What does skin elasticity have to do with aging?

What makes our face age? What are some changes in our face that occur as we age? How can we reduce this and maintain a youthful appearance? 

These are questions I asked myself a few years ago. It all started when I was treating patients with Botox and noticed that after a few treatments peoples’ wrinkles began to fade. I couldn’t explain why this was happening. One possibility was that the Botox was actually affecting the skin directly.  This goes against our understanding of the medication. Botox works by causing muscles to stop moving. When the muscle stops working, it stops pulling on your skin and thus you get your wrinkles spreading apart and they become less visible. But why do the wrinkles fade? 

This brings us to elasticity of the skin and aging. One of the key changes in our skin that occurs as we age is a loss of elasticity. Our skin becomes loose. This is due to two very important factors, sun exposure and our genetics. Without a doubt sun exposure is the most important preventable factor. If everyone was to use sun screen and avoid long term sun exposure, our skin would maintain its youthfulness much longer, not to mention reduce the risk of skin cancer.  However, our genetics also play a role. Some people age more quickly than others. 

I was fortunate to have a device that can measure skin elasticity. This is a very advanced device and hard to come by. It is a painless, easy to use high-tech device that measures the ability of your skin to stretch and return to its normal position. 

Using this device, I measure patients’ skin elasticity before and after a treatment with Botox. What I found was that, 2 months after a Botox treatment, skin elasticity increased by 20%. Interestingly, there have been studies demonstrating that if you grow a cell called a fibroblast in Botox the fibroblast produces more material that is responsible for making our skin more elastic. This research was presented at an international meeting of facial plastic surgeons and because of it, I was awarded the prestigious Joe Orlando Roe Award by the American Academy of Facial Plastics and Reconstructive Surgery.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24664544

I continue to use this device in practice. If you are ever interested in having your skin elasticity measured please let me or my staff know. It is a great way to monitor your treatment over time. 

In a future blog, I’ll discuss other proven ways you can increase your skin elasticity.

James P. Bonaparte, MD, MSc, FRCSC
Head and Neck Surgery
practicing in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Assistant Professor, University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada