Elastin: in Normal Skin and Damaged, How Does It Work?
Stretch Marks Info
What is elastin?
Elastin is a specialized protein found in the arteries, lungs, bladder, intestines, cartilage, ligaments, and skin. In each of these locations, its purpose is to provide flexibility. In connective tissues, the suppleness of elastin functions closely with the protein collagen, balancing the rigidity of collagen.
Elastin keeps the skin stretchy but firm, providing a snap-back reaction when tugged. Elastin returns the skin back to its regular shape after it’s been extended. It keeps skin from sagging as it expands and contracts during normal activities, like raising a limb, scrunching the brow, clutching an object or yawning.
Scientists view this protein as stable and durable. Elastin is impervious to the volatility and breakdown that characterizes most proteins. Because of its stability, the body stops making new elastin soon after puberty.
This is a major cause of aging.
What happens to elastin when the skin is overstretched?
Just like a rubber band that’s been extended beyond its capacity, overstretched elastin cells are damaged beyond repair. Skin with ruined elastin is furrowed or saggy or pouchy.
Elastin is located under the surface, in the middle skin layer, the dermis. This is the skin’s busy production center, where intricate composition and maintenance is carried out 24-7. Here lie the connective tissue, small blood vessels, nerves and cells that replicate the major skin component, collagen.
Collagen and its partner, the stable protein elastin, are fibers that interlace purposefully. They create the combination of plasticity and tautness that makes up normal skin. Sudden increases in growth or/and weight caused by puberty, pregnancy, fat gain or muscle gain, and the corresponding changes in hormone levels, wreak havoc upon skin where the stretching is greatest. Collagen production gets disrupted. Elastin looses its function. With the two main constituents malfunctioning, the dermis is likely to tear. These tears become visible in the surface skin layer, the epidermis, which has been considerably thinned by the stretching.
These visible tears are called stretch marks.
Is there a way to add new elastin?
There are anti-stretch mark lotions and creams that have collagen and elastin added. The promoters of these products make it all sound so easy…just rub the cream in and your skin will get perfect. But that’s just pie in the sky.
The trouble with these tonics is, the additives so needed to build up new skin aren’t likely to penetrate into the dermis, where all skin production takes place. The molecules of collagen and elastin are too big to get through. Another concern is the origin of the elastin supplement. It’s harvested from cattle and birds, and the medical community worries that this is a pathway for Mad Cow disease or swine flu. For those reasons, eventually these sources of elastin for humans may be taken off the market.
Meanwhile, the promoter of a lotion or serum that’s packed with elastin and collagen must specify the importance of vigorous massage to help open pores to let it in. If massage isn’t part of the instruction, then the advertising is really quite false. There’s only a chance that prior rubbing will work, but by directing the buyer to deeply massage before applying the serum, at least the promoter is in some way attempting to overcome the fact of non-absorption.
Accordingly, practitioners of laser therapy and microdermabrasion must firmly instruct their patients to apply lotions with elastin between treatments. The procedures stimulate natural collagen production, but elastin must be added. The procedures also break down corneocytes, the impermeable coating of the dermis. With that hurdle down, new elastin can get in, so this is the optimal time to use those lotions.
Wouldn’t it be great if elastin could replicate.
Imagine not needing a tummy tuck, or the tightening of saggy breasts. Imagine watching your tummy get right back to taut, before your baby’s first feeding. And imagine your breasts staying plump and firm always, just like they were when full of milk.
Keep working on it, venerable white coats. We’re waiting with baited breath.