The obsession with collagen is hard to miss. It’s everywhere - in our coffee, smoothies, candy, and skincare. Thrilled by the zeal to nurture collagen, I am equally troubled by the volume of misinformation. Quite literally, healthy collagen provides the foundation for your best skin, so I want your efforts to pay the highest dividends. Let’s look beyond the hype, at what works, what doesn’t, and why.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the primary structural protein forming the connective tissues throughout your body – bone, tendon, cartilage, teeth and skin. Collagen type I accounts for more than 90% of your total collagen, though there are 28 distinct types. The triple helix molecular structure forms a long, rope-like fibril providing strength, resiliency, and aid with tissue repair. Gram for gram, Collagen type I fibrils are stronger than steel.
Cellular factories, fibroblasts make, recycle, and repair your collagen every day over a lifetime. Production requires the presence of glycine, proline and hydroxyproline, all amino acids. Plainly, they fuel your natural collagen production, keeping skin smooth, resilient, and plump. Whether sourced via diet, supplements, or skincare, your collagen needs amino acids.
Despite extraordinary strength, collagen is not immune to damage. While young and still possessing peak functioning fibroblasts, the ramification of the damage is easy to overlook. By age 40, when collagen decreases by 25%, it will be harder to miss. It really is never too early or late, to start protecting your collagen.
Compromised collagen manifests in many undesirable skin characteristics – thinning, loss of elasticity, sagging, fine lines, wrinkles, and/or sensitivities.
No matter your age, many factors can accelerate the destruction of collagen, including:
- Sun Exposure
- Sugar/Alcohol Consumption
- Poor Nutrition/Health
- Hormonal Imbalance
- Oxidative Stress
Can Skincare Boost Collagen?
Yes, clinical data supports that some skincare ingredients are capable of encouraging collagen production. Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) skincare boosts collagen production by eight-fold, as well as slows any degradation. Our bodies require Ascorbic Acid to convert Proline into Hydroxyproline, the non-essential amino acid that strengthens and stabilizes the collagen structure within our skin. Best exemplified by scurvy, Hydroxyproline deficiency devastates collagen’s integrity and profoundly impairs skin health. An excellent choice for skin with sun damage, free radical damage, or hyperpigmentation.
Vitamin A (Retinol) also promotes and protects collagen production. After 4 weeks of applying a 0.4% concentration only once each week, retinol more than doubled collagen type I. It’s particularly effective in improving the appearance of fine lines/wrinkles, pore size, and acne scars. Although well tolerated by most skin types, it’s best to start slowly. Anyone planning pregnancy, pregnant, or breastfeeding, should avoid retinol.
Signaling peptides trick our skin into producing and/or protecting collagen through chemical messaging. Like collagen, they are comprised of long chains of amino acids, which accounts for nearly 40% of your natural moisturizer factors (NMFs) – the cellular soup that keeps skin hydrated. 100% vegan and synthetic, most peptides grow in laboratories and include Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5 (Syn-Coll), Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38 (Matrixyl Synthe’6), and Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1/Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 (Matrixyl 3000). When applied twice daily at 2% concentration for 5 days, the average increase among collagen type I, type III, and type IV was 83%. This option is ideal for most skin types at any age, even with sensitive skin, improving enlarged pores, fine lines/wrinkles, sagging and acne scars.
If you have celebrated your 40th birthday, experienced a dip in hormones, or noticed a dramatic thinning of your skin, consider trying a phytoestrogen skincare. It’s superpower is the slowing of collagen’s degradation – which naturally accelerates with age. Anyone pregnant, planning a pregnancy, or breast-feeding, should consult with their Healthcare Professional prior to using phytoestrogens, orally or topically. The same is true for anyone under-going or has undergone Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
Does Collagen in Skincare Work?
Yes and no. Our skin is extremely effective in preventing irritants and various pollutants from penetrating – anything larger than 500 daltons remains at the surface. The smallest collagen molecule, also known as hydrolyzed collagen, has a minimum molecular weight of 15,000 daltons. Though far too large for the skin to absorb, topical collagen is an effective humectant and moisturizer, preventing trans-epidermal-water-loss (TEWL).
Collagen in skincare can hydrate the skin, but does not improve collagen output.
Do Collagen Supplements Work?
Also, yes and no. When we ingest any protein collagen, our digestive system quickly breaks it down to smallest form, which are amino acids. It’s the only “bioavailable” form of any protein, capable of reaching the bloodstream and tissues. Skin doesn’t distinguish whether the protein is sourced from tofu, bone broth, fish, gelatin, or collagen peptides.
Most diets, including vegan, provide more than ample supplies of amino acids. Not eager to risk running low of collagen fuel? I understand and take a daily supplement of amino acids, myself. Quite reasonable, considering the average cost per serving is less than half that of a collagen peptide. Like any oral supplement, you’ll want to consult with your healthcare provider prior to use. If collagen peptides make you happier and don’t mind paying more for marketing gimmicks, please, carry on.
Does Amino Acid Skincare Work?
The truth is that we don’t really know, yet. There is too little clinical data to prove and quantify any collagen improvement. My personal experience makes me believe that it can and does. Yes, I have been developing several new amino acid products for the past 6 months and can say that the results are quite promising - stay tuned.
Collagen has been on my mind a great deal, with my skin still recovering from recent surgery to remove a benign tumor, development of amino acid skincare, and wading through misleading claims in ads/media. It is vital to your joints, bones, overall health and your very best skin. Nearly as important as separating fact from marketing spin.
Cheers to Better Skin!
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As an RN, I often tell my friends that collagen peptides are bogus. Thanks for setting the record straight. Cheers to better skin.