“Collagen” is a common word that’s been floating around in the anti-aging realm for a while now. It’s easy to believe that it’s just another beauty industry buzzword, but collagen has an important role to play in your physical biology as well as your aesthetics. What is collagen and what is its role in anti-aging?
What Is Collagen?
Accounting for approximately 33% of all protein in the human body—making it the most abundant protein—collagen contributes to skeletal, joint, muscular, tendon, dental, hair, and skin health. Its prime role is to fasten together cells and tissues to support the shape and integrity of various cellular structures in the body. In simpler terms, collagen acts as a sort of flexible glue that keeps the body looking and functioning at its best.
Collagen’s Beauty Benefits
In terms of anti-aging beauty benefits, collagen is often associated with healthy, smooth skin. Found in the middle layer of the skin, or dermis, collagen proteins connect to create fibroblasts. These fibroblasts promote the growth of new cells to replace dead skin cells and encourage healthy cell turnover. In basic terms, higher collagen levels contribute to a rejuvenated appearance, including greater skin elasticity, plumpness, and smoothness. Collagen also contributes to hair health, with higher collagen levels being linked to stronger tresses, delayed graying, and even potential increased hair growth.
What Causes the Body to Produce Less Collagen?
Age is a definite factor in decreased collagen levels. With time, collagen production naturally slows: after age 20, our bodies produce roughly 1% less collagen in the skin per year. But there are also common lifestyle factors that can negatively impact collagen levels over time.
- Smoking — the chemicals found in tobacco smoke damage collagen and elastin in the skin, while reducing the amount of oxygen delivered to skin cells, slowing cell turnover.
- High blood sugar — A high-sugar diet causes sugar in the blood to bond to more proteins, creating AGEs, which are molecules known to destroy collagen proteins.
- A diet low in vitamin C — The body requires vitamin C to naturally produce collagen, so a diet lacking adequate sources of vitamin C leads to collagen degradation.
- Prolonged exposure to pollution — Environmental pollution can create free radicals that affect skin by excelling protein oxidation and the depletion of collagen.
- Sun exposure — The sun’s UV rays damage collagen deep in the dermis, resulting in wrinkles, a loss of elasticity, and pigmentation.
How to Boost Collagen Production
While collagen powders and supplements are making the rounds on social media, their effectiveness is still being studied. The question is whether these supplements really work to promote collagen production in the body, since collagen does not enter and remain in the body as a whole protein when ingested. Essentially, when any collagen supplement or dietary source (such as bone broth) is consumed, the body breaks this collagen down into its basic building blocks: amino acids. The body then uses these amino acids where they’re needed to maintain optimal health. If the body is lacking in collagen, it may reproduce collagen from the broken down amino acids—but that’s only if it needs collagen. If collagen is sufficient, those amino acids will be used elsewhere in the body. This means that the efficacy of these supplements in boosting collagen levels remains up for debate.
As for anti-aging collagen creams, they won’t significantly boost collagen levels in skin. Collagen proteins are much too large to be absorbed deep into the dermis of the skin where collagen is needed to maintain skin’s structural integrity. However, they may be absorbed by skin that is still healing. For this reason, collagen creams may be more effective following treatments that create micro-dermal wounds in the skin. In most other cases, though, skin care products containing peptides are much more effective in penetrating to the middle layer of the skin and kick starting targeted collagen production in the skin.
Likewise, anti-aging multi-polar radio frequency treatments can offer an effective means to promote skin’s natural collagen production. Using technology that’s safe for all skin tones, these non-surgical treatments utilize radio frequency to deliver targeted energy deep below the skin’s surface, creating heat within the dermis of the skin. This heat kick starts skin’s natural collagen production cycle, boosting overall collagen levels for plumper, smoother-looking skin and an overall younger-looking appearance.
To learn more about non-surgical radio frequency anti-aging treatments and how they could boost your skin’s collagen levels, contact a certified treatment provider near you.