If you’re fanatical about skin care, you’ve undoubtedly heard that collagen is essential to skin beauty. That’s no lie.
The protein in your skin is 75-80% collagen and that’s good news as collagen is “the stress resistant material of the skin,” according to Dr Maral Skelsey, clinical associate professor of Dermatology at Georgetown University. The bad news is that as you read this very article, you’re losing collagen.
The best news of all (we hope) is that Costhetics has assembled all the latest news and information on collagen, from what it is to where it goes and what you can do to get it back. Let’s get started…
Collagen & the Science of Skin Beauty
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It starts life as procollagen, a substance your body makes using vitamin C to combine the amino acids, proline and glycine. Then fibroblast cells step in and create collagen. Collagen holds your body together, giving structure to your ligaments, tendons, bones, nails, muscles, teeth and skin. (The word collagen comes from ‘kolla,’ the Greek word for glue.)
Scientists report there are a minimum of 16 different types of collagen found in the body. Two types (of the top four) haven an impact on skin:
- Type I – Made of densely packed fibres, this type of collagen provides structure to skin.
- Type IV – This specific collagen is found in the layers of skin and helps with filtration.
When you’re young, the collagen your body produces is Grade A Prime. It keeps skin plump, firm, and glowing. Starting in your late 20’s however, you lose 1% of your collagen stores per year. After menopause, women’s collagen reserves drop 2% per year. That’s just the half of it! Not only does your body produce less of this essential substance as you age, the collagen it does produce is of a lower quality. You’ll be able to see it when it happens.
Stealing Beauty: Collagen Loss by Decades
As the collagen supply in your body begins to wane, your skin beauty changes, and not for the better.
- Age 30 – The mirror reflects collagen loss by showing dynamic wrinkles appearing and disappearing on the forehead, around the eyes, and around the mouth.
- Age 40 – As oestrogen levels drop for women, so does collagen production. Mirror mirror on the wall says you’re starting to ‘sink and shrink’ as your temples start to appear hollowed out and your cheeks become flattened.
- Age 50 – Good-bye, hormones. Hello, crepe-y skin. The severe dip in oestrogen production at this age robs skin of its underlying support structure, making it more fragile and thin.
- Age 60 – The ageing process is in high gear and your body is producing as little as 60% of the collagen it needs. Static wrinkles are visible and skin looks saggy and dehydrated.
Cosmetic Fixes for Collagen Loss
There’s no way to stop collagen loss in its tracks, but there are ways to reverse its progress.
- Collagen-Boosting Skin Care – A topical application of vitamin A can increase collagen production. The treatment also gently exfoliates the skin. You will need to be extra vigilant about using sunscreen. (You should do that anyway.)
- Collagen Induction Therapy – Also known as microneedling, this treatment stimulates collage production by safely ‘wounding’ the skin with tiny (micro) needles. It has been proven to reduce fine lines, improve pore size, erase wrinkles, and make the skin more supple. Downtime is minimal.
- Fillers – Dermal fillers have been shown to stimulate the activity of fibroblasts, the cells responsible for producing collagen. Filler treatments also improve the look of skin immediately and help plump deflated facial areas. Maintenance treatments may be needed every three to nine months.
- Heat-Based Treatments – These treatments include ultrasound, laser resurfacing, and radio frequency. Each has been showed to provide significant collagen production, along with modest skin lifting and tightening. The American Academy of Dermatology reports its members are using various devices to stimulate collagen production. A single treatment is usually sufficient and offers additional benefits including modest skin lifting and tightening within two to six months of treatment. With proper skincare maintenance, the benefits can last up to three years.
- Red light therapy – Also known as low-level laser light therapy (LLLT), researchers found that the controlled skin wounding promoted collagen biosynthesis and dermal matrix remodelling. The epidermis is not destroyed and downtime is minimal.
The Collagen-Building Diet
A well-balanced diet containing foods rich in the key nutrients below can certainly make it easier for your body to keep collagen production at its peak too:
- Amino Acids – High quality proteins contain the essential amino acids required to create new collagen. Feast away on meat, seafood, dairy, legumes, and tofu.
- Copper – Load up on sesame seeds, cocoa powder (hooray!), lentils, and cashews.
- Glycine – Gelatine is essentially cooked collagen, so you can’t go wrong there. Glycine is also found in bone broth and chicken/pork skin.
- Proline – Start you day with an egg white omelette, wheat germ, and dairy products. Then enjoy cabbage, mushrooms, and asparagus to get more proline in your diet.
- Vitamin C – Enjoy an abundance of citrus fruits, colourful capsicum, and strawberries.
There are also a wide variety of nutritional supplements on the market offering collagen alone or in a formulation. Steer clear of formulations that combine collagen with fibre and probiotics, which may interact with the collagen and reduce its efficacy.
Full hydrolysed collagen is easily digestible and bio-available, meaning it is quickly absorbed by the body. A hot new study on the effects of collagen on human skin found that women who took a daily collagen supplement had marked improvements in skin elasticity after just four weeks. Study participants also showed higher levels of hydration in the skin.
Not everyone is a fan of supplements. “I think collagen is interesting and there is some data out there suggesting benefit, but I prefer for my patients to eat food,” dermatologist/nutritionist Valori Treloar, told WebMD.
Chewable gummy collagen supplements are one of the newest entries in the ingestible collagen market. Though tasty and generally well tolerated, these gummies may contain shellfish and other ingredients that can trigger an allergic response. “Rare cases of elevated calcium levels in susceptible patients have been reported from excess collage supplementation,” a board-certified dermatologist told the HuffPost noting they “do not have a proven biologic mechanism of action” and have not been subject to randomized controlled trials.”
Don’t Sabotage Your Collagen Preservation Efforts
Unfortunately, all the good eats and collagen-boosting treatments in the world aren’t enough to overcome the effects of:
- Too many refined carbs – Sugar makes it difficult for collagen to repair itself. Do your best to limit your consumption. (Your waistline will thank you, too)
- Too little sunscreen – Ultraviolet radiation is a natural enemy of collagen production. The Mayo Clinic reports that UV light doesn’t simply affect superficial layers of skin. It breaks down the collagen and elastin fibres located in the dermis, causing premature ageing. Make a point of using a broad spectrum sunscreen every day, even when it’s cloudy.
- Smoking – Smoking has been shown to have a negative impact on collagen production. It also dries skin and can accelerate the appearance of ageing smoker’s lines around the mouth.
Curvier Contours with Collagen
It appears it’s never too early to start thinking about collagen. It is, after all, essential to skin health and beauty. Costhetics says while you’re thinking, please think about consulting a skincare expert too. It can be a challenge to navigate your way through the oceans of material about collagen replacement. Wouldn’t you feel better with an expert leading the expedition? A skin professional has the knowledge and experience to assess your skin condition and guide you to a custom-tailored solution to your problem