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What is Collagen and Do You Really Need It?

From topical products to oral skin care supplements, collagen is everywhere these days. 

Now, unless you already know quite a bit about the ingredient, you are probably wondering…

What is collagen, and do I actually need it? 

Without a doubt, the answer is 100% yes, you definitely need collagen. 

Read on to find out why…

What Exactly is Collagen? 

Collagen is a protein. In fact, it is the most abundant protein in the bodies of mammals, with about 25% to 35% of the body’s protein consisting of collagen. 

While collagen can be found throughout the body, its highest concentrations are in the connective tissues, bones and skin. 

Collagen and Your Skin

When it comes to the collagen in your skin, these molecules are packed together tightly to form thin fibrils. 

These fibrils are basically what support your skin’s structure from beneath, giving your skin its firmness, smoothness and elasticity.

The body naturally produces a large amount of high quality collagen when it is young, and this is why youthful skin is so supple and elastic. However, collagen production slows down as the body ages, with this decline beginning as early as the mid 20’s for many people.

Once a woman reaches menopause, this decline becomes even more dramatic, with minimal amounts of collagen now being produced by the body. 

As you can imagine, this really takes its toll on the skin…

Everything from wrinkles to sagging skin to roughness and dullness become more prominent, and these issues become harder to treat the older the body gets. 

This is why supplementing your skin, as well as the rest of your body, with collagen is so important…

The Skin Benefits of Collagen

If you want to maintain a youthful complexion, then collagen is most definitely needed. 

Research shows that increasing the amount of collagen in your body leads to a noticeable difference in skin elasticity, and this only takes a couple of months. Fine lines and wrinkles become less noticeable, with collagen able to give the skin the smoothness and tightness that it was lacking. 

Collagen also helps with the creation of new skin cells. Again, this process, which is known as the cell turnover rate, is something else that naturally declines with age. This is why mature skin often takes on a rough and dull appearance, as dead skin cells that have settled on the surface of the skin are not being naturally shed fast enough. 

Collagen speeds this whole process up, encouraging the skin to shed its dead skin cells and replace them with fresh new ones. 

Not only that, but studies suggest that collagen could also play an important role when it comes to maintaining skin moisture levels, and this is something that is especially important with mature skin.

Why? 

Because as the skin ages, it also thins. This means that the skin’s natural protective barrier is not as effective as it used to be. One of its roles is to prevent moisture from evaporating out of the skin and into the air, and if this barrier is not functioning as well as it should, this leaves the skin dry and dehydrated. 

Do you have any cellulite or stretch marks on your skin? 

Again, this is partly down to a depletion in collagen. If the collagen under your skin is damaged in any way, the connective tissues in that area thin out.

This then causes the fat underneath your skin to protrude through the tissue in small lumps, leading to the bumpy effect that cellulite is associated with. 

The Different Types of Collagen

There are actually more than a dozen different types of collagen out there, with each one varying slightly when it comes to their structure and the peptides that make them up. 

Each type of collagen is beneficial for different parts of the body. For example, certain types would be able to help the skin, while other types would be more beneficial for the bones and teeth. 

Which collagen types are best for the skin? 

Unfortunately, this is not yet fully known, as more research needs to be carried out on this topic. Type 1, 2 and 3 tend to be the strongest and most flexible of the collagen types, but, until more information is learned, all types will be important when it comes to boosting the health of your skin. 

When it comes to the different types of collagen, these can come from one of two sources:

  • Endogenous Collagen – this is the collagen that is naturally produced by the body 
  • Exogenous Collagen – this is synthetic collagen that has been derived from an external source 

Where exactly does exogenous collagen come from? 

There are a few different sources out there. Animal-based sources of collagen, especially those that come from fish, are actually extremely similar to the endogenous collagen produced in the body. Plant-based sources are another option, and while these molecules are quite different in structure to endogenous collagen, they can still be useful when it comes to skin hydration and other cosmetic improvements. 

Whichever source you choose to opt for, understanding that there are two main categories of collagen is important when it comes to learning how to use collagen to improve the health of your skin…

Applying Collagen Topically

There are now so many topical skin care products out there that have been formulated with collagen. These are designed to be applied onto the skin, where the collagen can then penetrate deep into the skin’s layers. 

Do collagen creams and other similar products actually work? 

This depends on the results you are expecting…

Collagen molecules are quite large, meaning that they cannot actually penetrate deep into the skin.

However, this does not mean that they are completely useless…

They do have the ability to treat the surface layer of the skin. Topical collagen can not only improve hydration, but can also bring about improvements in skin firmness and elasticity, although it will take several months for a difference to be noticed. 

Were you hoping for quicker results? 

Don’t worry, you still have a couple of other options…

Collagen-Synthesizing Ingredients

It goes without saying that endogenous collagen is going to be the most beneficial for your body, but what do you do when your body stops producing this quite as much? 

Well, fortunately, there are a few ingredients out there that can actually speed this process back up, encouraging your skin to naturally produce more collagen. 

Here are some ingredients to look out for:

  • Vitamin C – vitamin C is one of the most important ingredients when it comes to collagen production. It is utilized in just about every step of the process. In fact, many people experience a decline in vitamin C levels first, and then this is what leads to the decrease in natural collagen production
  • Vitamin E – works in conjunction with vitamin C, increasing the effect that the vitamin C has
  • Peptides – peptides are small fragments of proteins that send signals to skin cells, telling them to act in the same way that they did when they were younger. Peptides are able to trigger an increase in collagen production while also boosting skin cell health in other ways 
  • Growth Factors – these work in a similar way to peptides, by sending signals to skin cells to encourage the production of collagen 
  • Ginseng – this botanical extract has been shown to promote the production of collagen while also containing several important anti-aging antioxidants

LED Light Therapy

LED light therapy was originally developed as a way to help scientists grow plants in space. It was discovered that the red lights were able to promote the growth of plant cells, while encouraging photosynthesis. 

Soon after that, studies showing how these red LED lights were able to promote skin cell growth too began to emerge…

How does LED light therapy actually work? 

Different wavelengths, or colors, of light are used, with each one able to target different skin issues. 

When it comes to collagen, the red lights basically increase the amount of energy that each skin cell has. This means that they are able to work more efficiently, especially when it comes to the production of collagen.

Woman undergoing red light therapy

Not only that, but red light therapy has a number of other benefits too, such as: 

  • Promotes wound and tissue healing 
  • Treats psoriasis breakouts 
  • Helps to treat sun damaged skin 
  • Reduces the appearance of scars 
  • Has anti-inflammatory properties

Increasing Endogenous Collagen Through Your Diet

One easy way to increase the amount of collagen your skin produces, while also protecting the collagen that is already there, is through your diet. 

An overall healthy diet is key, but there are certain foods that are especially beneficial when it comes to promoting collagen production. 

Try eating more of these foods for a natural collagen boost:

  • Wild salmon, tuna and cod 
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Chia and pumpkin seeds 
  • Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach 
  • Avocados 
  • Garlic 
  • Berries

Although these foods do not actually contain collagen itself, they do contain the amino acids required by your body to produce more collagen. 

Oral Collagen Supplements

Another popular option when it comes to increasing the amount of collagen in the skin is taking a collagen supplement. 

These oral supplements come in so many different forms, from powders that you can add into your food to capsules to ready-made drinks. 

The collagen used in these supplements is known as hydrolyzed collagen, or collagen peptides. This consists of collagen in a very small molecular weight, meaning that your digestive system will be able to quickly absorb and make use of the ingredient. 

Do collagen supplements actually work? 

Research says yes. Studies show that soon after a person consumes collagen, the amount of collagen in their bloodstream increases. 

Smiling woman taking a supplement

The added benefit to oral collagen supplements is the way in which the collagen will be able to improve your gut health too. 

How? 

There is only a small amount of research on this so far, but it is believed that the amino acids within collagen are able to improve digestion while reducing inflammation within the gut. 

With skin health and gut health being so closely related, this is another indirect way in which collagen supplements could help to improve the health and appearance of your skin. 

Protecting Your Skin’s Collagen Levels

There is no point working hard to increase the collagen levels in your skin if your lifestyle is one that is causing your collagen supplies to be depleted. 

There are so many factors out there that can lead to the natural collagen in the skin being damaged, such as: 

  • Pollution and Sun Exposure – both pollution and UV rays break down the collagen in the skin, resulting in abnormal fibers being formed and an acceleration in skin aging 
  • Excess Sugar Consumption – too much sugar has been proven to damage the proteins in the body, including collagen. It makes them weak and brittle, causing them to quickly break down 
  • Smoking – the chemicals that are found in smoke damage the collagen and elastin in the skin. They also decrease blood flow, meaning that the skin is not able to receive all of the oxygen and nutrients it needs in order to thrive and to continue producing high-quality collagen 
  • A Sedentary Lifestyle – regular exercise helps to strengthen and protect the collagen in the skin, while a lack of exercise has the opposite effect 
  • Autoimmune Conditions – there are certain autoimmune disorders out there that can lead to antibodies targeting and damaging the collagen in the skin

Improving your lifestyle is such a natural and easy way to keep the collagen in your skin strong and healthy. 

As you can see, collagen really is so important, making it a protein that you definitely need. Not only can supplementing the collagen in your skin be helpful, but taking the steps necessary to protect your natural supplies of collagen can go a long way when it comes to maintaining a youthful and healthy complexion. 

Lionesse

By Lionesse

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