Problems with your skin? Collagen is perfect for you
It's impossible to talk about anti-aging skincare without certain ingredients coming up in the conversation, one of which being collagen. The reason for that? Among other roles, collagen is the most important structural protein in our skin and is responsible for giving us plump, youthful-looking skin. But thanks (or rather, no thanks) to aging and other outside factors, our collagen breaks down over time. In an effort to restore that collagen, we turn to whatever we can get our hands on the fastest, be it collagen creams, collagen-stimulating ingredients, collagen supplements—the list goes on. But with all the different forms and types of collagen skincare, things can get pretty confusing.
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, accounting for about one-third of its protein composition.It’s one of the major building blocks of bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Collagen is also found in many other body parts, including blood vessels, corneas, and teeth.
You can think of it as the “glue” that holds all these things together. In fact, the word comes from the Greek word “kólla,” which means glue.
What does it do in your body?
There are at least 16 types of collagen. The four main types are type I, II, III, and IV.
Here’s a closer look at the four main types of collagen and their roles in your body:
- Type I. This type accounts for 90% of your body’s collagen and is made of densely packed fibers. It provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth.
- Type II. This type is made of more loosely packed fibers and found in elastic cartilage, which cushions your joints.
- Type III. This type supports the structure of muscles, organs, and arteries.
- Type IV. This type helps with filtration and is found in the layers of your skin.
As you age, your body produces less and lower quality collagen.
One of the visible signs of this is in your skin, which becomes less firm and supple. Cartilage also weakens with age.
Nutrients that increase collagen production
All collagen starts off as procollagen. Your body makes procollagen by combining two amino acids — glycine and proline. This process uses vitamin C.
You may be able to help your body produce this important protein by making sure you get plenty of the following nutrients:
- Vitamin C. Large amounts are found in citrus fruits, bell peppers, and strawberries.
- Large amounts are found in egg whites, wheat germ, dairy products, cabbage, asparagus, and mushrooms.
- Large amounts are found in pork skin, chicken skin, and gelatin, but glycine is also found in various protein-containing foods.
- Large amounts are found in organ meats, sesame seeds, cocoa powder, cashews, and lentils.
In addition, your body needs high quality protein that contains the amino acids needed to make new proteins. Meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, legumes, and tofu are all excellent sources of amino acids.
Things that damage collagen
Perhaps it’s even more important to avoid the following collagen-destroying behaviors:
- Eating too much sugar and refined carbs. Sugar interferes with collagen’s ability to repair itself. Minimize your consumption of added sugar and refined carbs.
- Getting too much sunshine. Ultraviolet radiation can reduce collagen production. Avoid excessive sun exposure.
- Smoking reduces collagen production. This can impair wound healing and lead to wrinkles.
Some autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, can also damage collagen.
5 SKIN PROBLEMS THAT COLLAGEN CAN HELP WITH
COLLAGEN FOR WRINKLES
Collagen has been a go to ingredient in the beauty industry for years. Mostly due to its proven ability to help with fine lines and wrinkles. But if you’re still not clear on why collagen is so amazing for aging skin, let’s get schooled.
Basically, it’s all about elasticity. Research has shown that collagen measurably improves skin’s elasticity.
What does this mean? Elasticity refers to the skin’s ability to stretch and ‘bounce back’. It also plays into firmness, or plumpness. Skin with a high degree of elasticity has the ability to face the stressors of the day and wake up looking healthy and refreshed.
COLLAGEN FOR ACNE
Collagen is a necessary component in the healing of wounds. As a key building block of the skin, collagen swoops in like our favorite superhero when wounding takes place.
How does it work? Like this: acne creates an area of the skin that’s basically having a mini crisis. With each clogged pore, or pimple, there is an overgrowth of bacteria. This bacteria is what causes swelling, redness, irritation, inflammation. And then, of course, we start to touch it.
These inflamed areas need time, TLC, and, as it turns out, collagen, in order to heal.
How collagen for acne helps: For starters, simply supplementing with hydrolyzed collagen can help to create decent levels of collagen in the body. This helps to curb the natural decline that we start to experience in our 20s, and keeps collagen readily available when your body needs it most.
And when our skin is damaged by an acne breakout, that collagen is put to good use in help with healing the wound. Collagen plays a key role in scarring as it’s used by the immune system to close the wound and form ‘new’ skin in the area.
And as for that nasty inflammation? One of the key amino acids found in hydrolyzed collagen supplements, glycine, also acts as an anti-inflammatory.
COLLAGEN FOR ECZEMA
While there is some debate currently on what actually causes and exacerbates eczema, anyone who struggles with this skin condition can tell you: it’s time consuming to deal with, a total pain and even a bit mysterious.
While at present there is no evidence to suggest that collagen can prevent eczema, if we circle back to the acne section, we can underscore the role collagen plays in wound healing of the skin.
An eczema breakout is much the same as any other skin wound – it all starts with an inflammatory stage and then proceeds into the healing stages. Collagen is a big player in the healing process (not to mention that one of the amino acids, glycine, is also an anti-inflammatory). So the next time you’re dealing with an annoying eczema, consider a collagen supplement for help with healing.
COLLAGEN FOR DRY SKIN
Struggling with dry skin? Collagen can also improve the hydration of our skin. Studies have shown that 8 weeks of ingesting collagen significantly increases skin hydration.
COLLAGEN FOR CELLULITE
While you can’t fight genetics (which is largely responsible for whether or not someone is prone to cellulite), you can count on collagen to help combat the appearance of it on your skin. You see, one of the results of diminishing collagen levels is thinning of the skin.
It’s this thinning that causes the appearance of cellulite and stretch marks to become more dramatic. By keeping collagen levels high (which translates into firmness and elasticity) skin will be less likely to collapse into cellulite. And studies have shown that taking collagen supplements regularly led to a clear improvement in women with moderate cellulite.
COLLAGEN FOR OTHER HEALTH BENEFITS
Helps relieve joint pain
Collagen helps maintain the integrity of your cartilage, which is the rubber-like tissue that protects your joints. As the amount of collagen in your body decreases as you get older, your risk of developing degenerative joint disorders such as osteoarthritis increases.
Some studies have shown that taking collagen supplements may help improve symptoms of osteoarthritis and reduce joint pain overall. In one study, 73 athletes who consumed 10 grams of collagen daily for 24 weeks experienced a significant decrease in joint pain while walking and at rest, compared with a group that did not take it.
Researchers have theorized that supplemental collagen may accumulate in cartilage and stimulate your tissues to make collagen. They have suggested this may lead to lower inflammation, better support of your joints, and reduced pain.
Collagen can raise the health of your heart
Researchers have theorized that taking collagen supplements may help reduce the risk of heart-related conditions. Collagen provides structure to your arteries, which are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. Without enough collagen, arteries may become weak and fragile. This may lead to atherosclerosis, a disease characterized by the narrowing of the arteries. Atherosclerosis has the potential to lead to heart attack and stroke.
Other health benefits
Collagen supplements may have other health benefits, but these have not been studied extensively.
- Hair and nails. Taking collagen may increase the strength of your nails by preventing brittleness. Additionally, it may stimulate your hair and nails to grow longer.
- Gut health. Although there is no scientific evidence to support this claim, some health practitioners promote the use of collagen supplements to treat intestinal permeability, or leaky gut syndrome.
- Brain health. No studies have examined the role of collagen supplements in brain health. However, some people claim they improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety.
- Weight loss. Some believe that taking collagen supplements may promote weight loss and a faster metabolism. There have not been any studies to support these claims.
Although these potential effects are promising, more research is needed before formal conclusions can be made.