One simple test for skin aging is to check how long it takes for the skin to snap back after being pinch-pulled away.
Young skin snaps back almost immediately. The old one takes up to several seconds. The reason for such difference is quantity and quality of elastin in the skin.
The amount of elastin in the skin usually peeks in adolescence or early adulthood and declines thereafter. Fibroblasts in older skin have a much reduced capacity to produce new elastin. This deficiency does not appear to be a result of the loss of fibroblasts or mutations in elastin-encoding genes. More likely, age-related changes in the skin's biochemical environment shut down elastin production. Therefore, at least in theory, elastin production can be restored to its youthful levels with proper biochemical signals.
Boosting elastin in the skin is a somewhat neglected topic in skin care. In part, this is a result of excessive focus of cosmetic industry and dermatologic research on collagen - arguably at the expense of elastin. The skin's collagen content and composition can be increased/improved by a number of topical formulas (e.g. ascorbic acid, copper peptides, etc.) as well as procedures (lasers, resurfacing and so forth). Unfortunately, much less is known about boosting the skin's elastin. Yet it is just as important for successful skin rejuvenation. Below I list a few approaches that show at least some promise to restore and/or preserve elastin levels in aging skin. However, as of the time of this writing, none is reliably proven to do so.
In a tissue culture study, retinoic acid (a.k.a. tretinoin, Retin A, Renova) was shown to increase elastin synthesis in chick embryonic vascular smooth muscle cells up to 2.8-fold. Interestingly, retinol (a form of vitamin A often touted in skin care as a better tolerated substitute for retinoic acid) had no effect on elastin synthesis in that study. There is some ground to believe that topical retinoids may also stimulate elastin synthesis in the human skin. But any definitive research to that effect is lacking.
Studies demonstrated the ability of zinc complex to increase epidermal thickness, augment hypodermal fat and tropoelastin mRNA as well as increase elastin content. See study. The product here supposedly is the only product that contains zinc complex that increases elastin.
Skin rejuvenation is not just about producing more of the key components of the skin matrix, such as collagen and elastin. It is also about protecting the one you have from excessive degradation. Such degradation is caused primarily by the enzymes matrix metalloproteinases (MMP). There are many types of MMP and some are involved in breaking down elastin: MMP-2, MMP-9, MMP-12, and possibly others. Inhibiting these MMP may increase the skin content of elastin by reducing the rate of its degradation.
Fibroblasts synthesize the immature soluble form of elastin (tropoelastin), which then permeates the dermis and fuses into an elastic web. What if tropoelastin were applied to the skin in a cream? Would that help? At least one skin care company, DermaPlus, Inc. (not affiliated with this site in any way), sells topical tropoelastin in a cream called DermaLastyl. The company claims that their products increase skin content of elastin, thereby reducing wrinkles and firming skin. Unfortunately, their research data have not been published in any peer-reviewed research journals. Furthermore, large molecules like tropoelastin generally do not penetrate into the dermis easily enough to produce clinically significant effects. Some skin penetration (all the way into the dermis) is occasionally possible even for large molecules, including certain proteins. However, the claims that topical tropoelastin restores youthful levels of dermal elastin will require solid, independent scientific evidence before they can be taken seriously.
One food that you can incorporate into your diet for the purpose of replenishing elastin in your skin is Brazil nuts. Brazil nuts contain proteins like elastin and selenium, a substance that can act as a strong antioxidant. Antioxidants like selenium help rid the body of harmful free radicals that can deplete the amount of elastin in your skin cells, thus leading to increased wrinkles and drooping skin. In addition to these skin benefits, Brazil nuts also contains the mineral zinc, which helps with skin inflammation problems, skin cell growth, maintenance of collagen and elastin, and dry skin-related problems such as eczema and psoriasis. Peek at the selection of brazil nuts on Amazon.
Ethocyn (ethoxyhexyl-bicyclooctanone) is a small molecule tht easily penetrates into the dermis. It is claimed to specifically increase the synthesis of elastin to the levels seen in early adulthood. At present, the evidence backing such claims appears sparse. Try it for yourself; this is the only cream on Amazon that contains ethocyn. It is very expensive (worth it if you have the money) so it wouldn't hurt to look around for a better deal if you so wish.
Rarely used in skin-care products, dill came to prominence after Aveeno began promoting its elastin-regenerating properties in their Ageless Vitality products. There is one study indicating that on human skin samples and on "dermal equivalents" (which is not the same as intact human skin), dill generates key enzymes in skin that trigger elastin production, although no mention was made of dill being able to repair damaged elastin. Therefore, all we know is that dill seems to have this effect on isolated skin cells responsible for elastin production, but that doesn't necessarily translate to your skin.
Other Ways To Boost Elastin
Pycnogenol - It binds and protects collagen and elastin. Evidence by in vivo and in vitro studies that binding of Pycnogenol to elastin affects its rate of degradation by elastase. Biochem Pharmacol 33: 3933-3939, 1984.
Grape Seed - Extensive research suggests that grape seed extract is beneficial in multiple ways because it protects and renews collagen and elastin growth. "Women's Health" magazine considers grapeseed extract one of the top supplements for women as it reverses wrinkles, and maintains elastin and collagen.
Copper - The body uses metals to transmit oxygen through the body and contribute to skin and hair pigmentation. The Vitamins and Nutrition Guide writes that copper is necessary for bone, organ and connective tissue growth. The Connective Tissue Disorder Site writes that copper regulates the enzyme lysyl oxidase, which helps collagen and elastin work together. Elastin breakdown may actually be a sign of a copper deficiency. The CTDS reports that desmosine levels in the urine can indicate the body's elastin strength. Low levels of the amino acid can indicate elastin weakness and a potential copper shortage.
Quality Protein - Make sure you are consuming enough protein to stimulate elastin and collagen production. Proteins make up your muscle mass and the elastin and collagen in your skin. Consume at least two servings of quality protein daily.
Manuka Honey - Studies have shown that Manuka honey supports renewal of new skin cells. It also helps the body in producing more collagen and elastin.
Tea - White and green teas may help people retain a more youthful appearance by promoting collagen and elastin health.
CoenzymeQ10 - Studies have shown that CoQ10 supplements may help increase collagen and elastin in the skin, and help repair damaged skin cells.
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