Collagen is a protein that plays a crucial role in maintaining the health and appearance of our skin. It gives our skin its elasticity, firmness, and youthful glow.
As we get older, the production of collagen slows down, and fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging creep up.
To compound the problem, there’s also an array of factors that break down collagen, causing our skin to age even faster.
Fortunately, though, there are several ways to boost collagen production. There are also ways to protect it from breaking down.
Here you are going to learn what you can do to help preserve the collagen you have and ways to boost the production to promote healthy and youthful-looking skin.
Introduction to collagen & its role
Our human bodies are protein-making machines, and collagen is one of those proteins. It is the most abundant and strongest protein in our bodies. It is responsible for providing structure and support to our skin, as well as keeping it hydrated and elastic.
There are 28 types of collagen that have been identified, but only 5 main types.
Type I- Makes up 90% of our body’s collagen, is densely packed, and provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments.
Type II- Found in elastic cartilage for joint support.
Type III- Found in muscles, arteries, and organs.
Type IV- Found in the layers of our skin.
Type V- Found in the cornea of the eyes, some layers of skin, and tissue of the placenta.
From the time we are born until around age 20, our collagen levels continue to increase. Around age 25 is when collagen slows down.
What damages collagen?
While only about 3% of skin aging is due to actual aging, there are several other factors within your control that affect collagen production and breakdown.
The main cause, you can probably guess, is UV damage. Up to 90% of skin aging can be attributed to the sun. Exposure to UV can cause less collagen to be produced and increase the breakdown of collagen and elastin.
So, even though it may not show at the time, it will later!
The next one you can probably guess as well, smoking. Did you know that there are over 4,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke? The majority of them trigger the destruction of collagen and elastin, according to webmd.com.
Pollution and free radicals. Even though free radicals can be produced in the body naturally, like when you exercise or your body converts food into energy, pollution will cause even more. The types of pollutants that cause an increase in free radicals are smog, dust, cigarette smoke, household cleaners, and farming pesticides.
Free radicals can cause oxidative stress, which can then damage cells.
High sugar consumption causes collagen and elastin to deteriorate and will cause premature aging.
You may have heard of glycation. This is where the sugar in the bloodstream attaches to proteins causing the harmful molecule called AGEs (advanced glycation end products). When the collagen becomes cross-linked with AGEs, it becomes hard and brittle, leading to sagging and wrinkles.
Natural Aging. As I stated before, collagen production slows around the age of 25, and losing it can vary from 1% to 2% every year after.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, during the first 5 years of menopause, women’s skin loses about 30% of its collagen. Then it slows to 2% per year after that.
There is some evidence suggesting that caffeine may have an adverse effect on skin aging and the wound-healing process of the skin. One study found that caffeine reduced collagen synthesis in human skin.
What can you do to protect collagen and increase production?
Now that you know how your collagen gets depleted, some of the ways to curb this may seem like common sense. However, I will tell you what they are, anyway. Just for good measure!
1. Don’t Smoke. If you do smoke, quit! Even if you are in your 20s reading this thinking, you’re not doing any harm. You are! Even though it’s not showing just yet, it definitely will when you get older!
2. Make Sunscreen a Top Priority. Wearing sunscreen, even on cloudy days, will not only protect your collagen but keep dark spots and age spots from appearing as well.
You need to reapply it often throughout the day. Even though it may vary by product, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying 30 minutes before exposure and reapplying every 2 hours.
Once again, the damage from the sun will appear as you get older. Just like smoking!
3. Antioxidants. You need to include these in your diet and your skincare products to fight the free radicals. By reducing the amount of free radicals in your body, they help stimulate and protect your collagen.
Free radicals can damage your cells when they outnumber the antioxidants.
Eating foods that contain antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, along with minerals, copper, and zinc such as citrus fruits, berries, carrots, spinach, and broccoli, will help neutralize the free radicals.
Other antioxidants include beta-carotene and polyphenols found in carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, grapes, and red wine.
Using antioxidant skincare products, such as a vitamin C serum, vitamin B3 (niacinamide), and vitamin E, will also help protect your skin from the damaging effects of free radicals.
4. Aloe Vera has a long history of treating wounds and burns because of its ability to increase collagen production. Do you remember using your grandmother’s aloe vera plant for a burn? I do!
It can increase collagen production when applied topically or taken orally as a supplement.
5. Ginseng increases the amount of collagen in the bloodstream along with having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, according to Medical News Today.
6. Decrease or eliminate sugar from your diet. You have already learned the damage it does to your collagen.
7. Hyaluronic Acid Some evidence has suggested that hyaluronic acid, both topical and supplement, will help with soft tissue growth and prompt your body to make more collagen and elastin.
8. Algae prevents oxidation from breaking down collagen and elastin. It can also reverse and repair collagen damage caused by sun exposure.
9. Amino Acids are what proteins are made of, including collagen. To be more specific, lysine, glycine, and proline are the amino acids collagen needs.
In order for your body to have the amino acids it needs for collagen synthesis, you need to include foods in your diet that are complete proteins. Complete proteins are foods such as shrimp, chicken, beef, turkey, pork, eggs, soybeans, Greek yogurt, pumpkin seeds, and salmon.
You can also include an amino acid supplement in case your diet is lacking. Honestly, who isn’t lacking in their dietary needs, right?
Will taking a collagen supplement help?
Some research has shown that taking 2.5 – 12mg collagen supplements can be effective in improving skin elasticity, hydration, and moisture retention in the skin. However, you must keep in mind that not all supplements are made equally.
When looking for a collagen supplement, they need to be hydrolyzed or collagen peptides so they are more easily absorbed by the body.
They must also come from the correct source, such as wild-caught fish or bovine collagen from grass-fed cows. Be cautious about products claiming to be “vegan collagen”.
You also need to remember your body needs certain vitamins and minerals present to make collagen. For your body to make collagen, you need to include proline, glycine, vitamin C, zinc, and copper in your diet.
Proline is in food such as egg whites, cabbage, dairy, and mushrooms.
Glycine is found in pork skin, chicken skin, and gelatin.
Foods like citrus fruit, strawberries, cabbage, and cauliflower contain vitamin C, although lots of collagen supplements will have added vitamin C.
Cocoa powder, sesame seeds, lentils, and cashews have copper, and zinc can be found in foods like nuts, seeds, beef, milk, beans, and cheese.
Bone broth and gelatin are both excellent sources of the protein and amino acids your body needs to produce collagen.
Does collagen skincare help skin elasticity?
Collagen, applied topically, is beneficial for moisturizing the skin and keeping it hydrated. However, if you are trying to increase collagen production, collagen creams aren’t the way to go.
The collagen molecule is simply too big to be absorbed into your skin where it can help.
For stimulating collagen with your topical skincare, one of the best ingredients to turn to is retinol. Retinol is vitamin A and is known as an anti-aging powerhouse.
The 3 derivatives of vitamin A are retinol, retinal, and tretinoin. Retinol, as you may know, can be bought over the counter and retinal is less irritating and important for vision.
Tretinoin is available by prescription and stronger than retinol.
But, you no longer have to go to an office to get it! You can fill out a quick questionnaire and take a few pictures of your skin and a dermatologist will prepare a formula to address your specific skin concerns.
And the best part is you get to try it for free for a month. Just pay $4.99 for shipping.
I’ll bet you would now like to know where you can do this.
Dermatica.They use science-backed actives to address a range of skin concerns, such as acne, acne scars, rosacea, melasma, hyperpigmentation, and, of course, aging.
It is important to remember that if you have never used retinol before, then you may need to start slowly. It can irritate your skin, especially if you have sensitive skin.
You also only use retinol products at night because the sun decreases the efficacy and you always, ALWAYS wear sunscreen! Retinol makes your skin more sensitive to the sun.
Use at-home devices
If you have read any of my other blog posts, then you know I am a big fan of LED and Radio Frequency devices.
Both offer several anti-aging devices to tighten your skin at home.
Both of these devices penetrate the skin to increase collagen production. Combine one or both with a great skincare routine, and the suggestions from above, and you will absolutely LOVE your skin!