Collagen and elastin are naturally occurring structural proteins normally produced in the dermis, the middle layer of the skin. These proteins are believed to be crucial for keeping skin smooth, supple, and elastic. Though the body naturally produces these proteins, their production usually decreases as people age. Certain skin-care products and foods can help maintain elevated production of collagen and elastin within the skin. Healthy levels are thought to reduce signs of aging, particularly wrinkling and sagging of the skin.
The skin-care benefits of collagen and elastin are believed to be many. These proteins are said to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles and add, restore, or maintain skin's elasticity. Products containing them are typically used to reduce the signs of aging.
The natural structural proteins are usually produced by dermal skin cells known as fibroblasts. Collagen is responsible for keeping skin plump. Elastin is considered an essential building block of the fibrous tissue that keeps skin flexible and elastic. Young people usually have high levels of these proteins in their skin, but production within the body declines with age, leading to fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging. A combination of factors, including collective sun exposure, diet, and tobacco use, can accelerate the decline of natural collagen production.
Topical skin-care creams containing collagen and elastin are widely available from many manufacturers. Dermatologists believe that these products, while often very moisturizing, don't actually increase collagen or elastin levels in the skin. Some products, however, are designed to stimulate their production in the body. This is often believed to be the best way for older people to reap the benefits of these proteins.
Various foods are considered capable of helping the skin to maintain youthful collagen and elastin levels. Vitamin A, usually found in such foods as carrots and melons, can help the skin produce high levels of collagen. Zinc, typically found in meats, dairy products, and seafood, is believed crucial for the maintenance of elastin fibers. A substance known as genistein, largely found in soy, is believed to boost collagen production while neutralizing the action of the enzymes often implicated in the aging process. Foods high in vitamin C and other antioxidants, such as green tea, may also help protect against aging in much the same way.