Your skin becomes less elastic as you age but you can improve it by reducing your sun exposure, eating a nutritious diet, and using certain topical products like retinol.

Loss of skin elasticity is a natural part of the aging process. You may have noticed it for the first time when you were putting on makeup or rubbed your eyes. You moved your eyelid slightly to the side, and your skin didn’t bounce back the way it used to.

Skin elasticity is skin’s ability to stretch and snap back to its original shape. Loss of skin elasticity is known as elastosis. Elastosis causes skin to look saggy, crinkled, or leathery.

Areas of the skin exposed to the sun can get solar elastosis. These parts of the body may look more weathered than those protected from sun exposure. Solar elastosis is also referred to as actinic elastosis.

Skin elasticity can be improved. In this article, we’ll cover the causes of elastosis and provide possible solutions.

Skin is the body’s largest organ. It’s also your shield against the elements. As people age, their skin naturally starts to show the effects of time.

In addition to losing collagen, skin also starts to lose elastin, a protein which provides skin with the ability to stretch and snap back. Elastin is found in the connective tissue of the skin’s dermis layer.

Environmental and lifestyle causes can worsen and accelerate elastosis. They include:

  • sun exposure
  • air pollution
  • poor nutrition
  • smoking

Rapid, extensive weight loss can also cause elastosis.

There are ways to improve skin’s elasticity, along with its overall appearance. They include:

1. Collagen supplements

Collagen is a protein found in the skin’s connective tissues. There is some evidence that oral hydrolyzed collagen can be absorbed through the gut and delivered to the skin via the bloodstream.

In one small study, an oral supplement of collagen peptides, vitamin C, Hibiscus sabdariffa extract, and Aristotelia chilensis extract (Macqui berry) was given to study participants for 3 months. A significant improvement in skin elasticity and firmness in the participants was observed, starting at 4 weeks.

A separate study found that a nutritional drink containing collagen and other ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, significantly increased skin’s elasticity.

These results are promising, however, it’s important to remember that in each study, other beneficial ingredients were also used. More data is needed about collagen supplements to determine their true ability to replenish skin’s elasticity.

2. Retinol and retinoids

Retinol is a form of vitamin A. It can be found in over-the-counter (OTC) skin care products, such as eye serums and facial creams. It’s not as potent as prescription retinoids. There is data indicating that topical retinol combined with vitamin C is effective at replenishing skin elasticity.

Prescription retinoids boost collagen production in the skin. They include tretinoin and retin-A. Many studies have shown the effectiveness of prescription retinoids to reduce and reverse the effects of photoaging in the skin.

3. Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance found primarily in the skin’s connective tissue. Its job is to maintain moisture and keep skin lubricated.

Hyaluronic acid becomes depleted by ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure and by aging. Using serums or creams fortified with hyaluronic acid may help skin regain some of its natural elasticity. Taking supplements containing hyaluronic acid may also be beneficial.

4. Genistein isoflavones

Genistein, a type of soybean isoflavone, is a phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens are plant-derived compounds that act similarly to estrogen in the body.

Genistein has been shown in studies to improve elasticity in the skin when taken orally. It may also have benefits when applied topically. More study is needed to determine genistein’s applications for improving skin elasticity and overall skin care.

5. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Although the data is far from conclusive, research has found that varying types of HRT have benefits for skin elasticity loss caused by aging and menopause. They include:

  • transdermal estrogen
  • transdermal estrogen combined with vaginal progesterone
  • oral estrogen combined with vaginal progesterone

HRT can be a helpful treatment option but it isn’t for everyone. Learn more about HRT’s benefits and risks here.

6. Witch hazel extract

Witch hazel is a common household skin care product. It’s also a common ingredient in cosmetics and skin care preparations.

One in vivo study found that witch hazel, specifically Hamamelis virginiana, extract was effective at correcting elastosis, reducing wrinkles, and increasing skin’s overall firmness.

7. Cocoa flavanols

If eating dark chocolate is your guilty pleasure, this potential skin elasticity fix is for you.

A study found that daily intake of cocoa flavanols, a compound in chocolate, improved skin elasticity, and reduced wrinkles. Cocoa flavanols are naturally occurring, dietary flavonoids found in the cacao bean.

Not all chocolate contains high levels of cocoa flavanols. Look for chocolate that contains around 320 milligrams of cocoa flavanols, which is the amount used in the study.

8. Laser treatments

Laser therapy treatments are used to treat many medical conditions.

One study looked at the effectiveness of combining two laser therapy techniques — non-ablative fractional laser (NAFL) and intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) — performed on the same day to study participants.

These procedures have a positive effect on skin tone and the production of new collagen. The study found that the combination of these therapies provided a significant increase in skin elasticity and tone. Other studies have found positive results from the use of fractional lasers on skin.

9. Dexpanthenol (Panthoderm) cream

Dexpanthenol (pantothenic acid) is a medicated moisturizer used to treat rough, scaly, or dry skin. Studies have found it to be beneficial for preserving skin elasticity.

10. Chemical peels

Chemical peels are procedures done by a dermatologist to resurface and revitalize skin. There are three types: light, medium, and deep.

Chemical peels can reduce elastosis and the effects of photoaging, as well as increase collagen production. You and your dermatologist can determine which type of peel is best for you.

11. Dermabrasion

Dermabrasion is a deep exfoliation technique used to remove the outer layers of skin. It’s done by a dermatologist and usually performed on the face.

12. Platelet-rich plasma injection

One small study found that injecting platelet-rich plasma (PRP) directly into the lower eyelid reduced actinic elastosis in that area. Several injections were required monthly over a 3-month period. The injections were reported to be minimally invasive and pain-free.

13. Body-contouring surgery

A significant increase in weight can cause skin to lose its elasticity. After weight loss, the skin may not be able to bounce back, resulting in excess, loose skin.

This is more likely to occur if the weight loss is around 100 pounds or more. In some instances, skin can be removed surgically. Typical areas of the body where skin is removed includes the stomach, arms, and thighs.

Lifestyle changes are your best bet for limiting elastosis.

Limit sun exposure

Overexposure to UV rays reduces skin’s elasticity and causes premature aging of the skin. Sunscreen use has been shown to stop this process. Using sunscreen won’t improve elastosis, but it will stop further damage.

Add antioxidants to your diet

A diet high in antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, and lycopene may help maintain skin’s elasticity and overall health.

It’s important to remember that even the healthiest diet won’t be enough to counteract sun-related photoaging. Taking antioxidant supplements or eating a diet high in antioxidants is a good start, but it won’t take the place of sun protection.

Quit smoking

People who smoke have less skin elasticity than those who don’t. Smoking narrows blood vessels, decreasing blood flow and limiting the ability of nutrients and oxygen to reach the skin.

The toxins in cigarettes have also been shown to damage elastin and collagen fibers. Smoking cessation helps reduce the ongoing damage of cigarette smoking to the skin, as well as to the rest of the body.

choosing a dermatologist

A dermatologist can help you decide which treatments and lifestyle changes will be most beneficial for you. When choosing a dermatologist, consider these factors:

  • Look for a board-certified doctor who specializes in cosmetic dermatology.
  • Verify their credentials with a reputable body, such as the American Academy of Dermatology.
  • Determine whether the doctor has experience treating your type of skin, especially if you’re a person of color.
  • Find out what you can expect your insurance to pay and how your doctor will handle billing.
  • As with any doctor, trust your gut instinct. If you don’t feel comfortable or supported in your healthcare goals, seek medical treatment elsewhere.

Skin naturally loses some of its ability to stretch and bounce back with aging. Sun exposure and habits, such as smoking, can accelerate this process.

There are many successful treatments for improving skin elasticity. Lifestyle changes, such as wearing sunscreen, can help slow it down and minimize its effects.