Skin Firmness, Elasticity, and Moisture-holding – Skin firming tips to improve elasticity of skin

by on March 3, 2009

Collagen and elastin are the proteins that give the skin and elastic nature, tone and texture. Glycosoaminoglycans (GAG’s or mucopolysaccharides) and proteoglycans are the original skin moisturizers that are responsible for holding water in the skin. They are similar to mucous proteins.  Cosmetic moisturizers, on the other hand, cover the skin with a water impermeable barrier such as petrolatum or heavy oil. This makes the skin look plump and full for some time, by reducing the rate of moisture loss from the skin.

Major Skin Molecules – Collagen, Elastin, GAG’s and Proteoglycans

Collagen is the protein that can be found in the greatest quantity in the body, and it forms the structural network in the skin. Its primary constituents are glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. Its strong nature (one of the strongest proteins in nature) makes the skin strong and durable. Collagen is perceived to begin to deteriorate as we grow older, leading to continuous reduction in the skin’s thickness and eventual sagging. Elastin and collagen look similar, but collagen elastin is less stretchable than collagen, and this property of collagen enables it to maintain the skin’s elasticity. It provides the matrix that binds the individual skin cell. Two other unique amino acids contained in elastin are desmosine and isodesmosine. Together, these two proteins enable the skin to stretch and return to its original shape. The skin’s elastin breaks down as one grows older, leading to the development of wrinkles. GAGs contain special sugars such as glucosamine hydrochloride, N-acetyl glucosamine, and glucosamine sulfate that that can hold a large amount of water. These are chains of sugar that naturally have the ability to hold large quantities of water, such as hyaluronic acid, keratin sulfate, heparin, heparin sulfate, dermatin sulfate, and chondroitin sulfate.

Proteoglycans are larger molecules which have many GAGs atttaches to them. GAGs are composed of repeating disaccharide units made up of sugars (glucuronic or duronic acid) and hexosamines (glucosamine or galactosamine) that are attached to the core of the protein. The GAGs are strongly hydrophilic (water-loving) molecules because they contain large amounts of hydroxyl, carboxyl and sulphate, and they are able to form porous, hydrated gels. Hydrated GAG’s cushion and provide mechanical support to tissues.

Collagen and Elastin in Cosmetics Have No Effect on Skin

Collagen and elastin are often incorporated into cosmetics. The source of this material is either from bovine (cattle) or avian (birds). Both collagen and elastin in the cosmetics do not have the ability to penetrate the skin. Sometimes fragments, or digests, of these molecules are used, but these are also unable to penetrate the skin. These products can also make you vulnerable to the negative effects of prions, which are the cause of the mad cow disease, which is characterized by progressive degeneration of the brain.

Other proteins, as hydrolyzates (fragments of the original protein), are often incorporated into skin and hair products. They are used in conditioning shampoos they help in “bulking-up” the hair. However, the original protein has already being broken down, and they do not have much effect.  For example, a hydrolyzate of silk proteins has no advantage over a hydrolyzate of soybean or wheat proteins. Immunologists usually prefer hydrolyzates of soy proteins because they are they have, the lowest possibility of allergic effects.

Skin pH and the Acid Mantle

“Skin pH” is a chemist’s term meaning “Potential of Hydrogen” and is used to measure the degree of acidity or alkalinity in the outer layers of the skin. It is measured on a scale ranging from 0 to 14, with the centre, 7, denoting neutrality (neither acid nor alkaline). A reading below 7 indicates acidity whiles one above 7 indicates alkalinity.

The acid mantle, the combination of sebum (oil) and perspiration, on the skin’s surface gives protection to the skin and makes protects the skin and makes it less susceptible to damage.  It is also a protection from attack by environmental factors such as the sun and wind and reduces the possibility of dehydration. The normal pH of the skin is a bit acidic, ranging from 4.2 to 5.6. Different parts of the body have different pH readings. On the average, a man’s skin has a lower pH (more acidic) than that of a woman.  The acid mantle inhibits the growth of foreign bacteria and fungi causing the skin healthier, and with fewer blemishes. The severity of acne, allergies and other skin problems increase as the alkalinity of the skin increases.

The pH system works in 10-fold multiples and each pH unit represents a 10-fold difference in alkalinity. For example, soap with a pH of 10.5 is 10-times as alkaline as a soap of pH 9.5. “Mild” soaps are often alkaline (pH 9.5-11), and remove the natural acid protection and also remove the lipids that protect the skin. The pH of Irritated and eczematous skins are usually higher and this can become even higher with the use of washing soap, making the skin more susceptible to irritation and infection.

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