If you're over a certain age, you may have looked in the mirror and pulled your skin back past your cheeks to remind yourself of what you looked like before your skin began to sag a bit. Unfortunately, it may take an extra second to spring back to where it started.
As you age, your skin begins to lose its elasticity, producing less collagen and elastin. Elastin, as the name suggests, is responsible for giving your skin its springiness or elasticity. Collagen, on the other hand, gives your skin its strength [source: WebMD]. Estrogen is a factor in collagen creation, so postmenopausal women will most likely notice more of a loss of elasticity in their skin.
Since no one's found the fountain of youth yet, the search has continued for ways to improve the skin's elasticity. There are two types of aging: intrinsic, which is what your genes dictate will happen, and extrinsic, which is aging caused by external factors. Exposure to the elements -- and the sun in particular -- are important extrinsic causes of elasticity loss.
You have control over many of the extrinsic factors, and you can take certain precautions to prevent signs of aging. Wear sunscreen every day with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher on your hands, face and any other areas exposed to the sun. Keep your skin hydrated by drinking plenty of water. And eating a diet of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables can put some spring back in your skin. Finally, smoking causes skin to age faster, so abstaining from cigarettes can prevent loss of elasticity.
Hormone replacement therapy for women can increase skin's elasticity by increasing estrogen production, but it has its own health risks. It's also not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a remedy for collagen loss. There is some evidence that lutein, an antioxidant found in egg yolks, spinach and other leafy greens may improve skin elasticity, and it may also may help protect your skin from the sun's ultraviolet B rays (UVB).
For lots more information on skin elasticity and skin care, click on the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- AgingSkinNet. "Causes of Aging Skin." American Academy of Dermatology. 2008. (Sept. 15, 2009) http://www.skincarephysicians.com/agingskinnet/basicfacts.html
- Richardson, Michael S. "Health Basics: A Doctor's Plainspoken Advice About How Your Body Works and What to Do When It Doesn't." 2003. (Sept. 15, 2009) http://books.google.com/books?id=EZ9oGTHKHX4C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=&f=false
- WebMD. "Skin and the Effects of Aging." Feb. 28, 2008. (Sept. 15, 2009) http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/effects-of-aging-on-skin
- WebMD. "Skin Conditions: Understanding Your Skin." July 29, 2009. (Sept. 15, 2009)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/understanding-your-skin