These days, drinking collagen and taking collagen supplements for skincare is a trend. In this article, we look at everything, including what collagen is, if it is safe, its benefits, how it works, and the types of collagen.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the main structural and the most abundant protein in the skin. It is the substance responsible for maintaining the shape of the skin, tissue, and muscles. In simple terms, collagen ‘holds’ the skin together, and as we age, we lose it, so that’s why we get wrinkles.
Collagen is the elastic for the skin. Furthermore, it is found in bone, ligaments, tendons, muscle, blood vessels, and hair. Thus, for consumption, humans extract collagen from other animals. We obtain collagen by boiling skin, cartilage, and bones of animals in water.
Additionally, food like bone broth, chicken, fish, egg whites, citrus and tropical fruits, berries, garlic, etc. help the human body with the nutrients to produce collagen naturally.
Collagen is a strong and complex substance, and exists on the dermis (the middle layer of the skin). The human body produces its own collagen. The production slows down as we age, and this is the theory behind taking supplements. People see it as a way to compensate for the natural collagen they lose.
How Does Collagen Impact Skin Ageing?
Collagen is like the glue of the skin, holding different parts together. It is the main protein and consists of more than 80% of the skin.
There are 28 types of naturally occurring collagen proteins in the skin. Our body always produces collagen, but the production may slow down as we age- generally, we start producing less collagen when we are 20. According to a study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583892/), the human body produces 1% less collagen each passing year after turning 20.
As our body stops producing collagen, the flexibility decreases, and thus, we get wrinkles. Thus, even if collagen is a natural protein that our body produces by itself, researches show taking collagen supplements can be helpful (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26362110).
Collagen Benefits for Skincare
Many believe in drinking collagen being good for the skin, while some are skeptical about it. Well, there haven’t been any exhaustive researches regarding it, but with the data that we do have till now and with experience, we can say that collagen supplements can actually contribute to better skin.
Early studies show that taking collagen supplements can help slow down skin aging by reducing wrinkles and dryness (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259628887_Oral_Intake_of_Specific_Bioactive_Collagen_Peptides_Reduces_Skin_Wrinkles_and_Increases_Dermal_Matrix_Synthesis)/. Moreover, collagen supplements can help produce other proteins like fibrillin and elastin that help structure the skin. (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/259628887_Oral_Intake_of_Specific_Bioactive_Collagen_Peptides_Reduces_Skin_Wrinkles_and_Increases_Dermal_Matrix_Synthesis). People also claim collagen has helped them with acne and other skin conditions.
As you can see, even if there hasn’t been a lot of researches and we are somehow short on scientific conclusions, the data we have right now is promising. We can say for sure that overall, the collagen supplements help slow down skin aging.
Drinking collagen can also help with better bone, joints, muscle, heart, and tissue health. Some researches have pointed out that collagen promotes healthy nail and hair (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/287865500), brain, gut (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-leaky-gut-real), and kidney.
Is it Safe to Take Collagen Supplements in Edible Form?
Yes, with the data we have, it is generally safe to take collagen as a supplement for your body. However, you can discuss its benefits to a healthcare provider (preferably a dermatologist) if you want. Collagen supplements don’t have a lot of side effects, but there some that you ought to know.
- Some collagen supplements may consist of fish and eggs, which are some of the most common food allergens.
- Some have reported a lingering bad taste after taking the supplement.
- Collagen supplements can cause bloating, feeling of fullness, and heartburn.
You see, with only some mild side effects that affect very few people, collagen is very safe. Still, we recommend you only buy a supplement after ensuring it is of a good brand. After all, low-quality supplements have never been beneficial.
Types of Collagen Supplements Available for Skincare
There are two types of collagen supplements. They are collagen peptides and collagen amino acids.
Collagen peptides are mostly available in the market as powders and consist of a hydrolyzed type-I collagen extracted from bones, hides, and fish scales. Hydrolyzation refers to the amino acid being broken into smaller units and kept in the powder. This basically means that the collagen peptides are very simple compounds in powdered form and can mix with any foodstuff.
Collagen peptide is the direct way of ingesting collagen. As we said, the collagen has been broken into simpler units, so our intestine can easily absorb them.
You can mix collagen peptides in both hot and cold liquid, including soup, broths, smoothie, etc.
Collagen Amino Acids for Skincare
Our body has Fibroblasts, which are the cells that produce collagen. For this, they need amino acids, including glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and more. The collagen amino acid supplements have these nutrients, and when you consume them, the fibroblasts absorb and convert them into the structural protein.
Collagen amino acids are more like substances that help stimulate collagen production. Instead of directly ingesting collagen in your body, they rather provide your body the amino acids that it needs to produce collagen naturally.
How do Collagen Supplements Work?
When we take a hydrolyzed collagen supplement, it first goes to our intestine. From there, it is absorbed into our bloodstream in the form of collagen peptides and amino acids. The collagen peptides are already collagen, while the collagen amino acids help produce collagen.
Marine collagen peptides (peptides made from fish) are better than other collagen because they have better bioavailability. This means fish peptides are easier for our bloodstreams to absorb from the intestines.
Hydrolyzed Collagen Supplement vs. Collagen Amino Acid: Which is the Better One for Skincare?
Collagen peptides and amino acids can both be beneficial to you, given that you use one of the right brand and quality. Anyway, generally, collagen peptides can be the better option.
This is because our body needs at least 18 amino acids in the right ratio and quantity to produce a collagen molecule. Some amino acid supplements might not have all these amino acids, or the ratio may not be right. On the other hand, hydrolyzed collagen is already collagen, and it breaks down when it goes inside your body.
Even if the odds are a little in favor of collagen peptides, the amino acids may be equally effective if you select the right brand and take good care of your skin.
Collagen Creams for Skincare: Do they Work?
There are many creams and powders on the market that claim to have collagen, which your skin can directly absorb. However, it is very unlikely. As said before, collagen is a very strong and complex protein. Even when you are ingesting it, you did it in the form of hydrolyzed collagen supplement.
Thus, we won’t say anything about the usefulness of the creams that claim to have collagen. But it is highly unlikely that the collagen in them works because the skin can’t absorb complex compounds.
Collagen for Skincare: Things That You Can Do to Avoid Collagen Loss as You Grow Older
Well, taking collagen supplements is one thing, but you also need to be careful about not letting the collagen in your body melt. Here are the things that you can do to prevent collagen loss:
Eat a Healthy, Balanced Diet
Food that are rich in protein, including meat and poultry products, beans, fish, eggs, etc. help in collagen production. Also, citrus and tropical fruits and berries can be very beneficial. Moreover, you will need healthy carbs from including avocado and brown rice to avoid being deficient in the required amino acids.
Make sure you cut off unhealthy fats and a lot of sugar. Refined sugar and carbs directly hamper collagen production.
And as we are talking about food, don’t forget to hydrate. You need water for healthy skin.
Exercise Regularly and Quit Smoking
As you can see, collagen is also found in bones and muscles. Thus, exercising will stimulate the production of collagen more.
You don’t necessarily need to go to the gym- doing simple exercises like running, cycling, or swimming regularly will contribute to younger skin. Additionally, exercising your face, i.e., facial massages now and then, may enable your body to produce more collagen.
Then comes smoking. Among the many disadvantages of smoking, aging skin is one. Smoking restricts blood flow by eating the collagen protein on your skin, eventually making your skin wrinkled. So, cigarettes are always a big no-no when talking about collagen for skincare.
Follow Healthy Skin Habits
Finally, don’t only think about collagen, but your skin as a whole.
Don’t expose your skin to the sun for a long time, especially between 10 AM to 3 PM. Even if you need to go out in the sun, don’t forget to carry a sunscreen cream with you.
You need to use skincare products that carry Vitamin A, which can boost collagen production. Retinol, a derivative of Vitamin A, has been found to stimulate more collagen production in the skin, so look for it in the ingredient list when you are looking for a product.
Taking collagen for skincare is an excellent idea, given that it is one of the essential proteins in the body.
There are many brands creating collagen supplements for skincare. Anyway, the supplements need all the amino acids to work, so you need to be careful with the selection. Moreover, taking collagen supplementation is not enough; you need to follow healthy skin habits to ensure you don’t lose the protein from your body faster than you naturally would.