging skin and wrinkles, the quality of the skin and it’s pliability can only be improved slightly because collagen, not elastin, is being addressed.”
What Causes Elastin Production to Decline?
Your body produces elastin throughout childhood but stops producing elastin after puberty. Approximately 10% of the elastin in the body is lost over a lifetime, resulting in wrinkles and sagging skin.
The loss of elastin in the skin is caused by both intrinsic and extrinsic aging.
Intrinsic aging takes place over the course of your life. Regardless of how well you care for your skin, your skin becomes thinner and less resilient over time. While intrinsic aging inevitably leads to wrinkle formation, it is when extrinsic aging occurs that the effects of aging skin are magnified.
Extrinsic aging is often the result of poor lifestyle habits and environmental damage.
Not only does elastin biosynthesis slow down as you age, existing elastic fibers in your skin also start to degenerate and damage accumulates in existing elastin. This means that your skin loses its ability to rebound.
That’s why aging skin looks wrinkly, saggy, and loose. It is not unlike old leather furniture or car seats. While the leather seating may have looked plump and smooth in its early years, it starts to get thin, loose, and crinkly over time.
Sun damage exacerbates the degradation of elastin, though most elastin fibers in the skin appear abnormal in the skin after you reach about 70 years of age, even if the skin has been well protected from the sun over the years. Lifestyle factors can cause your skin to lose elasticity even before you reach your 70’s.
The more collagen and elastin that your skin loses, the more wrinkles and fine lines will appear on your skin. That’s why it’s so important to adjust your habits and skin care regimen to boost collagen and elastin levels in your skin.
How To Prevent and Minimize Elastin Loss and Damage
1. Protect Against UV Rays
Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun damages elastin fibers over time. As elastin fibers degenerate, the skin starts to sag and stretch out, and it eventually becomes unable to bounce back.
While you won’t notice sun damage when you’re young, you’ll definitely see the effects on your skin as you age. According to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, long-term UV-B radiation leads to wrinkle formation that is accompanied by decreases in skin elasticity and the curling of elastin fibers in the dermis.
Protect your skin by wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day to keep your skin looking its best and prevent elastin degradation from taking place. You should also avoid exposure to pollution, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, pesticides, toxins, and stress, all of which lead to collagen and elastin loss.
Supplement your skin with powerful Anti-Oxidants that will help protect your skin from free-radical damage.
2. Minimize and Avoid Stress
If you are constantly under stress, it leads to the overproduction of the hormone cortisol, which makes it difficult for your skin to repair itself and continue to produce collagen and elastin. Be sure to get exercise, plenty of sleep, and avoid stress to reduce cortisol levels.
Exercise is also a great way to firm and tone your whole body, which can also help prevent sagging skin due to gradual loss in elastin.
3. Limit Sugar Intake
Less sugar = better skin. Sugar consumption is a leading cause of premature aging. Sugary snacks might taste delicious, but the extra sugar in your bloodstream is detrimental to the collagen and elastin in your skin.
Also avoid bad sugar that can cause more harm than good.
Simple carbohydrates, including refined sugar and white bread, cause insulin levels to spike and create inflammation throughout the body. The inflammation produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin fibers. This makes your skin look dull and wrinkled.
Sugar molecules attach to the collagen and elastin fibers in your skin, in a process known as ‘glycation’. This leads to the formation of glycation end products, which cause the protein fibers to become stiff, weak, and discolored. The presence of glycation end products also makes your skin more susceptible to the free radicals in UV rays and pollutants like cigarette smoke.
How to Increase Elastin in the Skin
Aging and glycation are facts of life, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do about it. Diet, skin care, and lifestyle factors can and do make a difference.
Elastin is sometimes present in skin creams and serums, but as an ingredient in topical products, elastin cannot make it past your skin’s protective layer and take hold at the cellular level (dermis).
However, you can take elastin peptides orally as this is proven to combat the signs of aging.
Supplement Your Skin with Elastin Peptides
What are Elastin Peptides?
Marine elastin peptides consist of purified, hydrolyzed marine elastin. They are extracted from fish skin via a process called ‘enzymatic hydrolysis’. Marine elastin peptides have a low molecular weight — approx. 1,400 Daltons (Da) — making them water soluble, fully digestible, and highly bio-available.
Elastin peptide supplements protect elastin fibers by inhibiting elastase, an enzyme that attacks elastin. Marine elastin peptides also promote the biosynthesis of new elastin fibers. Additionally, elastin peptide supplements boost the synthesis of collagen fibers and stimulate skin cell proliferation.
Elastin Peptides Clinically Proven to Improve Skin Elasticity
In a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study published in 2015, researchers demonstrated that ingestion of elastin peptides significantly promoted elastin synthesis in the dermis layer of healthy women volunteers, and more notably, the women in the active group saw significantly improved skin elasticity (compared to those in the placebo group) after 4 weeks.
How much Elastin do you need to see Results?
The subjects in the clinical trial were given 30mg of elastin peptides per day for 4 weeks. Lower daily doses may also be effective.
For Best Results: You Need to Supplement Both Collagen and Elastin
Studies have shown that taking 10,000mg of hydrolyzed collagen per day for eight weeks increases the density of the dermis, decreases wrinkle formation, and improves skin smoothness and hydration.