As the most plentiful protein in your skin, collagen has a huge effect on how it ages. Luckily there are diet and skin care steps you can take to boost the amount of collagen you get.
You don’t need to be a skincare expert to be familiar with collagen: more than likely you’ve seen it printed on anti-aging creams or referenced as a “healthy skin savior” in commercials. I’ve even come across the modern trend of drinkable collagen and blindly trusted it despite not having any idea what it would actually do.
With all of the supplements, powders, creams and serums available that promise to boost collagen production in your skin, it’s important to understand exactly why this is so important in the fight against signs of aging. So in an effort to educate us all, let’s take a closer look at collagen benefits for skin, and how it functions in your body to keep you looking youthful and healthy.
Collagen makes up 70-80% of your skin, and is its most plentiful protein. It resides in the dermis layer of the skin, the middle layer that is responsible for firmness and plumpness. The amount of collagen in your skin also means that it has a huge effect on how it ages — working alongside another protein called elastin, collagen helps to keep fine lines and wrinkles off of your skin. Basically, if you’ve ever paid to have an esthetician use lasers on your skin as an anti-aging procedure, they were working to boost the collagen benefits for the skin.
A downside of aging is that collagen production decreases as we get older. Starting at age 25, every day after that you will see your skin losing more collagen than it produces, due to the presence of collagenase, an enzyme that’s responsible for breaking down collagen bonds. On average, you’ll lose about 1% of your collagen per year, which marks the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in the skin.
And external factors can also affect the amount of collagen in your body: UV rays from sun exposure and tobacco smoke increase the rate that collagenase enzymes break down collagen fibers. Luckily, there are steps you can take to boost the collagen benefits for the skin you get through your diet and skin care routine, as preventative steps to fight the signs of aging.
Bringing Collagen Into Your Diet
When I first came across the idea of drinkable collagen, I was skeptical about its health benefits. Was this just another wellness fad that would cost a lot of money, only to do nothing? As it turns out, there’s actually a strong history to back this up.
Human beings are well-versed in the art of eating collagen; if you’ve ever enjoyed anything made with gelatin like Jell-O or gummy bears, you’ve unintentionally eaten collagen. Of course those two examples aren’t an effective way to bring it into your body for the purpose of anti-aging — there are different supplements and foods that maximize the amount of collagen you have to improve the appearance of your skin.
Collagen peptides (hydrolyzed collagen) are available to be consumed in either pill or powder form and are an easy way to increase the amount of collagen your body gets. Research has shown promising results: taking collagen supplements improves skin elasticity, boosts skin hydration, helps to reduce wrinkles, and increases the density of fibroblasts, the cells within our connective tissues that are responsible for producing collagen.
These supplements have also been shown to have antioxidant properties, which is another great guard against the signs of aging: antioxidants help protect your skin against damaging environmental factors like free radicals, which end up safeguarding your skin against fine lines and wrinkles. Adding a scoop of powdered collagen peptides into your drinks is also a smart way to give yourself a boost of protein, as an added nutritional benefit.
For every smart skin care routine, there’s a necessary counterpart to keeping you looking your best: a well-balanced, nutritious diet. The three amino acids needed for collagen synthesis are proline, glycine, and lysine, which are readily accessible through the consumption of healthy food. That’s why you can easily fuel your body’s collagen production by eating collagen-rich foods.
The most obvious sources of this protein are traditional “proteins” themselves: chicken, organ meat, bone broth, fish and shellfish. But a lot of fruits and vegetables are also wonderful sources of this protein: eating citrus fruits, tomatoes, leafy greens, garlic, and beans will also help boost your body’s collagen stores while enjoying collagen benefits for skin. Just make sure to eat a balanced, well-rounded diet — eating nothing but chicken might be a solid collagen boost, but it needs to work in harmony with other nutrients from different food sources to have you looking your best.
Collagen In Your Skin Care Routine
What you put on the surface of your skin is just as important as the things you ingest, in terms of overall skin appearance and health. After establishing the right cleanser and moisturizer for your skin type, adding serums gives you a little boost of targeted results. So now that you’ve seen suggestions for collagen supplements and dietary changes, consider switching up your skin care routine.
A natural retinol serum is an anti-aging powerhouse and a great tool for helping boost your skin’s natural collagen production. Retinol serums offer a gentle renewing action on the skin, helping to diminish the appearance of wrinkles and improve the firmness of the skin. For a detailed explanation of the benefits of retinol and how to use it, be sure to reference our article “How To Use Retinol In Your Skincare Routines.”
Another classic skin care favorite is the vitamin C booster: in the case of collagen production, this powerful concentrate helps to improve the thickness of skin, therefore reducing the appearance of wrinkles. And there’s actually extra collagen benefits for skin to combining your retinol serum with a vitamin C serum: when combined, these two products have been shown to not only create more collagen in the skin but also help partially reverse sun damage.
Sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself to an anti-aging procedure. After adapting to a new skin care routine, these targeted treatments will take your collagen-boosting to the next level. Ask your esthetician which one is the best choice for your skin type and needs:
Anyone who’s squeamish might be deterred from this description, but the collagen benefits for skin are worth some slight discomfort. Microneedling is the process of poking tiny holes in the skin’s surface — this stimulates your body to “repair” itself by producing more collagen.
This collagen increase also comes with the benefit of smaller pores, reduced fine lines, and more supple skin. While you can always go to have a microneedling procedure done at a doctor’s office, there are affordable at-home versions (called a dermaroller) to let you practice an efficient anti-aging routine on your own time. Just note that it won’t penetrate as deeply as a professional procedure.
LED and laser therapy penetrates the skin to deliver targeted treatment. LED uses colored lights to treat different skin conditions; red lights specifically work to smooth and plump the skin. Repeated treatments can help boost collagen and elastin, reducing wrinkles and keeping skin glowing and smooth.
Laser treatments also use light therapy, but as short beams of light into targeted areas. A resurfacing laser, in particular, helps to stimulate fibroblasts in the dermis layer of your skin, which causes them to create more elastin and collagen. Either type of light therapy will help you enjoy collagen benefits for the skin.
While you can’t stop time from moving forward, we’re lucky to have control over some of the factors that determine how “aged” our skin looks. Collagen is one of, if not the most, essential part of making your skin look young, plump and healthy. After you hit 25 and your body starts depleting its collagen stores — since we understand the importance of collagen benefits for the skin, it’s important to start supplementing it with your lifestyle changes.
Eat collagen-rich foods like beef broth and citrus fruits, incorporate collagen-boosting products into your skin care routine, and consider the benefits of an additional cosmetic procedure to boost collagen. But remember that a good anti-aging skin care routine doesn’t stop here, you also need to make sure that you’re taking the right steps in other areas of your life.
Make sure to use an anti-aging sunscreen when you go outside, always make an effort to get enough sleep, stay hydrated, and don’t pick at your skin. Keep these tips in mind and you’ll maintain youthful-looking, healthy skin you’ll be proud to show off.