As the beauty industry keeps growing and developing products for every little part of the body, new terms have been introduced into our vocabulary. These are words defining the active ingredients and the function principles of various products, terms we have adopted and appropriated after considerable media bombardment, terms like collagen and elastin. This has sent us looking for creams which have either one or both of them. But do we really understand what they are and what they do?
Collagen is the protein that holds the body together. The name has a Greek origin and it means a product (-gen) that glues (kolla). It is the most abundant protein of the body, making up 25% – 35% of the body’s protein content. It can be found in blood vessels, corneas, cartilage, skin, muscles, tendons and bones, mainly in the connective tissue. It provides strength and structure and it plays an important part in the healing, repair and skin regeneration process, being responsible for the production of new skin cells.
Collagen based products are made from human, bovine, porcine or ovine sources and have cosmetic and medical applications. With age, the collagen levels of the body decrease, making room for vascular and tissue degeneration, osteoarthritis and saggy skin. Apart from age, collagen levels can also decrease on account of sunlight, smoking, autoimmune disorders and high sugar consumption. Although aging and the natural decrease in collagen cannot be altogether stopped, the process can be delayed by introducing into the diet nutrients which support collagen formation such as vitamins A and C, copper (shellfish, nuts), proline (egg white, cheese, soy, cabbage), anthocyanidins (blackberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries).
Elastin is another protein of the body, also found in the connective tissues, which helps the body resume its form after contracting or expanding. The name clearly illustrates the main role that elastin plays in the body, that of making the tissues elastic. Apart from giving your skin a healthy and young look, elastin is also the protein what lines blood vessels and arteries, allowing them to adjust to variations of blood pressure throughout the day. The same goes for the lungs, bladder and elastic cartilage.
Low elastin levels in the body result in medical conditions affecting the correct function of the above mentioned organs. Elastin is mainly produced in the womb and no longer produced by the body after puberty. This means that the care a person shows the skin from here on will be visible. The biggest enemies of elastin are sun exposure, tobacco, changes in weight, harsh weather conditions, dehydration, lack of sleep, stress.
Collagen vs Elastin
So what’s the difference between collagen and elastin then?
More than being marketing terms, these are proteins found in the body, with clearly defined functions for good health. Collagen provides strength and structure, while elastin makes everything elastic and adaptable to numerous body needs. The two are supposed to work together but at different levels. Collagen is present in the lower layers of the skin, while elastin is present somewhere at the middle layers.
In time and on account of external factors, the collagen cells will break down and the elastin ones will degenerate. They basically have the same enemies, but only collagen can regenerate, help produce new cells and have an active contribution in healing wounds and scars. There is much less elastin than collagen in the body, but it is more important for the skin. For example, when obese people lose a lot of weight, the extra skin needs to be removed surgically because it can never snap back to a normal form.
When it comes to beauty issues, it is not a matter of choosing a collagen cream over an elastin one, or vice-versa. These are two proteins that are supposed to work together from the inside, and the surface application of creams promising to stretch and tighten the skin only manages to stretch the truth as far as their efficiency goes. The outside proteins do not manage to work together with the ones produced by the body, but by causing a slight inflammation of the skin it will temporarily give it a smoother aspect. Skin fillers, on the other hand, are more effective because they introduce the proteins into the inner layers of the skin where creams cannot reach.
|Protein found in connective tissues, skin, muscles, bones, blood vessels, corneas||Protein found in connective tissues|
|Gives the body structure and strength||Makes the skin and organs elastic|
|Very abundant, making up for 25-30% of the body’s protein content||Less abundant in the body|
|Produced throughout life, up until the aging process starts||Mainly produced in the womb and no longer produced after puberty|
|Affected by sunlight, smoking, autoimmune disorders and high sugar consumption||Affected by sun exposure, tobacco, changes in weight, harsh weather conditions, dehydration, lack of sleep, stress|
|Helps heal wounds||Helps pumping organs contract and expand|