Friday, October 10, 2008

Collagen & Elastin: The Basics

We here about them everywhere: collagen & elastin, key elements in why our skin begins to lose its firmness & elasticity. So, what are they all about, and why do they begin to break down?

Collagen and elastin are proteins found in the skin and are excellent water binders, helping to keep the skin supple and hydrated. Mainly found in the dermis, the layer of skin below the epidermis (the top layer of skin), the two work in tandem and help provide a foundation for the skin. Collagen cushions and supports the epidermis, preventing it from collapsing on the muscles and bones, while elastin allows the skin to stretch and flex smoothly.

With age, collagen and elastin production slows, causing a gradual depletion of existing collagen and elastin and a thinning of the skin. The result of this slowdown? Sagging skin, fine lines and wrinkles. Additionally, the breakdown of collagen and elastin can be hastened by environmental damage, most notably: sun damage. Sun damage prematurely breaks down collagen and elastin fibers, causing changes to skin tone, texture and density, as well as leaving behind age spots. Other culprits that can break down collagen and elastin include: alcohol, smoking or tanning beds.

Help the body maintain stores of these crucial proteins by incorporating antioxidants into your skincare regimen, in particular, vitamin C. Research suggests that vitamin C may actually encourage the production of collagen in the skin, as well as fighting off free-radical damage. Also, vitamin A based skincare is another option. Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, will improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as clarify the overall texture of the skin.

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