When it comes to turning back the clock on aging skin, no word gets used more frequently than collagen. According to Dr. Cuong Le of U.S. Dermatology Partners in Centreville, Virginia, “Collagen is an essential protein produced by the body that keeps our skin looking youthful and our bodies at peak performance. As we age, the body’s production of collagen slows down, leading to skin that looks less youthful and joints that don’t work as well. So, people seek out collagen supplements and other treatments with the hope of improving joint health and skin elasticity. Unfortunately, not all treatments and products are created equal, and it’s important to work with a dermatologist to ensure you’re choosing treatments and products that are safe and effective.” If you’re interested in learning more about just what collagen is and how it improves the health and appearance of the skin, continue reading our blog below.
What Is Collagen?
According to Dr. Le, “Collagen is an essential body protein. A building block of bones, muscles, joints, and skin. In fact, collagen is one of the most plentiful proteins found throughout the body. Collagen provides numerous benefits. It can improve skin elasticity for a smooth, youthful appearance, and collagen makes joints function well with less inflammation and pain.”
While most people simply refer to collagen as one thing, there are nearly 30 types of collagen. The four most common types are:
- Connective tissue collagen
- Joint and intervertebral disc collagen
- Reticular fiber collagen (found in skin and blood vessels)
- Organ, ear, and eye collagen
Why Does Collagen Diminish & Can I Prevent Collagen Loss?
About collagen loss, Dr. Le says, “Collagen loss is a natural part of life. The amount and speed of collagen production diminish over time. However, age isn’t the only reason the body loses collagen. Other reasons for collagen loss include diet, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. While you can’t prevent all collagen loss, there are definitely ways to slow down the loss of collagen and restore collagen through a variety of treatment options.”
Some steps you can take to slow or prevent collagen loss include:
- Follow a nutrient-rich diet. This means avoiding certain foods that contain advanced glycation end products (AGEs), including red meats, fried foods, butter, margarine, mayonnaise, oils, and nuts. It also means including foods that are good for your skin like colorful fruits and vegetables as well as herbs and spices.
- Stop smoking. Smoking is bad for skin, teeth, hair, nails, and most importantly, your whole-body health and wellness.
- Reduce or stop alcohol consumption. Alcohol is fine in moderation, but in excessive quantities, it can lead to a number of health concerns, including accelerated signs of skin aging.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise promotes the production of collagen and elastin for healthier more youthful-looking skin not to mention increased mobility and decreased inflammation.
- Protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays through the use of broad-spectrum sunscreen and sun-avoiding measures like wearing protective clothing and hats
Does Collagen Improve Overall Health?
Collagen offers numerous benefits to overall health and well-being. According to Dr. Le, “Collagen helps to keep our joints moving, our organs healthy, and it even helps make our blood clot. As collagen production diminishes, you will see a negative impact on overall health.” Some of the negative effects of collagen loss include:
- Diminished cartilage
- Increased risk for osteoarthritis and other joint issues
- Greater levels of inflammation, stiffness, and pain
- Decreased bone mass and bone density, leading to conditions like osteoporosis
- Narrowing or hardening of arteries, leading to heart health concerns
How Does Collagen Support Skin Health?
When it comes to skin health and collagen, Dr. Le says, “Collagen keeps skin looking smooth and youthful. It all starts deep within the dermis layers of the skin where fibroblasts form. Collagen encourages the formation of fibroblasts, which in turn help new, healthy skin cells grow. This increased production of fibroblasts and healthy new skin cells leads to stronger skin with a smooth, firm appearance, but it also boosts the elasticity of skin meaning when the skin moves as you smile and talk it bounces back into place. This is why collagen loss leads to the development of fine lines and wrinkles. And don’t forget about your hair and nails! Your skin health is important, but we dermatologists also care about the health of your hair and nails. Collagen is an essential protein that helps hair and nails grow thicker and stronger. These effects are why it’s so important to preserve collagen levels and promote the continued production of collagen as we age.”
What Type of Collagen Should I Be Using?
One of the best things about collagen is its abundance. You can take in collagen from a variety of natural sources, including by consuming collagen as part of your regular diet. Foods like meat, bone broth, and gelatin all contain collagen. Additionally, it can be beneficial to consume foods that promote the body’s natural production of collagen, including high-protein meats, dairy, eggs, beans, and soy. Additionally, foods that are high in zinc promote collagen and elastin production. Zinc-rich foods include nuts, legumes, seeds, leafy greens, and berries.
In addition to eating foods that contain collagen and ingredients that promote the production of collagen, you can also take supplements. Most supplements are formulated using hydrolyzed collagen. Hydrolyzation is a unique formulation process that makes collagen proteins easier for the body to absorb. Regular use of collagen supplements hydrates, improves skin elasticity, and reduces the appearance of wrinkles. Collagen supplements also help to improve whole body health, reduce inflammation, and reduce the risk for heart health concerns.
When it comes to topical collagen products, Dr. Le cautions, “Unfortunately, topically applied collagen creams and serums are unlikely to turn back the clock on your skin or promote natural collagen production. However, topical collagen products can help to keep skin hydrated.”
Whether you’re taking a supplement that supports the production of collagen or applying topical collagen products to improve skin hydration, the turnover of old collagen and replacement with new collagen peptides takes time. In fact, most people don’t start to see improvements in the skin’s appearance for two months after they begin taking collagen supplements. For internal benefits like improved organ health and bone density, collagen supplements may need to be taken for a year or longer. According to Dr. Le, “Using collagen supplements is a study in patience. We all want to have that instant gratification of seeing younger-looking skin or feeling less pain in our joints. Sadly, collagen just doesn’t work that quickly. You’ll have to be patient, use your supplements consistently, and wait to experience your results.”
For other options to boost collagen production, talk with your dermatologist. Dr. Le says, “In addition to oral supplements and topical products, other treatment options can help boost collagen production. These may include treatments such as topical retinoids, microneedling, laser treatments and chemical peels. Your dermatologist will be happy to share more information about collagen-boosting treatments and help you determine which options are right for you.”
How Can I Get Started?
If you’re interested in learning more about collagen supplements, topical moisturizers, dermal fillers, and other treatments, don’t hesitate to reach out to the U.S. Dermatology Partners team to schedule a consultation visit or annual skin exam with one of our local dermatology offices. Our knowledgeable dermatologists are happy to review available treatments and products during a consultation visit. To get started, simply take a few moments to complete our online scheduling request form. Once we receive your request, our team members in your local area will be in touch to finalize the details of your visit.
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