The Secret to Perfect Skin?
Table of Contents
- Skin Structure
- Elastin vs Collagen
- Their Roles in Anti-aging and Skin Quality
- What can you do about it?
Most people tend to forget that skin is the largest organ of the human body. It is made up of several parts, including water, protein, lipids (fats), and different chemicals, each making up the different layers of skin and its structures. Obviously, your skin will change during your life, which can be for the better or for the worse. Because of this, it is a hot topic, particularly in the literature of anti-aging. Fortunately, the skin regenerates itself around every 27 days, meaning you can control certain lifestyle factors that will benefit your skin. These lifestyle factors include simple things, including drink plenty of water, maintaining clean skin habits, good nutrition choices, moisturizing, anti aging creams and using sun protection products.
Skin is composed of three major layers: epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis.
The epidermis is the thinnest and outermost layer. This layer protects you from the environment. It is made up of three major types of cells. Keratinocytes are cells that produce keratin, a major component of the epidermis layer. Melanocytes produce melanin, which is responsible for your skin pigment. Langerhans cells are responsible for preventing things from penetrating into your skin.
The dermis is the middle layer, which provides its full and plump shape and nature. This is the layer that gets damaged through aging and sun exposure that leads to wrinkles. This layer is composed of blood vessels, hair follicles, and oil glands. The pain and touch receptors are also contained in this layer.
The hypodermis is the fatty layer, also known as the subcutis. This layer holds the sweat glands, fat, and collagen cells. It helps conserve body heat while also protecting your vital inner organs. Damage to this layer can lead to sagging skin.
The two major proteins that are involved in skin and its structure are elastin and collagen.
Elastin is the elastic protein that gives structure to your skin and organs. This protein is affected by aging and other skin damage. It lies in the dermis layer of your skin. Elastin is responsible for your skin’s ability to stretch and recoil. It is the protein that allows your skin to snap back into place after being stretched or moved. Naturally, as we age, skin loses this ability to rebound and come back into place, which is due to the decreasing levels of elastin, resulting in sagging skin.
Collagen is the other protein that is the large component of skin. It is the most common protein in the skin, and it compromises around 75-80% of your skin. Similar to elastin, environmental factors and again reduce your body’s ability to produce collagen, resulting in wrinkles and fine lines. It has even been found that our body’s natural production of collagen decreases starting as early as in our 20s and 30s.
In the current market, there are numerous products and services available that claim to improve your skin by increasing your collagen production. Given their roles in your skin quality, it makes sense, but the important question is do these products and services work? These products vary from dietary supplements to topical creams to even surgical methods, such as lasers. For those of you who have seen such advertisements, you might also ask yourself why the emphasis seems to be much more on collagen than elastin. This is largely due to the fact that the products that contain elastin cannot make a meaningful difference on the cellular level. Despite the presence of elastin as an ingredient, it cannot penetrate the skin past a protective layer, meaning it does not effectively make a difference for your skin. Conversely, collagen production can be increased through, lasers, fillers, and other treatments. These procedures and products produce an improvement in skin quality, but the reason it does not produce truly long-lasting results is that they do not address the problem of elastin. This is why collagen injections do not lead to long-term benefits. It is simply addressing the problem of making skin plump again without making the skin elastic and firm again. Dermatologists actively acknowledge that both elastin and collagen must be addressed in order to truly improve your skin quality and fight the aging process. They have crucial and supporting roles in skin function.
As discussed, collagen production can be more heavily influenced than elastin. Because of this, wrinkles can be affected and treated more so than sagging skin. Although this news is promising, the only proven way to increase collagen and elastin production is by stimulating the fibroblast cells that produce them. This can be done through cosmeceuticals that contain prescription retinoids, retinol, or other peptides, or dermatologic procedures. Although these methods can improve skin quality, the best method would be to prevent skin damage rather than trying to reverse it. You can also increase collagen production through a balanced diet and proper hydration.
Sun exposure is also an environmental factor you can control since UV damage is one of the largest factors in skin quality. Utilize sun protection products every day, as it will not only protect your skin from cosmetic damage such as wrinkles and skin damage, but it will also decrease your risk of skin cancer. Collagen and elastin are important proteins in your skin and addressing the problem of aging skin is a difficult problem, but there are lifestyle factors you can control that will have a meaningful impact on improving skin quality and preventing skin damage. Although collagen production can be increased, it is more difficult to address the problem of elastin. If you are truly concerned about your skin, please seek the consultation of your primary care provider or a dermatologist to discuss your individual risks and conditions.