Elastin provides your skin with the ability to stretch and retract with your movements. The body uses a combination of proteins and amino acids to generate the fibrous tissue that’s an integral part of maintaining your skin’s appearance and condition. The rate of turnover of elastin in the body is much slower than that of skin cells, but it’s also easily damaged by exposure to the sun, aging, and the overall environment. When elastin is damaged, it results in the appearance of sagging skin and wrinkles, an issue that’s further exacerbated by the loss of subcutaneous fat.
The role of elastin is to keep skin tight and stretchy. The younger someone is, the tighter the elastin. However, that’s not the only role this vital skin fiber plays. It’s also responsible for repairing wounds, forming scars, and keeping your arteries supple.
The biggest threat to elastin is overexposure to sunlight. Sun-damaged elastin doesn’t repair itself quickly, and sometimes the results of the damage are permanent. To date, there are no reliable treatments available to directly restore the skin’s elastin due to the complexity of elastin production. There are options in the form of injecting collagen and hyaluronic into the skin as an overall restorative treatment, but these injections seek to restore the overall appearance of your skin as opposed to specifically encouraging the body to rebuild elastin.
Currently, the only effective therapy for rebuilding elastin comes in the form of skin protection. Using sunscreens and other skin protectors such as broad-brimmed hats and staying out of the sun is the best way to prevent premature aging of the skin. It’s not advisable to engage in excessive sun tanning as this speeds up the loss of elastin in the skin, resulting in a dried-out appearance and excessive wrinkles with age.
Therapies for elastin replacement are on the horizon, however, and involve the use of something known as recombinant human tropoelastin. This natural material is used as a substrate for skin fibroblasts to create more collagen and deposit glycosaminoglycans for the regeneration of elastin. In other words, a layer of tropoelastin is put under the skin where it attracts regenerative skin cells known as fibroblasts. Glycosaminoglycans are a building block of skin and serve to act as a structural component for the body’s construction of elastin. This therapy has shown promise in the treatment of burn victims and may be a viable cosmetic therapy in the near future.