Collagen is a bit like gluten. We've all heard of it, and we all talk about it, but no one knows what it actually is. Is it a type of sugar? A protein? Where does it come into the world of skin care? Do our bodies create collagen? Can we eat it? Do we get it from the sun? Further to that, why are we obsessed with slathering it all over our skin?
We invest in serums and moisturizers that claim to be infused with collagen, but what does it actually do for our skin?
As with every skin care ingredient, it's worth learning everything you need to know about it to make sure you're using it in the most efficacious way and combining it with other products that will boost the results you want.
If you're eager to learn more about the beauty's biggest buzzword, what it does and how to use it to achieve healthier skin, we reveal everything you need to know!
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and it's essential for building muscle and cell repair. It's a long, fibrous, structural protein - it's rope-like in appearance - that gives the skin strength and elasticity. Often described as scaffolding for the skin, it acts like a trampoline providing a supportive base structure and giving us the 'boiiing' we need for bouncy, healthy-looking skin. Think plump, juicy skin.
With its fundamental face-perking credentials, it stands to the reason that beauty brands and consumers want in on the action with skincare that contains the ingredient and promises to give our skin added oomph.
Where Does Collagen Come From?
Collagen is not just an essential component of the skin, but it can also be found throughout the entire body. There are at least 28 different types of collagen, but over 90% of the collagen in our bodies is type one. It's found in skin, tendons, blood vessels, organs and bones. Essentially, it works like glue to bind tissue together. Whenever we encounter damage in or on our body, collagen production is triggered within our cells to help repair and heal the wound.
If It's Found in Our Body Why Do We Need it in a Cream?
Your skin makes fresh collagen all the time and then as it gets damaged, it's taken down and new collagen is produced. But like all good things, the levels we produce don't stay consistent as we get older.
Collagen production diminishes with age, as well as with exposure to UV radiation and environmental stressors such as smoking and pollution. Typically, the decline in collagen production begins in your twenties and drops by about one percent each year. The appearance of fine lines are the first signs, such as early wrinkles and crepey skin that doesn't snap back as quickly as it may once have.
It has also been linked to hormones, with peak collagen production aligning with peak fertility. Women experience a further dramatic reduction in the production of collagen with the onset of menopause.
That's the bad news. But, if you’re already mourning the inevitable slowing of collagen production, the good news is, it's never too late to switch to these collagen-boosting solutions:
1. Daily Sunscreen
UV exposure plays a major part in the degradation of our collagen levels. If you are really good with your UV protection and wear it daily, whether it's cloudy or not, it’s the single biggest thing you can do to push out the collagen slowdown.
2. Snack Smart
Anyone for bone broth? Made from collagen-rich bones, the broth is broken down into amino acids in the gut. These are then used as building blocks to produce more collagen. Still not keen? The best sources of these amino acids include egg whites, meat and cheese, while cabbage is a vegetarian option. Other supporting nutrients for collagen production include vitamin C (strawberries broccoli, oranges, peppers); copper (shellfish, nuts and red meat); vitamin A (liver, egg yolks, carrots and sweet potatoes).
3. Exercise Regularly
Whether a virtual HIIT class or park run is your favored way to work out, exercise can have a positive impact, says Granite. Increasing oxygen and blood supply makes for healthier skin.
4. No Smoking
We all know by now that smoking damages our skin. Specifically, smoke and toxins unleash free radicals that cause oxidative damage to the skin, which limits collagen production.
5. So Long Sugar
Excessive sugar consumption may lead to glycation, a process that can cause collagen to become weak and brittle and therefore reduce its effect on skin elasticity, leading to signs of premature aging. We don't have to forego the white stuff completely, but the 4pm chocolate bar may need to go.
Can Skin Care Make the Difference?
Collagen masks are the skincare trend we can’t get enough of, but collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed into the skin. Instead, it's more likely your mask includes skincare actives to support the skin’s ability to produce collagen.
For example, retinol has a unique metabolism so boosts collagen as part of its mode of action.
It also points to ingredients developed from wound healing and stem cell technology, one of which is also abundant with collagen regeneration properties, and that is manuka honey. Peptides and growth factors applied topically can also help signal the skin to produce more collagen.
Vitamin C is essential in collagen synthesis, so is often recommended as a topical antioxidant. You could also try niacinamide, azelaic acid, reservatrol, vitamin E, green tea. While they are unlikely to penetrate deep into skin, they work at surface level to neutralize free radicals, bolstering UV protection.
Be wary of cosmetic claims that go beyond 'supporting' skin function. Collagen is in the dermis, the thickest lower levels of the skin, so it’s a question of what can actually get there. Skin penetration is a huge science in itself and the skin is good at keeping things out. Cosmetic products can change the levels of collagen, but are not supposed to as this would officially make them drugs.
And remember your SPF, no negotiation, otherwise all your other good work will be negated by the UV exposure,” she adds.
Professional 'Deep' Treatments
If you're serious about safeguarding your collagen stocks, you may want to investigate the pro treatments that take collagen regeneration to the next-level. They work by controlled injury of the skin to induce regeneration and a lot of that is collagen production.
Chemical peels, ablative laser such as Fraxel and iPixel, micro needling, radio-frequency and Ultherapy (using micro-focused ultrasound) can all affect collagen. The deeper the treatment, the better the results tend to be, but the downtime is the trade-off. Not to mention the expense. Before booking in, always do your research to assess if the treatment is right for you.
Shot or Sprinkle? Boosting Collagen from the Inside Out
There's countless capsules, powders and liquid shots featuring hydrolyzed collagen peptides on offer, with a multitude of potential beauty benefits, from stronger nails, healthier hair, smoother skin, and muscle repair. It’s more a question of how you take it; mix it in your tea or sprinkle it on your breakfast?
These supplements can help to improve collagen production, but they can't guarantee where the collagen will go.
There are studies to show that those taking collagen supplements for a period of time see improvements in skin elasticity, but like food, they are broken down in the gut. So, there’s no guarantee if or where it will be involved in collagen creation. The body is far too complex for that.
However, with collagen derived from bovine (cow), porcine (pig) or marine (fish) sources, many supplements aren’t suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Look instead for those packed with nutrients (like hyaluronic acid, vitamin D, zinc) to support collagen synthesis, minus the stuff itself.
Finally, look out for sugar in your supplements. Considering its implication in damaging collagen, there’s still a surprising number of formulas that sweeten with the sugary stuff.
Collagen Skin Care
Now that we’ve covered all areas, taking collagen is a great way to boost your body, but maintenance is key with the right skin care brimming with natural ingredients known to boost natural collagen production! Look no further than Wild Naturals, with manuka honey in every product, and nourishing ingredients to heal, hydrate, and protect your skin as it ages, naturally!
Shop Wild Naturals skin care today!