Is Collagen Really Good for Your Skin?
Collagen is a term that you hear about quite a bit when it comes to skin care, in relation to everything from aging to cellulite.
While collagen may be quite a buzz word at the moment, do you actually know what it is? Or if it’s really any good for your skin?
Here is everything you need to know…
What Exactly is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, with 30% of the protein in your body being collagen, and it can be found in everything from your skin and hair to your bones and tendons.
Collagen is fibrous, insoluble and hard, with some types of collagen fibrils being stronger than steel on a gram to gram basis.
To put it simply, collagen is the glue that holds your body together. It is usually found in your body’s extracellular matrix, otherwise known as the ECM. The ECM is what holds all of the cells in your body together, enabling them to function properly.
When it comes to the skin, 70% to 80% of your skin is made up on collagen, and this is something that your body produces itself.
While your body produces plenty of collagen in the earlier years of your life, this unfortunately begins to decline as you get older, with this usually beginning in your 20’s or 30’s.
What Does Collagen Do for the Skin?
As mentioned above, collagen makes up a major part of your skin, so, as you can imagine, it does quite a bit.
One of the greatest benefits of collagen is the way in which it prevents and minimizes fine lines and wrinkles.
You already know that collagen is pretty much the glue that holds your body together, and this includes your skin.
While the amount of collagen that your body produces in your earlier years helps to keep your skin smooth and firm, collagen production sadly declines with age.
What happens then?
Everything from wrinkles and fine lines to sagging skin and dryness.
This may sound frightening, but there’s still hope…
Research shows that collagen supplements can result in an improvement in skin elasticity within four weeks, as well as wrinkles in just eight weeks.
What about cellulite?
Collagen can help with cellulite too…
The reason that cellulite usually appears to begin with is because of the way in which your body’s collagen production levels decline with age. This then weakens and thins the connective tissues in your skin, and then the fat underneath it ends up poking through, resulting in the lumps and bumps known as cellulite.
Already have cellulite?
There are several studies out there that show how effective collagen is when it comes to reducing existing cellulite, showing a clear improvement in skin texture.
Another way in which collagen is important for the health of your skin is…
Collagen can be hugely influential when it comes to inflammatory skin conditions, such as acne, psoriasis and eczema.
Not only does it help to reduce the frequency of flare-ups experienced, but it also minimizes the severity, as well as any pain.
How does it do this?
With its unique amino acids that target and reduce inflammation.
When it comes to acne in particular…
The bacteria that leads to acne also damages the structure of cells. As mentioned above, collagen makes up a large part of this structure, meaning that it is needed in order for cells to repair themselves.
With collagen, not only will your acne be reduced, but your skin will heal faster and there will be less chance of scarring.
It is not only acne wounds that are improved with collagen…
Collagen helps to speed up wound healing in general, no matter where your wound has come from. Not only that, but its anti-inflammatory properties also reduce the inflammation that is normally associated with skin wounds and damaged tissue.
Finally, collagen also significantly boosts skin hydration, and this is something that many people do not actually realize.
This is because the research into this is still quite new, but current research does show that skin hydration can increase by 28% after just four weeks of collagen supplementation.
This can really help those who have dry skin, not just as their natural skin type but also the dry skin that tends to come with age.
Where Does the Body Get Collagen From?
The body produces collagen itself, but, as you already know, the rate at which it does so slows down with age.
So, how do you bump your collagen levels back up?
Unfortunately, there are no food sources that contain collage.
However, there is a way around this…
While collagen itself cannot be found in foods, there are still so many foods out there that contain the ingredients necessary to speed up the body’s natural production of collagen.
Wondering what these are?
There are 21 amino acids necessary for the production of collagen in the body, and some of the best foods to eat for these include:
- Certain meats, such as lean beef, deer, veal and lamb
- Certain fish, such as cod and salmon
- Certain cheeses, such as parmesan, goat’s, Romano, Gruyère, and Monterey
- A few plant-based foods, such as pumpkin seeds, peanuts, nut butters, hemp seeds and mustard seeds
However, even if you do eat more of these foods, there are other nutrients that you also need in order for your body to be able to properly synthesize collagen.
One of the most important vitamins that you need for collagen synthesis is vitamin C.
This helps in multiple ways, not only directly increasing the production of collagen in the body, but also by releasing specific enzymes that prevent the damage and destruction of existing collagen.
Did you know that a deficiency in vitamin C can actually stop your body’s production of collagen?
This is why it is so important to make sure that you are getting enough vitamin C, with some of the top food sources being peppers, citrus fruits, strawberries and kale. An easy way to make sure you get enough vitamin C is to incorporate them into daily smoothies.
What about skin care products containing vitamin C?
These are great too, but don’t forget that vitamin C is quite an unstable ingredient, so make sure that the product you are using is contained in opaque packaging and is stored in the correct conditions, because everything from light to air can have an effect on its potency.
Vitamin E is also extremely important when it comes to collagen synthesis, and actually works best when it is combined with vitamin C.
What does vitamin E do?
It protects your existing collagen from being damaged by free radicals, which is one of the main causes of collagen degradation.
Vitamin E can be found in foods such as sunflower seeds, almonds, wheat germ oil, hazelnut oil and pine nuts.
Here are a few of the other nutrients you need in order for your body to produce collagen:
- Beta Carotene – found in carrots, sweet potatoes, kale
- Lycopene – found in tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, red cabbage
- Calcium – found in dairy products, spinach, poppy seeds, sesame seeds
- Copper – found in Shiitake mushrooms, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids – found in oily fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts, pine nuts
What about Oral Collagen Supplements?
These are actually extremely effective, providing the body with collagen itself rather than the raw ingredients for your body to then create collagen.
When taking oral collagen supplements, you will not only be benefiting your skin, but also the rest of your body in various ways, such as:
- Preventing and treating any joint pain
- Preventing the loss of bone density throughout the body
- Improving the way in which the body absorbs calcium
- Stimulating the cells that form bones, resulting in stronger bones overall
Of course, there are so many different collagen supplements out there, and they are definitely not all created equally, so how do you know which one is the best?
Well, out of the many different sources of collagen, bovine collagen is the best. Not only does this contain just about all of the important types of collagen, but the raw materials can be sourced from grass-fed cows, meaning a much higher quality source of raw materials.
Wondering how much collagen you should be taking?
For the collagen to really be effective, your dosage should be around 10 mg per day. Higher amounts are also usually safe, but you should still speak to your doctor if you are planning on taking a higher dosage than recommended on the packaging of your supplements.
The FDA does not regulate these sorts of supplements, so try to find a brand that makes use of third-party testing in order to prove that their product does work, and also to ensure that the ingredients within it have not been contaminated in any way.
What About Skin Care Products Containing Collagen?
This is something that has been heavily debated for a while now…
There are many that will say that the majority of collagen molecules are too large to properly penetrate into the skin, meaning that they end up sitting on the skin’s surface and do not actually do much.
However, with so many different advancements in technology, there are many different forms of collagen now being developed, and research into this has been limited so far.
When it comes to collagen injections, these have been proven to be extremely effective.
Since the collagen is injected directly into the epidermis, rather than just being applied to the surface of the skin, it can really boost the amount of collagen in the body.
However, keep in mind that these effects are just temporary. The collagen is used simply as a filler, and does not actually increase the rate at which your body naturally produces collagen.
What do collagen injections do?
They support the structure of your existing collagen while strengthening connective tissues, therefore minimizing fine lines, wrinkles and other visible signs of aging.
Protecting the Collagen That You Already Have
It goes without saying that in addition to boosting your body’s production of collagen, you should also be taking the necessary steps to protect the collagen that you already have. The breakdown of collagen is extremely common and can be caused by several different factors, from the sun’s UV rays to smoking, making preserving your existing collagen so important.
How do you go about doing this?
There are several ways in which you can do this, such as:
- Protecting your skin from UV light, not only with sunscreen but also physical protection, such as a wide-brimmed hat and clothing
- Avoid processed foods, as the sugars and starches in these generate inflammation within the body, which then breaks down your collagen
- Try to minimize the amount of toxins that you expose your body to, whether this may be cigarette smoke, dirty drinking water, or anything else
- Make sure that you are getting quality sleep each night, as this prevents cortisol from being released through your body, which would otherwise degrade your collagen
- Make sure that you are nourishing your body and skin with plenty of antioxidants, both internally as well as externally
- Breathing exercises and yoga also help to reduce the amount of cortisol in your body, once again protecting your collagen levels
As you can see, there is no denying that collagen is extremely good for your skin, for a number of different reasons. Not only is it essential for keeping your skin smooth, firm and hydrated, but it also plays a huge role in protecting your skin from inflammatory conditions.
While your body does produce collagen naturally, it is important to remember that this does seriously decline with age, making it important for you to not only provide your body with the raw materials it needs to produce more collagen, but also to protect and preserve the collagen that you do already have.