Collagen is vital for your skin. Here is everything you need to know about it.
What is collagen?
One of the most abundant, naturally occurring proteins in our bodies, collagen is found in our joints, ligaments, bones, eyes, skin, tendons and more. It accounts for 30% of our body’s protein, if you can believe it!1
It’s a long, bouncy molecule that basically acts as tissue scaffolding; think of it as the springs in a mattress. So far, we’ve identified 28 types of collagen, with each type serving a different purpose in our body’s ecosystem.
What does collagen do for skin?
Originally, research into collagen was focused on the medical benefits. Luckily for us, researchers realised how integral the role of collagen was in the process of ageing, and thus the cosmetic industry of collagen was born. 2
In the context of skincare, collagen is found in the dermis, the middle layer of skin. Collagen Types I, II and II are what give your skin its underlying structure, helps our skin to retain moisture and increases elasticity – the golden trio when it comes to youthful radiance.3
As an added bonus, it is an antioxidant too! This means that it neutralizes the harmful free radicals in the atmosphere that are a product of pollution. 4
- Type I: This type is the most abundant in the body and is found in skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues.
- Type II: This type is found in cartilage, which is a type of connective tissue that cushions joints and provides structural support.
- Type III: This type is found in skin, blood vessels, and other organs.
All of this sounds almost too good to be true… so what’s the catch?
Well, as we get older our body become less efficient at producing collagen, especially during and after menopause. Coupled with other compounding factors such as UV radiation, pollution and a poor diet, we’re just fighting a losing battle to keep up collagen production.
Wrinkles form because the network holding our skin taught starts to perish. Repeated movements create grooves in the face, and next thing we know, we can see our frown lines in the mirror.
How do I increase collagen production?
Well, as it turns out, we’ve actually been supplementing our collagen for centuries in the form of the old wives remedy: bone broth. Collagen from beef bones is infused into the broth, giving us a nutritious boost. Fish, berries and broccoli also aid collagen production. That being said, these foods carry a very low dose – a more concentrated product is what we need.
1. Topical collagen
The easiest way to receive collagen is to include it into your skincare regime. Applied in an oil or cream it will sink directly into the skin cells you are trying to target. However, one of the main issues with collagen is that it is a long bulky molecule. 5
In its full form is too big to be absorbed by the gut or through your skin. The solution to this is to buy hydrolysed collagen, which is a fancy way of saying collagen that has been broken down into small pieces. These small pieces can then travel into the skin.6
Here at Era Organics, we thought we’d circumvent that issue for a natural solution - we’ve created Afterglow Collagen Face Oil, containing the magic ingredient Collageneer. Always one to be open about what goes into our products, I’ll explain how it works.
White lupin beans (Lupinus albus) are grown on French farmland, from which the crucial ingredient lupeol is extracted via a patented process. Lupeol has the ability to go into your skin cells and say “Hey! You need to be producing more collagen!”.
This means that you’ll be benefiting from your own body’s collagen, ensuring that it has no nasty additives. As an added bonus, lupeol actually has many more health benefits – such as anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.7,8 It’s a win-win.
2. Collagen Supplements and Diet
Collagen supplements are made up of collagen sourced from animals (usually bovine, but you will also come across chicken and marine collagen), as well as additional ingredients that make up the flavouring of the product. Recent developments have allowed for the synthesis of collagen, foregoing the animal source.9,10
When we ingest it in the form of food or drink, our gut absorbs the collagen, which then travels to the areas in the body that need renewed structural support.
For vegetarians and vegans, there are some good algae-based supplements. They contain the same amino acids as collagen, just not the collagen itself. I’ll just let you know that there is less research done into the effectiveness of these sources. Shop for your collagen the way you would for your food: quality is crucial. The source is always important!
Which one do I need?
Personally, I’d use both! When we ingest collagen, there is no way to direct which region of the body it targets. You may see improvement in hair or joints.
Topical collagen however, is much more focused. It sinks into skin cells and triggers collagen production locally, meaning it is a more effective way to ensure anti-ageing benefits and a reduction in wrinkles.
What age should I start using collagen?
Theres no time like the present! Studies have shown that collagen production can slow down from as early as our 20s – a good indication that that’s started happening would be when you get your first wrinkle.
It’s a sign that your body can’t keep up with pulling your skin back to its youthful bounce. It’s also around the same time that sitting in a chair all day becomes uncomfortable, or you get a twinge in your back from picking up a box at a weird angle. It is at this point that your body may appreciate a little assistance replenishing its collagen stores.
The trick to reaping the largest benefits from your supplement or product is consistency. Collagen is constantly being degraded as we move through life, thus needs to be added back in. A recent study showed that a group of women who topically applied collagen twice a day saw results in a mere four weeks. They reported improved skin smoothness and when researchers measured the depth of their wrinkles (I know, seems like a odd concept) they found a softening and decrease in depth of wrinkles. Moisture content in the skin rose as well.1, 11
Can you take too much? Nope! Remember that our body is full of its own collagen. The body is also smarter and more intuitive than we typically give it credit for – if there is excess collagen it will be excreted. There’s been no research showing that collagen has any harmful effects.4
It’s not often you find a beauty product that has as far a reach as collagen does: renewing and refreshing your skin while also strengthening and preserving your body.
1: Lee, Y. L. 2022. Effect of a Topical Collagen Tripeptide on Antiaging and Inhibition of Glycation of the Skin: A Pilot Study. International Journal of Molecular Science. 1101.
2: Lee, C.H., Singla, A. and Lee, Y., 2001. Biomedical applications of collagen. International Journal of Pharmaceutics, 221(1-2), pp.1-22.
3: Ricard-Blum, S., Ruggiero, F. and van der Rest, M., 2005. The collagen superfamily. Collagen: Primer in Structure, Processing and Assembly, pp.35-84.
4: Aguirre-Cruz, G., León-López, A., Cruz-Gómez, V., Jiménez-Alvarado, R. and Aguirre-Álvarez, G., 2020. Collagen hydrolysates for skin protection: Oral administration and topical formulation. Antioxidants, 9(2), p.181.
5: Kim, D.U., Chung, H.C., Choi, J., Sakai, Y. and Lee, B.Y., 2018. Oral intake of low-molecular-weight collagen peptide improves hydration, elasticity, and wrinkling in human skin: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutrients, 10(7), p.826.
6: Borumand, M. and Sibilla, S., 2015. Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration and wrinkles. Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals, 4(1), p.47.
7: Gallo, M.B. and Sarachine, M.J., 2009. Biological activities of lupeol. International Journal of Biomedical Pharmacological Science, 3(1), pp.46-66.
8: Geetha, T. and Varalakshmi, P., 2001. Anti-inflammatory activity of lupeol and lupeol linoleate in rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 76(1), pp.77-80.
9: Shoulders, M.D. and Raines, R.T., 2009. Collagen structure and stability. Annual review of Biochemistry, 78, pp.929-958.
10: Avila Rodríguez, M.I., Rodríguez Barroso, L.G. and Sánchez, M.L., 2018. Collagen: A review on its sources and potential cosmetic applications. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 17(1), pp.20-26.
11: Bauza E, Oberto G, Berghi A, Dal CF, Domloge N. Collagen-like peptide exhibits a remarkable antiwrinkle effect on the skin when topically applied: in vivo study. International Journal of Tissue Reactions. 2004 ;26(3-4):105-111