But do we really know what they are? Why do they play such an important role in the way our complexion looks, especially as we grow old? Collagen is a natural structural protein in a fibrous form, found in a mammal’s body, including humans, in abundance: around 30% of all body proteins are collagen. These are responsible for keeping the body tissues connected and supported and therefore commonly found in the strong structures of our body like bones, tendons, ligaments and, of course, skin. Specifically relevant to skin, collagen provides strength, flexibility and resistance. In others words, it’s the presence of collagen that gives skin its firmness. To better understand collagen in action, when you cut yourself, the skin produces collagen to repair the damaged tissues and replaces the old tissue for new one made of collagen. Due to its specific properties, the medical uses of collagen are as extended as to treat joint mobility problems, severe burns and even create lab skin substitutes. Elastin is also a protein and is also found in the body, mainly in skin and tissue, being characterized for its elastic qualities. It provides the skin with the flexibility and elasticity necessary to regain form when stretched or compressed. Collagen and Elastin work together to keep the skin smooth, supple and flexible. Both proteins are produced by fibroblasts in the dermis and, as we grow old, the body loses the ability to produce them, so cell structures weaken. As it loses strength and elasticity, the skin grows thinner and less resistant to damage, whilst it tends to sag, stretch and wrinkle. That’s …ageing. A proper diet is important in helping you to maintain youthful Collagen and Elastin levels. Sources rich in Vitamin A, Zinc, Vitamin C and other oxidants have a preventive function in ageing helping the body to retain or produce these proteins. Hyaluronic Acid seems to be the new big hit in town. Not a new thing itself, since this carbohydrate is also produced naturally by our body, its been gaining a lot of attention in the last years due to its regenerative properties, especially when combined with Vitamin C. Found mostly in the eyes, joints and skin (50% of Hyaluronic Acid in the body is found in the skin, both in deep underlying areas and visible epidermal layers), this substance plays a huge role in cell growth and renewal. It’s responsible for retaining water and lubricate the movable parts of the body: Hyaluronic Acid molecules can retain up to 1000 times its weight in water. Therefore, Hyaluronic Acid’s secret is keeping the skin moisturised and hydrated. Is the dual action of HA and Collagen that maintains the skin’s layers and structure fresh and healthy. While Collagen works on the skin firmness, Hyaluronic Acid nourishes and hydrates the Collagen to keep it supple and flexible, filling the free space of the skin matrix (formed by Collagen and Elastin) with water and giving it a fuller, firmer and youthful appearance. HA as been largely used in the treatment of joint disorders, but its water retaining and hydrating properties have generated a growing interest in the cosmetic industry. Nowadays, it is used in an injectable form (Restylane®) to smooth fine lines and wrinkles and create fullness around the injected location (for example, to create volume in fine lips). Again, as we age, HA levels in the body decrease since our body is incapable of maintaining the same concentrations of this substance. Consequently again, our body loses the ability to hold water and maintain hydration levels. UV radiation and pollution play a dramatic role in the reduction of this ability. Our skin becomes drier and therefore more susceptible to wrinkling and loss of natural radiance.

Firmeness, Elasticity and Hydration – The 3 features of a youthful skin

As a final note, remember that skin, like other areas of the body, doesn’t age only with passage of time. Sun exposure, pollution, stress, smoking and other health conditions can adversely affect the look of your skin, beyond your actual age. A healthy lifestyle and proper skin care will definitely have a boosting impact to the health of your skin, just as much as your overall health condition. Having said that, be aware that when we think of getting older we tend to look at the of visible impact to our face only, whilst all the rest of the skin in our body also ages, even if not in the same degree, at the same speed. Nevertheless, neck and hands are normally as revealing of age as your face. Therefore, remember that skin care like cleansing, moisturising and the use of protective sunscreen should be considered for all areas of the body, all the time.Give it a try. To feel good is to feel young.

HA retains water in the free space of the skin matrix formed by Collagen and Elastin 

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