What is Skin Elasticity & How Can You Improve It?








Reference Lab

FEB 18, 2023



Your body is always in motion, and whether you’re running, sitting, or smiling, your skin moves with every action. So what gives your skin the wonderful ability to stretch with your movements? The primary proteins that provide skin its elastic quality are elastin and collagen and it is their progressive decline that leads to loss of skin elasticity with age. While some loss of skin elasticity is a natural part of aging, there are steps you can take to slow the process down and restore elasticity.

What is meant by skin elasticity?

One hallmark of youthful skin is its elasticity. This refers to your skin’s ability to bounce back into place after it stretches or bends. Like a new rubber band, skin elasticity is highest when the skin is young. However, as the years go by, elasticity naturally declines1. This loss in the skin’s elasticity is often most notable on the face. That’s because the skin on your face works harder than the skin on other areas of your body. The human face includes over two dozen muscles on each side, and your skin stretches and contracts even with the tiniest muscle movements. Like a rubber band, your skin snaps back less readily after repeated use.

What is considered a good level of elasticity in skin?

The two proteins most responsible for your skin’s elasticity are collagen and elastin. Therefore having high levels of each is important for maintaining optimal elasticity.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, providing structural integrity and connecting cells together2. With collagen accounting for two-thirds of the dry weight of your skin, it’s no wonder that a reduction in this protein can lead to a loss of elasticity and skin firmness3.

Elastin is the protein that gives tissues and organs the ability to recoil – or bounce back – after stretching. This type of protein is called an extracellular matrix (ECM) protein. Heart valves, blood vessels, and skin all have elastin, allowing them to stretch and spring back to their original form4. Therefore, a reduction in elastin leads to skin creases and sagging.

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Where are elastin and collagen most important?

These proteins give your skin its stretch and bounce. And while it’s easy to believe that wrinkles and even stretch marks occur because of the very top layer of skin, the true answer lies deeper than you think. Between the skin’s three primary layers, it’s the lower layers (dermis and subcutis) that contain the most collagen and elastin.
  • Epidermis: The epidermis is the outermost layer of your skin. This is the layer that is visible to you.
  • Dermis: The middle layer of skin is called the dermis.
  • Subcutis: The deepest layer of skin is called the subcutis (subcutaneous), which mainly contains fat cells and connective tissue.
The first layer of skin, the epidermis, is made up of hard cells called keratinocytes. This layer acts as a shell and is the thinnest layer of skin. The epidermis helps maintain your skin hydration levels, sheds older skin cells, and makes melanin, which gives skin its color5).

Unlike the epidermis, the dermis is the thickest layer of skin. While most cells in the epidermis are keratinocytes, the dermis is composed primarily of ECM tissues. These long fibers – made of elastin and collagen – account for the skin’s tensile strength and elasticity. The ECM bundles throughout the dermis increase in size the deeper into the dermis you go. Because the dermis contains these highly structured ECM fibers, this layer supports the epidermis and distributes vital nutrients to the upper layers6.

Though the subcutaneous layer, also called the hypodermis, contains collagen, it’s also where most of the body’s fat is stored. This layer of fat helps regulate the body’s temperature and cushions bones and muscles. The collagen and elastin found in the subcutaneous layer serve as structural support but mainly to adhere the skin to the muscles and bones beneath it. So, while it may appear as if the epidermis causes creases and wrinkles, the lower layers of skin are the most impactful when it comes to skin structure.

What Causes Skin to Lose Its Elasticity?

The loss of skin elasticity stems from a variety of factors but maintaining healthy habits and an overall healthy lifestyle can help optimize elasticity levels as we naturally age. Levels of both collagen and elastin decline with age7. However, if you are wondering, “what age does skin lose elasticity?”, it’s important to note that age isn’t the only reason. Along with age, other factors can also accelerate the breakdown of these two proteins.


UV Rays (sun exposure)

Solar elastosis is the breakdown of elastin resulting from sun exposure or other sources of UV rays8. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), sun damage is one of the most preventable causes of crepey skin 9. UV rays age your skin, whether the source is the sun or a tanning bed. Long-term exposure to UV degrades elastin and collagen, damages skin cells, and impairs the skin’s ability to heal itself.


Smoking

Research also shows that the skin of 30-year-old smokers already shows creasing and lines typically only seen in the skin of non-smokers who are 40 or over10. Another research study found a correlation between skin elasticity and lung function in smokers. Because smoking breaks down collagen and elastin and causes inflammation, skin aging may be a sign of reduced lung function in smokers11. As it turns out, poor skin elasticity in smokers may be a strong indication of impaired lung function.


Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes can significantly impact the appearance of your skin. During menopause, for example, the rapid drop in estrogen levels causes a reduction in collagen. Studies show that in the first five years after menopause, about 30% of collagen is lost12. Some medical conditions and medications can also cause rapid hormonal changes, which may disrupt the body’s collagen levels. Without sufficient levels of collagen, skin becomes wrinkled and less elastic.


Diet

Free radicals are compounds that are harmful to the cells in your body, causing oxidative stress. Skin cells are especially vulnerable to free radicals because of their direct exposure to the sun and the environment. A diet high in fruits and vegetables helps to counter the effects of free radicals through antioxidants. Consuming a diet that includes healthy fats, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E helps slow skin aging13.


Other Causes of Poor Skin Elasticity

Factors such as where you live and your activities also significantly affect your skin’s elasticity. For example, individuals who live in dry and desert conditions may see a greater elasticity loss than those who live in areas with less direct sunlight and more moisture.

Other factors include:
  • Pollution
  • Stress
  • Genetics
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Weight loss
Additionally, repetitive movements or habits play a role in the loss of skin elasticity. Repeatedly rubbing the eyes or squinting, for example, may cause accelerated loss of elasticity around the eyes and early development of skin creases. The more often you tug or stretch your skin, the greater the chances are for wrinkles and sagging.

How Do I Know If I Have Poor Skin Elasticity?

Early identification of poor skin elasticity will give you the greatest chance of restoring skin elasticity.

The following are signs that you might be losing skin elasticity:
  • Loss of firmness
  • Loss of radiance
  • Deep wrinkles
  • Sagging
  • Loose skin
While skin wrinkles may appear superficial, much of the loss in elasticity starts at the deeper layers. Skin that looks dry and thin is less elastic than plump and well-hydrated skin.

At what age do you start to lose skin elasticity?

Research into skin aging and wrinkling indicates that around 33% of the population shows signs of poor elasticity in their twenties, though severe skin damage is rare at that age. That said, symptoms of poor skin elasticity can occur at any time in adulthood, especially in people who smoke or have had high exposure to UV rays.

For women, however, the loss of skin elasticity accelerates after menopause1. And while it’s great that humans are living longer, this longevity means that women spend an increasingly larger portion of their lives in a postmenopausal state.

Estrogen is necessary for the development of collagen and elastin. Therefore, the steep decline in estrogen that occurs with menopause causes the skin to lose much of its elasticity. After the initial rapid loss of collagen in the first five years of menopause, women lose about 2% of their skin’s collagen every year for the next two decades14. Though menopause and skin changes can occur for women, men can also see a decline in elasticity later in life, typically due to sun exposure, dehydration, or aging. To keep skin supple and elastic throughout your life, it’s best to start caring for your skin in your earlier years.

Is It Possible to Restore Skin Elasticity?

hile a loss in skin elasticity is natural with age, you can take steps to restore it. Here are a few guiding tips to prevent accelerated loss of elasticity:
  • Avoid smoking
  • Limit exposure to UV rays
  • Remain hydrated
  • Consume a healthy and varied diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight for your body

How Can I Increase My Skin Elastin?

Increasing your skin’s elastin content is possible. Some women turn to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to fight against the body’s loss of estrogen and counter the effects of menopause, like collagen and elastin declines, bone loss, and hot flashes. However, HRT is still not considered completely risk-free by some physicians, leading many to opt out of this treatment.

Laser treatments, often conducted in a physician or licensed esthetician’s office, can improve elasticity and encourage collagen production. Two of the most commonly-used laser treatments – non-ablative fractional laser (NAFL) and intense pulsed light therapy – are same-day treatments. Though effective, these aging skin treatments are costly and, sometimes, painful.

Skin topicals can be effective at improving skin tightening and smoothness. They’re also a much less invasive option than laser or hormone treatments. However, not all topicals are the same. Although many skin care topicals claim to increase elastin and improve skin firmness, some don’t contain effective ingredients, and if they do, many don’t penetrate deep enough into the skin to encourage elastin and collagen production. Because these proteins exist in large amounts beneath the first layer of skin, penetrating into the deeper skin layers is essential.

OneSkin’s Effect on Elasticity

Topical skin care products like OneSkin’s comprehensive skin health line is powered by the OS-01 peptide, which targets signs of aging skin at the source. Integral to OneSkin’s R&D process is penetration studies, to ensure that each product delivers the OS-01 peptide to the deeper layers of the skin.

OneSkin’s Topical Supplement for the face, OS-01 FACE, is clinically validated to improve skin elasticity in 90% of users, shown in a 12-week clinical study performed by a third-party contract research organization (CRO).

Additionally, OneSkin’s Topical Supplement for the eyes, OS-01 EYE, is scientifically proven to increase a key marker associated with collagen production, COL1A1 and decrease a key marker associated with collagen degradation, MMP1, in ex vivo human eyelid skin.

Finally, OneSkin’s Topical Supplement for the body, OS-01 BODY, has been scientifically proven to increase skin’s epidermal thickness in ex vivo human skin samples.

Key Takeaways:

  • Skin elasticity refers to your skin’s ability to bounce back after stretching.
  • Loss of skin elasticity increases the risk of wrinkles, sagging, and creasing – all signs of aging skin.
  • The two proteins responsible for maintaining skin elasticity are collagen and elastin, both of which decline with age, sun damage, and a variety of other factors.
  • OneSkin’s OS-01 FACE, OS-01 EYE and OS-01 BODY encourage collagen and elastin production, resulting in healthier skin.

Sources:

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320789
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262881#collagen-explained
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846778/
  4. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcell.2021.596702/full
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6540032/
  6. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/22357-dermis
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8239663/
  8. https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/solar+elastosis
  9. https://www.aad.org/media/stats-numbers
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11895509
  11. https://respiratory-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12931-019-1098-7
  12. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352647519300012
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20085665/
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2613964/

Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

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