The Truth About Collagen
Collagen is one of, if not the most important building blocks of your skin. But what’s the deal with collagen loss and can skincare really help put back what’s gone? Here’s everything we know…
If you’re here, you’re probably semi-interested in your skin and how it works. And if that’s the case you’ll know a little bit about collagen and the role it plays in the overall health of your skin. Hint: it’s a LOT.
But how much do you really know about collagen? Like, what happens as you age? And what collagen in skincare truthfully means?
Interested to up your collagen knowledge (ooh, try saying that three times in a row after a few pinots!)? Then read on for the full intel…
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the whole of your body and it’s made up of a combination of amino acids. While there are many different types of collagen, there are only four main variants, and of these, just one (type I) accounts for a whopping 90 percent of your body’s collagen levels.
Collagen is found in the body’s connective tissues and it has a kind of dense, fiber-like structure which acts like ‘glue’ to make these tissues strong, supple and resilient. You’ll find collagen in your bones, muscles, teeth and blood, but it’s most prevalent in your skin where it’s produced just beneath the surface in the dermis.
How Does Aging Affect Collagen?
When you’re young, your skin is awash with lots of delicious collagen which keeps it soft, strong, plump and wrinkle-free. However, once you hit your 20s, you start to produce around 1-1.5 percent less collagen every year. This is what’s known as intrinsic aging and it’s what causes the inevitable thinning and weakening of your skin you literally have no control over.
Of course, there are plenty of other factors at play here, too. Your lifestyle, your diet, how much sleep you get and your levels of stress all work to deplete collagen in your skin. Then, there’s the environmental stuff like pollution and UV damage that cause collagen-damaging free radicals. All this you can control and it’s what’s known in the biz as extrinsic aging.
So, Can You Slow Down The Rate At Which Your Skin Loses Collagen?
Yes and no. Intrinsic aging is a done deal and unless you’ve invented some kind of Back To The Future style DeLorean, you can’t alter time. But you can control all the other factors. The sun is the biggest player and responsible for around 80 percent of extrinsic aging, so you must protect your skin from UV damage every day by applying an antioxidant like Vitamin C Facial Serum followed by sunscreen with broad-spectrum coverage.
Getting a great night’s sleep, not smoking and reducing emotional stress are also super important. And so is your diet. Sugar and refined carbs can really screw up collagen synthesis so try to avoid these. Instead, up your intake of antioxidant-rich fruit and veggies and ensure you get plenty of protein as this helps your body produce more quality collagen in order to maintain firmer, younger-looking skin.
Meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, beans and tofu are real BFFs for quality collagen production.
What’s The Deal With Collagen In Skincare?
Experts are divided as to whether applying skincare containing collagen really works. Although, in truth, most agree it probably doesn’t. The issue is that collagen is a large, very complex molecule making it pretty hard (almost impossible?) to penetrate the skin when applied topically. Darn it. Hydrolyzed collagen (which is collagen that’s been broken down into peptides) may absorb more easily, but the jury’s still out on that one.
In our opinion, your best bet is to stick with skincare ingredients that work to increase your own rate of collagen production, rather than to apply topical, synthetic collagen. Ingredients like retinol, MSM and vitamin C have all been studied and proven to stimulate your skin’s natural collagen production and inhibit its breakdown. Retinol, in particular, has been used for decades and has an awesome track record when it comes to upping your collagen levels.
Try Retinol Facial Serum or Vitamin C Super Serum +. And of course, don’t forget that super important sun protection to reduce the formation of free radicals in your skin and consequently decrease your risk of collagen damage.
Finally, What About Collagen Drinks & Supplements?
As with topical collagen, there’s not a huge amount of evidence to support whether ‘miracle’ collagen shots or supplements will realistically make your lines and wrinkles disappear. Some research papers point to them having definite potential, but many experts believe that by the time the collagen has been ingested, digested and made its way into your bloodstream its potency and quantity could be so lacking it has no real benefits at all.
Again, hydrolyzed collagen supplements seem to have more potential as studies show these to be more easily absorbed by your body. But, we’re still not 100 percent convinced.
Our advice for maintaining quality collagen for as long as you possibly can? Stick with a healthy diet, use daily sun protection and apply antioxidants and retinol on the reg. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
About Georgia Gould
Georgia is an award-winning beauty writer who has been in the business for over 20 years. British-born, she began her career as a magazine beauty editor in London before moving to San Francisco, CA in 2012 where she now continues her love as a freelance writer and editor. As well as her editorial work, Georgia has created content for many high-profile beauty brands, including Clarins, L’Oréal, Procter & Gamble, Simple and TRESemmé. Her passions include retinol (obviously), golfing, skiing and walking her beloved Schnauzer, Dave.