Collagen is an abundant protein found in our bodies, working closely with elastin to help maintain skin integrity. Without plentiful collagen and elastin, the skin becomes thinner, losing its elasticity and texture.
As we age, collagen levels decline due to changes in hormone production. The result is unwanted signs of aging, such as wrinkles, skin sagging, age spots, and dryness. However, protecting the skin from aging is not the only reason maintaining collagen levels is essential.
Advertisers promote all types of collagen products to help the skin’s appearance. There are locations, creams, powders, capsules, oils, peptides, and other products claimed to make a difference by increasing collagen in the skin.
Do these products work, and are they the best way to protect the skin from aging?
In this report, we look at the importance of collagen and how to maintain and increase collagen in the skin for a more youthful appearance.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen makes up about 30 percent of the body’s protein. It is the primary building block of bones, tendons, muscles, ligaments, and, most importantly, skin – the body’s largest organ. The skin protects the body from chemical, bacterial, viral, and other forms of damage. Collagen is also crucial for the blood vessels, the lining of the intestines, and internal organs. Without enough collagen, the skin, muscles, bones, and other structures weaken.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, with glycine, hydroxyproline, and proline being three of the 19 different amino acids helping to form the protein fibrils that comprise collagen’s triple helix chain structure. Along with those three amino acids, collagen also requires copper, manganese, vitamin C, and zinc for the helix structure.
As of now, 28 different types of collagens are known, with their differences due to the molecular assembly of each type and where and how it is used in the body. Of the 28 known types of collagens, five are the most plentiful and essential.
Collagen types have subfamilies that include fibrils, anchoring fibrils, beaded filaments, and networks. Several types of collagens can be combined into various collagen fibrils. Such as collagens 1 and 5 in the cornea.
These five primary collagen types are:
- Type 1 collagen: the densely packed collagen that provides structure to the bones, ligaments, skin, and tendons is responsible for 90% of the collagen in the body.
- Type 2 collagen: joint support comes from the collagen in elastic cartilage.
- Type 3 collagen: type 3 collagen is crucial for arteries, internal organs, and muscles. You can also find type 3 collagen in reticular fibers found in bone marrow.
- Type 4 collagen: the dermis is the middle layer of the skin and the thickest. Type 4 collagen holds the dermis together, giving the skin its strength.
- Type 5 collagen: this type of collagen is found in some skin layers, along with the corneas (eyes), hair, nails, and placental tissue in pregnant women.
Collagen is also found in the hypodermis, or subcutaneous layer of the skin, helping to connect the skin to the muscles and bones.
Importance of Collagen
Because of its abundance, collagen protects the body from decline and harm. Its primary role is to provide the body with strength, structure, and support. Collagen helps hold the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and skin in place.
The scalp and hair follicles also require collagen, as its amino acids help build the primary component of hair – keratin. Collagen keeps the scalp’s skin healthy, as it is crucial to help new cells form at the base of hair follicles. As collagen levels decline with age, hair often becomes thinner. Type 17 collagen plays a significant role in hair growth. However, that is a type of collagen only made in the body and is not available as a supplement. Type 2 collagen is beneficial for hair and skin in supplemental form.
Here are some of the ways collagen is vital for the body:
- Skin support and appearance
Collagen helps to keep the skin hydrated, plump, youthful, and supple and improves elasticity. Elastin and collagen fibers maintain healthy connective tissue in the skin to keep it thick and firm. Loss of collagen leads to drying and thinning of the skin, the development of fine lines and wrinkles, loss of flexibility and elasticity, and skin sagging.
- Structural support to connective tissue, tendons, bones, and cartilage
Collagen helps support the body’s tissues in many ways. Type 1 collagen is crucial to maintaining the body’s structural integrity. Its prevalence in connective tissue leads to changes in organs, bones, tendons, muscles, and more as levels decline. Type 2 collagen is crucial to supporting cartilage and healthy joints. Collagen supplements may help reduce joint pain, stiffness, and symptoms of osteoarthritis.
- Tissue repair
Collagen is used in wound healing to attract fibroblasts, which help increase collagen in the wound area, stimulating tissue growth. Doctors also use collagen to help control bleeding, improve blood vessel health, promote blood clotting, reduce inflammation, restore skin elasticity, and strengthen scar tissue.
- Immune response
The immune system encompasses many areas of the body’s health, and collagen can play a significant role in these areas, especially for autoimmune disorders where the immune system attacks healthy cells. Collagen protects the linings of the joints, intestines, and nerve cells. Its ability to help reduce inflammation significantly improves immune system functions.
- Cellular communication and migration
Collagen plays a leading role in critical intrinsic and extrinsic signaling pathways. The collagen type affects its biological functions through interactions with various cell receptors. Collagen networks influence cellular behavior and cell migration, which is crucial in tissue development and homeostasis.
- Heart health
Collagen keeps the arteries and other blood vessels from weakening, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, which can cause a heart attack or stroke. Studies have shown that collagen helps keep beneficial HDL cholesterol levels higher while lowering harmful LDL cholesterol levels, helping to reduce arterial wall plaque buildup. Collagen may also help improve nitric oxide, reduce arterial stiffness, and decrease blood pressure levels while helping fight inflammation.
Why Does Collagen Decline?
Numerous factors interfere with the body’s ability to produce collagen. Some of these factors, such as aging, are beyond our control. While there is no way to stop time, there are steps to take to reduce its effect on how well the body produces new cells. We can control other factors, such as diet, lifestyle habits, and sun exposure.
The leading causes of collagen decline are highlighted below:
- Age and hormones
Type 1 collagen, the most abundant type, begins to decline around age 25 – the same time hormones such as growth hormone (GH) and testosterone start to decrease. GH plays a critical role in cellular regeneration, including collagen production. Other hormonal changes impacting collagen production can occur during pregnancy and menopause and in response to health conditions.
The importance of a healthy diet can never be overstated. Proper nutrition is crucial for all body areas and aspects of life. Excessive alcohol, sugar, fried foods, and junk foods hinder the body’s ability to maintain proper functions and homeostasis. Alcohol reduces collagen production and damages mechanisms crucial for skin repair. Processed foods and sugar increase glycation and decrease collagen turnover to inhibit collagen’s interaction with proteins and cells.
Various lifestyle factors contribute to collagen loss by increasing oxidative stress on the body. Cigarette smoking degrades collagen, increasing the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of skin aging. Lack of exercise reduces hormone production, which is crucial for collagen.
- Excessive sun exposure
Exposure to the sun degrades collagen production and leads to premature skin aging. While a bit of sun is vital for vitamin D production, too much can lead to less collagen, aging skin, and an increased risk of skin cancer.
What Are the Best Ways to Increase Collagen Levels?
Increasing collagen levels in the body can help do more than improve your skin’s appearance. Because collagen is crucial for the entire body, keeping your collagen levels high helps protect your body from becoming weak and at a higher risk of health problems.
With numerous methods of increasing collagen levels, it is essential to understand which ones work the best – and which might be an unnecessary drain on finances.
Here are some of the leading ways of increasing collagen levels – and how well they work:
- Collagen supplements
Types 1, 2, and 3 are the most common collagen supplements in the form of hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides. Animal-based supplements may come from a single source or combination, featuring fish, chicken, cows, or pigs. It is uncertain if yeast and bacteria-based vegan collagen products can produce the same results. Supplemental collagen can be powders, liquids, gummies, and capsules. Collagen supplements have been shown to improve skin hydration and elasticity while reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Supplements containing type 1 collagen have been shown to help increase bone mineral density (BMD) in some studies (menopausal women with low BMD). They may help reduce pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis.
- Eat more collagen-rich foods
One of the best ways to increase collagen is to help the body produce more. That also eliminates the risk of collagen supplements being contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals, bacteria, and other toxins that might collect in animal bones. Consuming foods high in protein and glycine provides the body with crucial amino acids. Adding foods with high levels of copper, vitamin C, and zinc will also help. Here are the foods that fit these categories:
- Bell peppers
- Chicken skin
- Citrus fruits
- Leafy greens
- Whole grains
- Hormone therapy
Hormone imbalances such as growth hormone deficiency can affect a person’s health and appearance. For example, Sermorelin, a growth hormone booster, helps skin look better by firming and tightening it by increasing collagen and elastin. If you want to learn more about how HGH influences the skin, sermorelin before and after facts can help.
- Lifestyle changes
If you smoke, stop. Reduce alcohol consumption if you have more than two drinks per day regularly. If you are not getting at least 30 minutes of exercise four times weekly, begin. A combination of resistance and weight-bearing exercises along with a high-protein diet can help increase natural collagen production.
- Skincare and sunscreens
Collagen molecules cannot be absorbed through the skin due to their large structure. They must be broken down into smaller amino acids or peptides for absorption. Claims of collagen-containing lotions that can add collagen to the skin have mixed reviews in scientific studies, although products containing retinol and tretinoin may help promote collagen production. Hydrolyzed collagen products that include marine compounds, such as algae and fish collagen, increase skin hydration better than those without. Vitamin C oil may help reverse inflammation that damages skin collagen. Reducing skin exposure to the sun can help prevent collagen degradation. Using sunscreen outdoors helps protect the skin.
Maintaining healthy collagen levels is crucial for optimum well-being. Collagen supports the muscles, bones, organs, skin, joints, and more. However, all collagen supplements are not the same.
Researching any collagen supplements before using them is recommended. Some products contain added ingredients that could cause danger to some people and interfere with prescription medications, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and specific lab tests and medical procedures.
Mega doses of certain herbs, minerals, and vitamins can damage your health. Speak with your healthcare provider before adding collagen or other supplements to your diet.
When choosing supplements, aim for those labeled as either collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen, as those products have broken down the large collagen peptides for better digestion and absorption.
Improving dietary and lifestyle habits to maximize collagen production is crucial for a healthy, well-functioning body.