The list of glowing-skinned celebrities reaping the benefits of collagen supplements is a long one, including the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Kourtney Kardashian and Mandy Moore. Take just one look at them, and it's clear that something must be working. The ultimate skin-envy, minimal wrinkles and youthful, plump skin, are the two supposed by-products of ingesting the protein.
So could collagen supplements be the thing stamping out dull complexions all over Hollywood, or are they just another empty promise that Instagram won’t let us escape – like "flat tummy tea" or posture enhancers?
Collagen is the most abundant protein which serves as one of skin’s core building blocks. Collagen is what keeps our skin from sagging, giving us that much-desired plump, hydrated, youthful appearance.
So, let's delve a little deeper to discover whether adding collagen to your diet has any actual skin health benefits in the long-term.
WHAT ROLE DOES COLLAGEN PLAY ON SKIN?
Collagen is a protein which provides structure to much of our bodies, including the bones, skin, tendons, and ligaments. Think of it as the “glue” which holds all these things together. In fact, the word comes from the Greek word “kólla”, which literally translates as glue.
Collagen is the essential component of the dermis layer that is found within the skin. Supplementing this protein with collagen powder can benefit you in so many ways. Collagen for skin tightening is definitely the way to go, particularly if you’re looking to target signs of ageing. It can reduce the depth of facial wrinkles, smoothing them out and improving skin quality by increasing elasticity and firmness. It can also re-densify the skin, which will lead to strengthening the skin barrier function, making it more resilient against environmental stressors like pollution and free radical damage.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE INGEST COLLAGEN?
Ingestible collagen is bio-identical, meaning our bodies recognise the protein as its own, since it already naturally exists inside our dermis. Therefore, increasing collagen intake for several months can massively improve skin elasticity, as well as signs of ageing, without too much effort.
The wrinkle-reducing effects of collagen supplements have been attributed to this exact ability to mimic our own body’s collagen production. Taking collagen supplements may also stimulate the production of other proteins, including elastin and fibrillin, which help to structure your skin, giving it its bounce and elasticity.
POWDER, TABLET OR LIQUID COLLAGEN DRINK?
I feel lifestyle, rather than age group, determines how one should consume collagen. Those with an active lifestyle, who like to make smoothies and juices at home will probably prefer the powder variation, as it’s easy to toss a scoop or two into your drinks. Taking collagen powder works from the inside out to fortify and strengthen the dermal layer of your skin, which is exactly what you need for that glowing, youthful look! The daily use of powdered collagen will definitely keep your skin thriving.
If you do opt for a collagen powder supplement, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to limit yourself to beverages or smoothies, either. You should take into consideration the foods you already consume. You can bake with collagen, infusing healthy muffins, granola bars, or banana bread with some added health benefits. You can also add it to your overnight oats, soups, and even pasta sauces.
Now, onto collagen supplements which come in tablet-form. These are just capsules filled with hydrolysed collagen powder – yes, the same type of powder you’d find in a collagen powder supplement. The only real difference between the two is the type of delivery method you’re using. Choosing between collagen powders, ready-mixed liquids shots and tablets is simply a matter of personal preference.
HOW FREQUENTLY SHOULD COLLAGEN BE TAKEN FOR EFFECTIVE RESULTS?
High RDA (recommended daily allowance) dose hydrolysed collagen supplements will provide noticeable results in as little as 30 days, when consumed daily.
But just like my clients’ long-term commitment to my professional facials and their own skin health, when it comes to starting a collagen-based skincare journey, get ready to be in a dedicated relationship!
If you want long-lasting effects, you’ll have to take collagen supplements for the long-term. Why? The answer is collagenase. Our bodies steadily produce this enzyme, which eats away at our natural collagen. So since collagen supplements improve your skin, bones and joints, you’ll need to keep taking them consistently to counteract this process.
WHATS THE BEST AGE TO START INCLUDING COLLAGEN IN YOUR DIET?
Imagine your skin’s collagen fibres as “ropes of protein” in the skin. When we’re young, the rope remains tight, but as we age, the ends begin to fray.
Essentially, our bodies are not able to replace the collagen we’re losing as quickly as it is breaking down. Skin’s collagen breakdown begins a lot earlier than most people realise. Starting in our early 20s, we begin losing about 1% of our collagen each year.
This unfortunately means drier skin, which contributes to early fine-line and wrinkle formation. These then only get deeper and more pronounced as we hurtle through our 20s. At around the age of 50, collagen production diminishes even more significantly, and visible ageing accelerates.
My mantra is, “prevention is smarter than a cure”, so I would advise you start adding collagen supplements to your skincare routine (ideally) from your early 20s. That way your skin will thank you for it in your 30s, 40s and beyond! Taking collagen at a younger age will have a visible long-term effect on your skin’s appearance, as it’ll help prevent gradual wear and tear over time. But of course, it’s never too late to start...
Sun exposure, cigarette smoke and pollution can also accelerate collagen breakdown. So, the concept of supplementing our collagen, especially as we age and our body’s natural collagen production declines, is incredibly appealing from a facialist’s standpoint. I recommend collagen supplements alongside home-care to be equally effective in maintaining your skin post-facial treatments.
HOW DOES THIS 'INSIDE-OUT' APPROACH WITH COLLAGEN BENEFIT THE SKIN?
Understanding the “inside-out” approach starts with first understanding what happens inside the skin.
Collagen makes up a whopping 80% of our skin, and works in tandem another protein, elastin, which, yes, you guessed it, is responsible for our skin’s elasticity. But as we age, our bodies naturally start reducing both production of both collagen and elastin.
I like to use this analogy. A top Michelin-starred chef will only cook with the highest quality ingredients, because without them, you wouldn’t be able to taste or absorb the nutritional qualities of their dish. So as a facialist, I always advocate that it is absolutely essential to consume high quality oils, essential vitamins, fibrous fruits and vegetables. The same concept applies to collagen intake. It is vital to consume the best quality protein, as well as the correct dosage, in order to attain the best skin health benefits.
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Words by Adeela Crown.