The low down on Collagen – Part 1

Want younger, smoother, more radiant looking skin? 

Of course you do, don’t we all?  But is it really possible to get it simply by taking collagen supplements?  It’s being sold in pill, powder and liquid form and marketed as part of a larger “nutricosmetic” trend. And it’s gaining popularity!  But do we really understand what it is and what it does?

What is Collagen exactly?

Collagen is a protein that gives skin it’s structure, suppleness and stretch, and is an important part of connective tissues in the body. It is a rigid, non-soluble and fibrous protein that adds up to one third of the proteins found in the human body. Collagen consists mainly of amino acids and is mostly found in tendons, muscles, bones, skin, ligaments, and other fibrous tissues. It helps keep skin strong and supple, sustains renewal of healthy skin cells and the repair of ones that are damaged.  As we age, we naturally lose this protein in the body.  Exposure to ultraviolet light (think suntan or light from electronics), smoking tobacco, and excessive intake of sugar accelerate that natural loss. As collagen levels decrease, skin loses elasticity and thickness, which leads to the formation of wrinkles and sagging skin.

It’s not surprising we’d want to reduce or even replace this collagen loss by taking collagen supplements, like we try to do with other vitamins and minerals.  But is it possible?

Do Collagen Supplements work?

In short, no. The idea that popping a collagen pill or adding a collagen-containing creamer to coffee will boost collagen in your skin is completely misguided. Just as eating more protein doesn’t result in a more muscular body (if it did, we’d all look like bodybuilders if we wanted to), consuming collagen doesn’t help us replace our age-related, or lifestyle loss of the protein. Contrary to what companies want you to think, these supplements simply cannot smooth out wrinkles or plump your skin.

You see, we don’t absorb collagen! We break down collagen into separate amino acids and absorb those.  And we have little control over where our body puts those amino acids.  You have to have a stimulus to put a nutrient where it’s needed.  Like for muscle building, it’s not enough to eat protein. You have to exercise so that your muscles demand that fuel.

Are all Collagen Supplements equal?

Again, no.  They may have sleek, minimalist packaging that make collagen products seem “natural” or “organic,” but there is nothing natural about ingesting skin and bones from cows, horses, pigs, fish and rabbits. (Yes, most collagen supplements come from the parts of animals we usually don’t consume.)  And like other supplements, collagen isn’t regulated by the FDA. That means no one is overseeing the ingredients, and that quantities and quality may vary widely.

If you have decided to take collagen supplements, or must take any supplements for that matter, possibly for health reasons or due to dietary restrictions, please find the most natural form or with the fewest additives possible and from the most reputable suppliers you can find. 

What is an alternative to Collagen Supplements?

So, if supplements don’t do what they claim, what should you do if you want to improve the appearance of your skin?

  1. Staying hydrated is important – skin that is dry from the inside is thinner and more prone to wrinkling. We know it’s hard, but the recommended 2 litres minimum a day is essential to overall health as well as the quality of your skin.
  2. Avoiding known accelerators of skin aging is obvious – that means minimizing direct sun exposure and avoiding all tobacco products. Both have the ability to change the structure, thickness and elasticity of your skin. 
  3. And eating right for overall health can make a real difference. The latest science shows that a nutrient-dense diet can illuminate your skin’s natural radiance.  Eating citrus fruit, berries (especially blueberries), leafy greens, cashews, beans, tomatoes, garlic, and peppers can help.  These all provide the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients to nourish your skin from the inside out. 
  4. Avoiding counterproductive foods will also help. This includes refined carbohydrates such as white breads, white pastas, white rice, and added sugars. These foods can lead to inflammation which can damage collagen.  But if you’re anything like us and LOVE our breads, pastas and rice, reach for wholegrain, whole wheat and brown versions respectively.

Making these simple changes to your daily diet can make a noticeable difference to the quality of your skin.  Combine this with eliminating smoking and limiting UV exposure and the noticeable change will be all that more impressive!

Stay tuned for Part 2 – Collagen Boosting Treatments

Share this post now
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin