Collagen is a buzz-worthy word in the world of beauty, and there are tons of collagen creams and supplements in beauty and health aisles, promising you the fountain of youth, but many of us don't know what collagen really is.
What is collagen?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, "Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It accounts for about 30% of its total protein. Collagen is the primary building block of your body's skin, muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues. It's also found in your organs, blood vessels, and intestinal lining."
So far, 28 types of collagen have been discovered, and mainly five main types, with Type I responsible for giving the skin its structure.
When it comes to skin, collagen is responsible for keeping it firm. Another protein called keratin helps with skin elasticity but is a topic for a different day. When we start losing collagen, our skin appears saggy or loose, and we see more wrinkles.
How do we lose collagen?
We start losing collagen as early as age 20, but many people don't realize it until they are in their 30s. However, it's easier to notice the loss of elasticity, thinner skin, and appearance of more fine lines and wrinkles when we spend a lot of time looking at ourselves in the mirror or on our phones.
Lifestyle habits contributing to collagen loss include overexposure to UV rays (sun or the tanning bed), smoking, and a diet with too much-refined sugar/carbs. These habits reduce collagen production as well as break down existing collagen faster.
Do collagen supplements work?
There are so many in the market, so do they work? "There is a lack of good evidence for that. Only a few studies have said they work," said Dermatologist Dr. Anisha Joshi of Healthy Choice Clinic. "So just taking collagen supplements may not make the skin look younger," she added.
While some studies show that taking collagen supplements can improve skin, many studies are funded by the brand themselves, so there's that. According to Harvard Health Publishing, it is unclear if the supplement improved some people's skin or if other factors were involved, so there needs to be more studies on the long-term effects of taking these supplements.
How can we boost collagen production?
1. Eat a protein-rich diet
Adding lean meats, eggs, and legumes can help your body make more collagen, which can help keep your muscles and bones healthier, including your skin.
2. Do strength-training
Studies show that lifting weights releases a growth hormone that "stimulates your fibroblast cells, resulting in collagen production" (via Kirby Plastic Surgery). Working out is excellent for the mind and body, as it can reduce stress, which is a big culprit that accelerates aging.
3. Protect your skin from UV rays
Avoid going out when the sun is at its peak, and always wear sunscreen, as it can help reduce collagen breakdown caused by the sun. It's critical to wear sunscreen every day, irrespective of the weather or season.
4. Add retinoids to your skincare routine
According to studies, retinoids are the only proven ingredient to stimulate collagen production. Prescription-strength retinoids called tretinoin work best, but adding an OTC retinol product can also help.
5. Try LED light therapy
LED lights have been used for over 60 years to treat the skin, and in recent years, LED red light therapy has gained popularity as it works on the skin's cells called fibroblasts that help make collagen.
6. Consider Microneedling
Dermatologist Anisha Joshi said, "Microneedling or collagen induction therapy is a minimally invasive procedure in which there is the use of a Microneedling device to create controlled skin injury with minimal skin damage." She added that this procedure helps rejuvenate skin by penetrating the skin, making micro-tears, and helping build more collagen.