Collagen is a string-shaped protein that is the most abundant protein in our bodies. It is one of the central elements in our connective tissue. Connective tissue is exactly what it sounds like – a tissue that connects various tissues in our bodies. Therefore, collagen is an essential part of our skin, bones, muscles, cartilage, and tendons. Even though our bodies are capable of producing collagen themselves, in time its resources deplete, and the production processes become slower until at a certain point collagen starts to disintegrate faster than it can regenerate. This process is obvious and easy to notice if we observe the changes that our skin goes through in time – the aging process.
How is the collagen produced within the skin?
In our skin, just like in other tissues, collagen is produced by particular cells, called fibroblasts. Mostly they can be found in the middle layer of the skin – the dermis. Aside from collagen, fibroblasts also produce elastin – a protein that gives the skin its elasticity and firmness, and various glycosaminoglycans, such as hyaluronate, otherwise known as hyaluronic acid. When fibroblasts function in their full capacity (the younger the person – the more active the fibroblast), our skin is firm, lively, resilient, and smooth. Yet, in time, as the collagen reserves deplete, we can notice changes in the skin‘s texture, it becomes saggy, dull, and looks tired. Ever since early adulthood, collagen production is reduced by 1%-1,5% per year. Even though this number might change depending on our lifestyle (stress and lack of sleep take part in collagen disintegration), harmful habits, nutrition, etc., we obviously want to find a reliable way to increase the amount of collagen in our system.
How can we replenish our collagen resources?
It‘s not easy to get collagen itself from food sources. Naturally, it can only be found in meat and fish since the bodies of these animals also contain connective tissue. Yet, plenty of plant foods are filled with nutrients that can boost collagen synthesis. Some great collagen boosters include citrus fruit (They are rich in vitamin C that stimulates fibroblasts to make more collagen.), berries, garlic, leafy greens, and beans.
2. Food supplements
Another way to get more collagen into your system is through food supplements. A considerable number of scientific studies conclude that the use of food supplements containing collagen may positively affect the state of aging and damaged skin. No wonder collagen supplements are very important to everyone who wants to fight signs of aging and recover the youthful glow of their skin. Various studies introduce various positive results, yet there are a couple of scientific articles that reveal very encouraging findings. Women, who used collagen supplements containing 2,5-5 grams of collagen for 8 weeks, noticed that their skin has become less dry and a lot more elastic than before. Another study concludes that women, who used a collagen supplement for 12 weeks, noticed a decrease in the depth of their wrinkles. The wrinkle-reducing effect of collagen supplements is to do with their ability to stimulate our bodies to produce collagen on their own.
Which food supplements to use?
Of course, not all supplements were created equal. It is important to choose supplements that are easy for our bodies to absorb, such as hydrolyzed collagen supplements. Hydrolyzed collagen is made of collagen peptides – the mid option between protein and amino acids. Peptides are smaller collagen protein fragments that the body absorbs faster and easier than the large collagen molecules.
What makes hydrolysed collagen special?
When we consume a hydrolyzed collagen supplement, most collagen peptides are broken down into single amino acids and course through our bodies with other remaining collagen peptides. Both, new amino acids and collagen peptides can be used in other recovery processes that happen within our bodies. In case of excess, they are eliminated. Yet, a part of collagen peptides travels to places that contain fibroblasts and may stimulate them to make more collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid. Moreover, the peptides themselves can be used in collagen “building” processes as building materials.
Topical collagen skincare products: worth it?
If a possibility to replenish your skin‘s collagen resources by using some kind of topical product sounds too good to be true – that‘s because it is. No matter how much we‘d like to believe in the benefits of collagen skincare products, collagen production happens too deep in the skin for us to interfere with our collagen creams and serums. The molecular weight of the collagen of skincare products is simply too high for it to get through the protective barrier of the skin. Of course, products containing collagen can still hydrate the outermost layers of the skin but that might be all that they can offer.
However, certain skincare products can boost collagen synthesis even without having collagen on their ingredient lists. Here it’s important to mention vitamin C and retinol. According to scientific research, products that contain 5-15% ascorbic acid boost the production of type I and II collagen. Retinol also stimulates collagen synthesis in our dermis.
Products that contain 5-15% ascorbic acid boost the production of type I and II collagen.
Adding that extra collagen is great but it’s even more important to protect the collagen that we already gave. Since UV radiation promotes collagen breakdown, in order to prevent it from doing so, we must protect our skin from the sun. Sunscreen may not boost collagen synthesis, but it definitely prevents the collagen we already have from breaking down and helps our skin to remain firm and plump longer.