While collagen may be the beauty buzzword of the moment and the most plentiful protein in the body, elastin is starting to get its own little bit of buzz and rightfully so. But what exactly is elastin and what are the beauty benefits of elastic fibers in the skin?
Elastin is a protein naturally produced within the body. Elastin is formed of peptides, fibroblasts, and amino acids, which are structured in a particular shape that determines its function. Elastic fibers are bundles of elastin found within the dermis (middle layer) of the skin, as well as in blood vessels, the lungs, ligaments, and more. Elastin’s main purpose is to provide flexibility to cells.
While both elastin and collagen are proteins often referenced together, their functions are very different, but they play well off each other. In terms of their roles in skin health, collagen is a structural protein that builds the foundation of the skin. Located in the hypodermis (inner layer) of the skin, collagen affords strength, whereas elastin, located closer to the surface than collagen, affords flexibility. In fact, elastin is approximately 1,000 times more flexible than collagen. Due to their flexibility, elastic fibers allow skin to stretch and contract before snapping back to its original form. This rubber band-like function is essential for conveying emotions through expressions and to move about freely in our own skin.
As mentioned, elastin allows us to convey expressions and move our body in ways that may otherwise be impossible without this elastic characteristic. The beauty benefit here is that we can convey worry, happiness, sadness, or anger without having those expressions lead to permanent stretching of the skin. Likewise, for those who happen to sleep on their side or stomach, thanks to elastin, the stretching of facial skin against a pillow while you sleep doesn’t become permanent (although it could still cause wrinkles). Elastin is also to thank for a smooth, firm jawline and a youthful-looking complexion.
While elastin may be one of the longest-lasting structures in the human body, the protein isn’t immune to degradation. In fact, while elastin’s half-life point only hits when we’re around 74 years old, damage caused to elastin is much more difficult to heal, particularly because there is only one gene that produces tropoelastin, the building block required to create elastin. While internal factors associated with genetics and aging can cause early elastin degradation, external factors, such as pollution or sun exposure, are the main culprits behind the premature degradation of healthy elastin and decreased elastin production well before we reach our seventies. Add to this the fact that elastin production decreases rapidly after birth to the point that a minimal trickle is produced by middle age, and the odds tend to be stacked against us. For this reason, prevention is key to maintaining healthy elastin.
Sunscreen is essential to any anti-aging toolkit to prevent sun damage and, in this case, subsequent elastin degradation, while topical application of the retinoid tretinoin has been associated with improvements in the quality of elastic fibers, making it an effective treatment to reverse UV damage already done. Supplements may also be effective in assisting elastin production. A copper supplement can assist in preventing elastin damage, and studies have shown that a vitamin A supplement may increase elastin production by 300%.
In terms of aesthetic treatments, microneedling may effectively boost collagen and elastin production, though the visible effects in tightening skin are limited. Anti-aging treatments focusing on firming up skin specifically may be a better bet for improving the appearance of lax skin under the chin or along the jawline. Safe for all skin tones, these treatments utilize radio frequency technology to deliver uniform heat well below the skin’s surface, kickstarting skin’s natural collagen and elastin production. Finally, for a multi-tasking and effective approach to firming up lax skin and treating other common signs of aging, consider a combination anti-aging aesthetic treatment with TriBella™ from Venus Versa™. TriBella™ combines photofacial, anti-aging, and skin resurfacing treatments using a three-phase approach and complementary cutting-edge technologies for noticeably smoother, firmer skin.
To learn more about Venus Versa™ TriBella™ treatments or to discover other elastin-boosting treatment options to match your anti-aging goals, contact a certified treatment professional near you today using our search field below.