A new method for the in vivo characterization of the physical properties of skin is presented. This comprises an ultrasound device to measure the vertical displacement of the surface of the skin, as well as its thickness and that of the hypodermis under suction. In combination with this, a mathematical model is used to calculate the following skin parameters: Young's modulus, the initial stress and an index of non-elasticity. These parameters were evaluated from the volar forearm and the forehead of 30 male and 30 females, of similar ages (28 +/- 6-years-old). The sensitivity of the testing procedure, allowing the characterization of the mechanical parameters of the skin, easily differentiated these two sites, and in some cases, differences between women and men were demonstrated. The main results showed for both sexes that the thickness (P = 0.0001), Young's modulus (P = 0.0001), and the index of non-elasticity (P = 0.0001) were greater for the forehead than for the ventral forearm, but that the initial stress was lower (P = 0.0001). The results show that the skin is thicker, stiffer and less tense and elastic on the forehead than on the ventral forearm, suggesting structural differences between these two sites (collagen fibre network, elastic fibres, epidermis, stratum corneum, microvascularization, actinic damage, presence of sebaceous glands, etc.). It is hoped that this device will be useful for the evaluation of certain skin disorders (scleroderma, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, cutis laxa, oedema, etc.) and their therapy, as well as being a useful tool in skin ageing and cosmetic product assessment.