Collagen is a term that’s been heard thrown around the beauty world for a while now. Many celebs, including Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry and Kourtney Kardashian are believed to pin their youthful looks on collagen remedies and supplements, and now it seems this skin-supporting protein has broken into the everyday skincare routines of people who simply wish to fight ageing and look forever young. We decided to take a closer look at the collagen craze to find out why everyone wants a piece of this complex ingredient.
What is collagen?
Collagen is actually a protein that’s found throughout your body. Your tendons, ligaments, skin and muscles are all made up of connective tissues, and collagen is largely found within these tissues. There are around sixteen different types of collagen but all of them, and the structures they form, help tissue to withstand stretching.
Dr Diana Howard from The International Dermal Institute explains how the majority of age-related changes that occur in skin take place in the dermis. The dermis is the thick layer of skin beneath the top layer (the epidermis) and it contains all sorts of structures including sweat glands, hair follicles, sebaceous glands and connective tissues.
As you age, the dermis loses 20-80% of its initial thickness. Cells contained within the connective tissues change over time, and it is these cells, known as fibroblasts, that are responsible for collagen and elastin production. Ageing skin will begin to produce these proteins at a slower rate, which can affect the skin’s ability to repair itself, and a breakdown of collagen and elastin can also impact the skin’s physical structure. It is this process that makes skin susceptible to fine lines and wrinkles. Interestingly, skin that’s been damaged by excessive UV exposure can cause the collagen and elastin cells to disorganise themselves in such a way that they clump together. This results in photodamaged skin which is often indicated by pigmented age-spots.
Where does natural collagen come from?
Since collagen is a naturally-produced protein found in the human body, you may be curious to know what exactly is in collagen supplements and collagen-enriched topical products. Vegetarians may be surprised to learn that when collagen is used as an ingredient, it usually derives from either bovine or marine sources.
So, what’s the difference between bovine and marine collagen? Marine collagen is usually extracted from discarded fish scales (helping to reduce environmental pollution), and it is this collagen that’s considered to be better for absorption and bioavailability. Fish collagen peptides have smaller particles so that they can enter the bloodstream quicker; in fact, marine collagen can be absorbed into the body up to 1.5 times more efficiently compared to bovine collagen.
Marine collagen is classed as type 1, the type that is also most prevalent in the human body. It is composed of a high concentration of hydroxyproline, peptides that stimulate cells in the skin, joints and bones. Research published in 2015 in the Open Nutraceuticals Journal states how clinical trials show the benefits of collagen peptides on skin, including hydration, elasticity and reduction of wrinkles; the conclusion is that hydrolysed collagen can help to fight the visible signs of ageing.
The benefits of collagen-rich skincare
As well as fine lines and wrinkles, ageing skin is usually accompanied by physical dryness and a dull complexion. Anti-ageing skincare designed to alleviate these symptoms is quite desirable, and collagen is usually a common ingredient found within such premium products.
Beauty supplements containing collagen alongside other ingredients, such as biotin which maintains healthy hair and skin, and vitamin C which helps with normal collagen formation in the skin, are extremely popular. One study concluded that supplements containing collagen can effectively improve the signs of ageing, and preclinical studies also suggest that such supplements improve skin barrier function and promote fibroblast growth.
Taking a collagen supplement in conjunction with topical products that contain supporting ingredients is also beneficial to skin health. Trifluoracetyl tripepetide-2 has been seen to improve skin elasticity and decrease progerin (a harmful protein) in fibroblasts; this helps to increase firmness and reduce the appearance of fine lines. Yeast extract helps support collagen synthesis, while whey protein revitalises the skin by increasing its smoothness and firmness.
Ingredients known for their moisturising and hydrating properties are also effective at supporting collagen. Dehydrated and parched skin will look dull and lifeless but as soon as you add moisture, skin will plump out, reducing the appearance of fine lines.
Two impressive anti-ageing collagen products that work in synergy include Forever’s Firming Complex, a supplement, and Firming Serum, a powerful moisturiser. The beauty supplement is rich in collagen-loving ingredients and the supporting topical serum promises to increase the appearance of skin firmness. The serum also works as a protective barrier to guard the skin from environmental damage that may harm natural collagen production, while the supplement delivers collagen back into skin to replace what may have been lost. When used together, these two products introduce collagen to skin from the inside out – just what you need if you’re hoping to slow down the signs of ageing.
Have you ever tried collagen products? Let us know how you got on in the comments below.