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What is elastin?

We mention elastin quite often, particularly in relation to anti-aging treatments. But what exactly is elastin? And why is it important?

Definition of elastin

Elastin is a protein which occurs in connective tissue (tissue which joins cells together). It’s critical to the elasticity and resilience of our tissues and is found in many different parts of the body, including large arteries, lungs, ligaments, tendons, cartilage and skin.

Elastin is produced by the body until the end of puberty. Elastin lasts for decades, however it will gradually degrade over your lifetime.

Elastin fibres are made up of chains of molecules arranged randomly and attached to one another. Groups of molecules form an elastin fibril and groups of fibrils form an elastin fibre. The fibres are yellow-coloured.

When stretched, the molecules within the elastin fibres straighten out in the direction they are being stretched, working in a similar way to a rubber band. They then resume their original shape when released.

Why elastin matters

When we talk about elastin it’s often in relation to the effects of aging on our skin. But what role does elastin play in this?

Elastin’s elasticity means that it helps the skin to stretch and then spring back into shape, for example when you smile.

Time affects elastin through natural degradation and damage (wear and tear).

Over the age of 70 you’ll generally find that most elastin fibres are damaged, however it can be much earlier for skin that’s been exposed to the sun’s UV rays.

The result is wrinkled skin, a loss in elasticity, fragile skin and slower wound-healing.

Is elastin different to collagen?

Elastin works in partnership with collagen in parts of the body when more ‘stretchy’ connective tissue is required, for example in the skin. Collagen is more prevalent, but elastin plays a very important role in increasing elasticity.

Elastin fibres are arranged more untidily than collagen fibres, which means that they extend more when straightened out, allowing them to stretch further than the more regularly-organised collagen fibres.

More about collagen.

How to take care of your elastin

If you’re past puberty then your body isn’t going to help you by producing more elastin, so it’s important that you take good care of what you’ve got. There are a couple of important things you can do:

Stop smoking

It damages elastin and the nicotine narrows blood vessels in the skin, reducing its supply of oxygen and nutrients.

Always use sunscreen

Even in the winter sun. The sun’s UV rays can damage elastin, causing abnormalities.

Give your elastin a boost

Laser facial rejuvenation

Our laser facial rejuvenation treatment uses a process called photorejuvenation, whereby laser light is used to heat the deep layers of your skin and stimulate the production of both collagen and elastin.

More about laser facial rejuvenation.