Hands snap testThe “snap test” is a maneuver used by plastic surgeons to estimate skin elasticity. Skin elasticity relates to the ability of skin to return to its normal position after being stretched. The final results of many plastic surgery operations are directly related to skin elasticity. For example, when tissues are tightened during a procedure, such as a breast lift or facelift, the tightness of the skin after treatment can impact the final results. 

There are two major factors that can affect a patient’s degree of skin tightness after cosmetic surgery. The first is tissue removal and rearrangement to improve shape and/or appearance. Tissues are commonly removed during a plastic surgery procedure, like a breast lift or facelift, so that the skin becomes tighter. The second factor that helps keep skin tight is the skin’s natural elasticity, that is, the skin’s ability to shrink after being stretched. This factor is typically not controlled by plastic surgery procedures. While there may be other ways to improve the skin’s architecture, in general, these modalities cannot replace surgical procedures.

Elastic fibers (elastin protein) are components in the body that contribute to tissue elasticity. They are found in the lungs, blood vessels, and skin. Elastin loses its recoil ability with aging. There are two types of aging that can affect skin elasticity. “Intrinsic” skin aging is a natural, physiological occurrence that happens with advancing age whereby the elastin in the skin becomes less resilient. “Extrinsic” skin aging is a process caused by external factors, such as sunlight (dermatoheliosis), tobacco use, and pollutants. Both types of skin aging can make elastic fibers less effective, which makes the skin less toned. Pregnancy can also decrease the effectiveness of the elastic fibers.

The snap test is done by pulling back the skin and observing the retraction of the skin. The snap test is demonstrated below on a young person and middle-aged person. The skin retracts quickly in the young person and more slowly in the person who is older. Notice the difference in the two:

The snap test is a subjective assessment used to estimate the elasticity of the skin and, to some degree, predict the outcomes and longevity of plastic surgery results.

If you are interested in learning more about the snap test, or would like to schedule a consultation with our board-certified plastic surgeon – Dr. Stephen Herring – we invite you to contact our office today. Whether you are from the local area or traveling from out of town, we can help you create an aesthetic treatment plan that fits your needs and goals.