Elastin is the connective tissue in skin. As the name suggests elastin allows the skin to stretch and recoil. In the skin, most elastin is in the dermis, the springy middle layer. The building block of elastin is a protein called tropelastin and there is only one tropelastin gene in humans (compared to lots of genes for collagen). Tropelastin is pretty cool and can stretch eight times its molecular length before recoiling back again.
Elastin production starts to decline when we are still very young and by middle age we hardly produce any at all and rely on what was generated in the first few years of life.
The good news is that it is one of the longest lasting proteins in the body and has an enviable half-life point of around 74. The problem is that any damage — from UVB light, for example — is inefficiently repaired and so the skin gradually loses its elasticity well before we reach our 70s (source).
There are many ways that collagen production can be increased, but less is known about how to boost elastin. Tretinoin was used for many years, but interesting retinol in studies has been found to have no effect. Given the controversies around tretinoin use, this is disappointing. So I’ve been researching ways we can boost our elastin and this is what I have come up with:
This is a good place to start because elastin is primarily made up of the amino acids glycine, valine, alanine, and proline. So look for serums that major on amino acids such as:
SkinOwl Eye+ ($46 in the shop), a damn good eye cream that is packed with no less than 13 amino acids.
Deciem Hand Chemistry Intense Youth Complex ($20) has proline, alanine and serine.
BRAD Biophotonic Essential Elixir Multi-Peptide Youth Regenerating Serum ($95) with bio-fermented amino acids.
Sciote Peptide + Defense Youth Serum ($105 in the shop) has all the amino acids you could wish for in its “peptide complex blend”.
Organic Radiance Ultra Nourishing Anti-aging Elixir ($65/2.2oz) punches above its price point with amino acids and other good ingredients such as MSM. This product has been improved and reformulated as of June 2016.
The genus name for soy is actually glycine, one of the amino acids that are in elastin. Research has shown that topical soy extracts boosted elastin fiber. Frustratingly, there aren’t a ton of good products with soy extract, but we do have:
E'shee Cellular Repairing Night Cream ($289 in the shop) with soybean oil, as well as the amino acid proline.
Dr. Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Moisture Cushion Oil-Free Moisturizer ($58 in the shop) has hydrolyzed soy protein.
Medik8 Pretox Eyelift ($70 in the shop) has a hefty dose of soy protein.
The elastase enzyme attacks structural proteins, e.g., elastin, and so ingredients that inhibit it are a good thing. There is a peptide, known as TT2, that does just that and as a result reduces sagging and slacking. You can find it in E'shee Clinical Esthetic Alpha and Omega Gene Therapy Eye Cream ($284 in the shop).
One study identified the botanical extracts best able to combat elastase and white tea and rose came out top. White tea is tea made from new growth buds and young leaves of the plant Camellia sinensis. It is a staple of SimySkin products such as:
SimySkin Nourishing Eye Cream ($45) has white tea and green tea as well as some collagen-boosting peptides.
SimySkin Hydrating & Nourishing Face Moisturizer ($45) majors on white tea and has some good antioxidants such as alpha lipoic acid.
Tetrapeptide-17 goes by the name of Tego Pep 4-17. Other than a study conducted by the manufacturer that showed an improvement in skin elasticity, there isn’t much information available. But it has been harnessed by Your Best Face, for example in its new overnight serum.
Your Best Face Restore Night Treatment Serum ($130 in the shop) also has Uplevity (tetrapeptide-2), which is also supposed to increase elastin.
Copper is the key mineral in lysyl oxidase, an enzyme that weaves together collagen and elastin. Clinical studies have found that copper peptides remove damaged collagen and elastin from the skin and scar tissue because they activate the skin's system responsible for those functions. It also promotes production of glycosaminoglycans.
Benir Beauty BV-9 Platinum Provectus Super Serum ($195 in the shop) uses a unique formulation of 7 different peptides, including copper.
Copper peptides, plus Matrixyl 3000 and niacinamide are combined to great effect in Medik8 Firewall ($145 in the shop)
Red LED light
Red LED light is one of the best things for restoring elastin, and some German researchers shed light on how it works. The LED light changes the molecular structure of a glue-like layer of water on elastin, the protein that provides elasticity in skin, blood vessels, heart and other body structures. The light strips away those water molecules that are involved in the immobilization of elastin, gradually restoring its elastic function and thus reducing facial wrinkles. Red LED is featured, along with ultrasound, on the Truth Vitality Lux Renew ($279 in the shop).
A word about vitamin C
There have been concerns voiced about vitamin C bringing down elastin and so, paradoxically, good for collagen production but bad for elastin. This turns out to be not quite right as the concern is based on one study that noted that when the skin is exposed to sunlight and photodamage, it goes into elastin production overdrive. In the study, the vitamin regulated it back to normals. (source)