DermNet NZ

Facts about the skin from DermNet New Zealand Trust. Topic index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Solar elastosis

What is solar elastosis?

Solar elastosis, also known as actinic elastosis, is a disorder in which the skin appears yellow and thickened as a result of sun damage.

What does solar elastosis look like?

To the naked eye the skin appears yellow and thick, with bumps, wrinkles or furrowing.

Solar elastosis Solar elastosis Solar elastosis
Solar elastosis

How is solar elastosis diagnosed?

Solar elastosis is diagnosed clinically by its appearance or microscopically on skin biopsy. Histology shows loss of eosin staining on H&E sections resulting in a bluish colour of the upper dermis with accumulation of irregularly thickened elastic fibres. These elastic fibres degrade to form disorganised tropoelastin and fibrillin tangled structures.

Who gets solar elastosis?

Solar elastosis affects people who have had long term sun exposure and is a feature of photoageing. It affects individuals of all skin types but its yellow hue is more obvious in white skinned individuals.


Solar elastosis is also a manifestation of premature skin ageing caused by smoking.

Tobacco smoke affects the production of collagen and increases the production of tropoelastin and matrix metalloproteinases (MMP). These degrade matrix proteins and produce abnormal elastosis material in the dermis (1). The elastic fibre changes in smokers extend deep into the reticular dermis where as in sun damage these changes tend to be restricted to the more superficial papillary dermis. (2)

Prevention and treatment of solar elastosis

People with solar elastosis should minimise or avoid exposure to its known precipitants:

Ablative and non-ablative laser treatments, dermal fillers, and neurotoxin injections (botulinum toxin) have been used in attempt to improve the cosmetic appearance of solar elastosis.

It has been suggested that imiquimod may help to improve the histological appearance of sun damaged skin, including elastotic changes in the dermis, but this is unconfirmed (3).

Related information


  1. Morita A, 2007. Tobacco smoke causes premature skin aging. J Dermatol Sci. Dec;48(3):169-75. Epub 2007 Oct 24
  2. Sander CS et al, 2002: Photoaging is associated with protein oxidation in human skin in vivo. J Invest Dermatol 118:618-625, 2002)
  3. Smith K, Hamza S, Germain M, Skelton H, 2007. Does imiquimod histologically rejuvenate ultraviolet radiation-damaged skin?Dermatol Surg. 2007 Dec;33(12):1419-28; discussion 1428-9.

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Author: Dr Beth Wright, Medical Registrar, Perth, Australia.

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If you have any concerns with your skin or its treatment, see a dermatologist for advice.