The demand for dietary collagen is higher than ever before, thanks to its association with younger looks. As of 2018, sales of collagen supplements had hit $46.6 million, a 34% increase from the previous year.
Manufacturers of foods and beverages are now using this component as a functional ingredient in teas, protein bars, and even baked goods. This hype is attributed to, among other factors, the value of collagen amino acids for healthy skin.
What is collagen?
Collagen is a fibrous, hard, and insoluble protein linked to the many connective tissues in the body. It holds the body together, including tendons and the skin. Of the 29 different varieties of collagen, the human body comprises mostly of type I, II, and III.
Type I collagen
Collagen type I is the most common of the three and can be found in skin, bones, and ligaments. It gives the skin elasticity and strength. The degradation of this protein in the skin can lead to the formation of wrinkles and aged appearance. Type I collagen is also important for tendons, organs and bones.
Type II collagen
Although less prevalent in the body than Type I, Type II is just as important as it is the main component of cartilage and helps us maintain a healthy skeletal system. If you are an active person, it’s important to have Type II collagen in your diet.
Type III collagen
Collagen type III is also found in skin, blood vessels, and internal body organs. Type III is usually found alongside Type I collagen.
What is the difference in taking collagen or amino acids?
The body does not absorb collagen molecules wholly. Instead, digestive enzymes break down proteins into component amino acids (AAs) for absorption into the bloodstream. The amino acids, also known as natural moisturizing factors (NMFs), are then produced into collagen peptides.
Amino acids are, therefore, the building blocks of proteins, including collagen. To give the body collagen, you should eat foods rich in proteins or use products made of collagen amino acids.
Which amino acids are there in collagen?
- Leucine, glycine, proline, and lysine are key amino acids responsible for the synthesis of collagen. Either of these AAs can lead to improved strength for body ligaments and tendons.Photo by Trang Doan from Pexels
- Hydroxylysine is also a source of collagen. It promotes joint, cartilage, and tendon health. Foods rich in this and other AAs are recommended for improved skin elasticity.
What foods have amino acids to boost collagen?
Eating foods, fruits, and vegetables packed with collagen can give your skin ready-to-use collagen. This practice is preferred to taking supplements, which are largely unregulated by over-the-counter distributors.
You should, therefore, include either of the following items in your diet to help create essential collagen amino acids for healthy skin:
- Bone broth
Simmer animal bones in water and add your best spices for flavour. Source the bones from a reputable local butcher for high-quality collagen.
Fish and shellfish are rich in marine collagen. However, it is recommended that you consume parts, such as the head, eyeballs, and scales (fish skin) as they have the highest levels of collagen for skin repair.
- Egg whites
Egg white protein has high levels of proline, an essential amino acid in the production of collagen.
Citrus fruits, berries, and tropical fruits have high amounts of vitamin C, which helps in the production of pro-collagen. Berries also have antioxidants, which protect the skin from damage. Aside from kiwi, pineapples, and mangoes, guavas are an excellent source of zinc, also a factor in collagen production.
Chicken is a rich source of dietary collagen, so much so, that a number of studies on arthritis have used chicken neck and cartilage as a source of collagen for treatment.
- Leafy green vegetables
Vegetables such as spinach, kale, and other green salads can help in collagen production
Garlic’s high sulfur content helps synthesize and prevent the breakdown of collagen. Thus, it is an ingredient that can help to boost your collagen production in addition to making your food tasty.
If you need something to snack on, cashew nuts are a good choice. These nuts are rich in zinc and copper, two minerals that are much needed in collagen production.
Beans are high in protein that contains the amino acids that are needed for collagen synthesis.
- Avoid sugar
Sugar and other refined carbs are not only bad for your general, they can damage collagen.
Collagen amino acids skincare benefits
Collagen amino acids’ benefit for skin is vast and using it will definitely cause you to have firmer, smoother skin. Here are a few reasons why you should add it to your skincare routine:
1. Improved skin elasticity (firmer skin)
Collagen amino acids are associated with a reduction in the appearance of lines and saggy skin. According to Donna Tozzi, an aesthetician, AAs stimulate fibroblast cells, giving these cells nutrition to produce elastin, collagen, and fibrillin. These proteins help structure your skin.
Amino acids are equally good as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components, hence, helping your skin to develop dermal density and brightness. They give the face, neck, cleavage, and the back of hands, a firmer tone, free from environmental hazards.
Proline, glycine, and leucine are particularly sought after amino acids, as they keep the skin free from fine lines and wrinkles.
In a study where women took 2.5-5 grams of a collagen supplement for 8 weeks, it is reported that the participants experienced less skin dryness. They also had a significant increase in skin elasticity compared to a control group comprising women who did not take the supplement.
2. Clearer skin appearance
Blue light, exposure to hot weather, and air pollution can steadily deplete the availability of antioxidants. However, collagen amino acids can revive the skin’s elasticity, giving you a healthy, younger, and clearer look.
Arginine, for instance, is an amino acid responsible for repairing skin damage. Histidine is also an effective antioxidant, with skin-soothing abilities.
Methionine is also a sought-after amino acid as it neutralizes damaging substances likely to harm the skin. This and other collagen amino acids are therefore good for your skin’s clarity.
A randomized controlled trial comprising 105 women has also found out that ingesting collagen supplements with moderate cellulite gives the skin a clear appearance.
3. Improved skin hydration
Collagen amino acids come in many varieties, including “conditional” ones. Conditional amino acids are made by the body when you are ill or under stress. These and other sources of collagen are found naturally on the skin’s uppermost layers. They act as conductors, allowing you to remain moisturized.
Amino acids are widely used in skincare products, such as eye creams, moisturizers, toners, and serums. In conjunction with the body’s water transport system (aquaporins), AAs move moisture throughout the layers of the skin. They are, therefore, responsible for retaining desirable levels of hydration.
Researchers have also found that taking fish collagen or supplements for 8-12 weeks can significantly increase skin hydration, hence, smoother appearance and feel. In a study where women took a beverage containing collagen supplement for 12 weeks, it was reported that they experienced improved skin hydration. They also had a significant reduction in wrinkle depth compared to the women who did not take the supplement.
4. Increased collagen density in the skin
Many placebo-controlled trials have discovered that taking foods rich in collagen amino acids increases collagen density in the skin. Consequently, there is reduced skin fragmentation.
5. Promotes cellular repair
Skincare products are rich in amino acids, such as histidine, lysine, leucine, and arginine. These sources of collagen help to keep your skin free from rough textures, pesky lines, and acne, the tragic impacts of inadequate moisture.
A combination of many amino acids forms peptides (protein fragments), which improve skin texture. When applied topically to the skin, creams can stimulate the production of collagen, hence, reducing cell inflammation and promoting skin repair.
6. Anti-ageing effects
Diet plays a major role in the youthfulness and appearance of your skin. Collagen is one of the proteins to look out for improved skin structure, stretch, and suppleness. As you age, the skin produces fewer collagen types I and II; hence, a thinning feel.
Abnormalities in skin collagen synthesis result mainly from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Skin photoaging is, therefore, attributed to the effects of one-time and chronic UV irradiation. These events reduce the amount of collagen expressed on the dermis while inducing the formation of wrinkles.
To retain steady levels of dermal collagen, you should rectify changes in the protein turnover rate arising from UV radiation. Many studies indicate that collagen supplements are responsible for reducing visible signs of skin ageing, such as skin dryness and wrinkles.
Foods rich in lysine are also desirable as this collagen amino acid helps to keep the skin’s surface firm by reinforcing its supportive elements.
Some amino acids also play an even more significant role in aiding the skin to create glutathione. This antioxidant is developed naturally and helps to strengthen the skin’s natural defence mechanism. It makes it less likely to develop signs of ageing from exposure to environmental damage.
Side effects of Collagen Amino Acids
Collagen amino acids are not known to cause any side effects but as always, if you are going to introduce a new product to your daily skincare routine, be cautious.
To avoid unwanted irritations, perform a patch test before using the product. This will help determine whether or not the product is suitable for your skin. Amino acids usually work well for most skin types.
Amino acids and acne
Acne occurs when bacteria, oil/sebum and dead skin cells are trapped in hair follicles and thus, clog pores.
Lysine, an amino acid that helps to build collagen, has been known to help with acne. Lysine in itself does not cure acne as there are many factors that contribute to acne. Nonetheless, it is a very important amino acid for building protein and collagen as well as bringing energy to the body.
Everyone needs lysine as part of their diet as our body is unable to produce it. Foods such as avocado, nuts, diary, red meat, and fish are great sources of lysine.
How to use collagen amino acids skincare products
- You can add collagen amino acids into your diet by ingesting foods rich amino acids or by swallowing supplements – the correct dosage is given per product.
- Applying amino acids on the skin gives you an extra boost. Amino acids have better performance when in a skincare regimen, as they promote collagen regeneration.
- Apply facial creams, eye creams, moisturizers, and other products rich in collagen amino acids directly on the skin. You can focus on sensitive areas, such as around the eyes. Read the product’s prescription for the correct dosage.
Skincare products with collagen amino acids
- Face cleansers
Some face cleansers have glycine, an essential amino acid for skin elasticity. This product is also great for smooth fine lines. Look out for face cleansers with soybeans.
- Eye and hand creams
Eye creams rich in collagen amino acids are suitable for eye moisture and improved blood flow under your eyes. This protein is also essential for enhanced cell turnover and lightweight, especially when you have had a night of inadequate sleep. Peptides in topical creams help with collagen production, giving your skin a rejuvenated feel.
Hand cream manufacturers also add vegan collagen into their products. Among other ingredients, some of these products are made using collagen amino acids.
- Ointments and serums
Some serums are made from a combination of organic minerals and amino acids, which are responsible for skin brightness. They also help to firm and tone the skin.
Patients of eczema should look out for ointments and serums packed with tulip as this substance is a rich source of amino acids. Such products have a soothing effect and the ability to seal away moisture.
- Moisturizing oils
Essential oils, such as hemp seed oil, are packed with collagen amino acids, giving you a healthy skin. This oil is also rich in ashwagandha and turmeric, which are adaptogens. Moisturising oils contain components that protect the skin from UV damage and environmental pollution.
- Body lotions
Anti-ageing body lotions are made with vitamin C and collagen amino acids. Some also combine mineral oils for healthy skin.
There is increased awareness and research linking collagen amino acids to healthy skin. The choice of how to acquire these proteins for a smoother, clearer, and younger look lies with the individual.
However, you should focus on eating foods packed with amino acids to boost collagen production. Or use skincare products with this protein as their key ingredient.