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What Is Elastin?

Although elastin is a listed ingredient in some skin care products, there is little evidence that it is effective in making skin more flexible.
As people grow old, elastin depletes and wrinkles appear.
Elastin, a protein, helps to keep skin flexible but tight.
Elastin is a protein that can be found in human skin.
Article Details
  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2014
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Elastin is a protein found in the skin and tissue of the body. It helps to keep skin flexible but tight, providing a bounce-back reaction if skin is pulled. Enough elastin in the skin means that the skin will return to its normal shape after a pull. It also helps keep skin smooth as it stretches to accommodate normal activities like flexing a muscle or opening and closing the mouth to talk or eat.

As people age, elastin usually depletes, resulting in wrinkled or stretched out skin. One might note the “pregnancy pouch” many women have many years after having a baby. In part, the leftover skin is a result of inadequate elastin, and also overstretching of the skin covering the abdomen during pregnancy.

One may also note elastin listed as an ingredient in “anti-aging” skin care products. These proteins are not from human sources; they typically are harvested from either cows or birds and in theory should promote better skin elasticity.

Actually, elastin in skin products has been shown to have little effect on skin elasticity. It may form a coating on the skin that helps the skin better hold in moisture, but it will not provide more flexibility. In skin care products, this protein does not penetrate the skin layer, which would be needed in order to make the skin more elastic.

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Further, some medical professionals are concerned about elastin sources in cosmetic products. Since it comes primarily from cows and birds, it can be argued that the protein potentially might expose users to mad cow disease and avian flu. Such an exposure would be worst case scenario. At the moment, no cases of mad cow disease or avian flu have been linked to use of elastin in cosmetics. Yet risk does remain as these diseases continue to spread.

Further, dermatologists often feel that products containing elastin make false claims regarding their benefits. For example, one product claims to restore depleted elastin and collagen. Another claims to be made of real anti-aging molecules. These claims are undoubtedly false, but are often quite convincing, using impressive sounding scientific terms to sell products at a high price.

Most dermatologists are quite clear that elastin applied topically cannot replace what has been lost from the skin. Some of the products containing it may temporarily cause the skin to appear younger because the skin is properly moisturized. Clearly, however, the protein is no magic bullet for stopping the march of time across one’s skin.

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Discuss this Article

anon255437
Post 4

Amen, CoffeeJim. I'm aiming to age as gracefully as my grandmother did. She was one of the most beautiful people I've ever known, inside and out. She had no truck with the "antiaging" creams, injections, etc., and was healthier psychologically than anyone trying to hang onto the coat tails of illusory and elusive youth.

JoseJames
Post 3

Some good advice to follow might to be simply increase the intake of fruits and vegetables in your diet. This will allow for the collagen elastin in your skin to be healthy and continue to maintain its quality.

Fighting the loss of elastin at the source is the best way to actually reduce wrinkles in your skin. Have a healthy diet and think twice about over-priced skin care products that won't deliver the results that you want.

dkarnowski
Post 2

@CoffeeJim, you might be correct that society views the vanity of beauty supplies in an unhealthful fashion but there are many cosmetic products that do benefit the health of our skin.

While some companies will produce skin care products with the sole intention of just making a profit, there are organizations in the world that are dedicated to skin health.

That being said, a lot of skin care products do contain elastin cream but there really is no proven benefit just as the author of this article has stated.

Natural ingredients like aloe on the other hand, do have a natural benefit to our skin and are contained in many skin health products. You can consult a dermatologist to find out what kind of products or medicine might benefit your desire for healthier skin.

CoffeeJim
Post 1

The ever continuing battle of age and wrinkly skin simply cannot be won by applying something topically. As much as we might like to the think that some magic cream will take years off my face, it simply is not the case.

Most of the effects of these types of products are temporary just as even more invasive procedures like BOTOX that seem like they might last, will eventually fail.

Hopefully the vain nature of what society now considers to be in and beautiful will soon transition to an actual healthy style.

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