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Elastic properties of human skin: relation to age, sex, and anatomical region

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Using a recently developed noninvasive, in vivo suction device for measuring skin elasticity, we evaluated age, sex, and regional differences in the viscoelastic properties of skin. A total of 33 volunteers participated in the study consisting of (a) 8 young females, (b) 9 old females, (c) 8 young males and (d) 8 old males. Measurements were performed on 11 anatomical regions; three different loads were applied: 100,200, and 500 mbar. The parameters used were: immediate distension (Ue); delayed distension (Uv); immediate retraction (Ur); and, final deformation (Uf). To compare between subjects and anatomical regions, relative parameters independent of skin thickness were calculated: Uv/Ue, the ratio between the viscoelastic properties of skin and immediate distension, and Ur/Uf, which measures the ability of the skin to regain its initial position after deformation. Generally, Uv/Ue increased while Ur/Uf decreased with aging. Responses were variable with respect to load applied. Variability within anatomical regions was also noted. However, differences between the sexes were not statistically significant for most regions. These findings are in congruence with earlier studies suggesting the differences are mainly attributable to alterations in the elastic fiber network. This procedure provides a simple, quantitative assessment of elastic properties of the skin. Its application may help in future investigations of other connective tissue disorders.

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Correspondence to H. I. Maibach M. D..

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Cua, A.B., Wilhelm, K.-. & Maibach, H.I. Elastic properties of human skin: relation to age, sex, and anatomical region. Arch Dermatol Res 282, 283–288 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00375720

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Key words

  • Elasticity
  • Aging
  • Suction