What Is Collagen - How Does It Help With Anti-Aging?

Being relatively new to the skincare game, I was shocked to learn about the role that Collagen plays in our own human biology, especially since I was making a lot of rookie mistakes when it comes to producing and retaining collagen.

The more collagen our bodies produce, the healthier our skin looks; enabling our skin to look and feel firmer, plumper, and aesthetically structured.

The word collagen is derived from the Greek word kólla, meaning glue; this is certainly by design. Collagen is the most plentiful protein found in the entire animal kingdom, and is one of the major building blocks of our skin, bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. 

It’s no surprise that when it comes to skincare health, collagen regulation and stimulation are primary focuses for anti aging ingredients, practices, and products.

How is collagen made?

Human beings produce collagen naturally, but continue to produce less of it (about 1% per year) and lower quality after our collagen producing peak in our early 20s.

I first learned about collagen during my research on peptides and the efficacies of certain ingredients which we’ll dive into here, namely Vitamin C (L-Absorbic Acid) and Glycolic Acid. Collagen’s importance was evident (to me) since half of the peptide groups are distinguished by their abilities to help us mitigate collagen loss and increase collagen production.

When it comes to the world of anti-aging skincare regimens, efforts are focused on sustainably maintaining our collagen production processes and mitigating photo aging effects that stem from collagen loss.

At this point of my research, I did pat myself on the back. Some of the ingredients known to help stimulate collagen production were those I had already implemented into my current skincare regimen.

But as the saying goes, I took one step forward, and took many steps back. Not only was I missing out on more vital methods of collagen production, I was hurting my youthful exuberance with some bad habits.

Here are the best ways to retain and produce more collagen as we all inevitably continue to age that I’ve considered and have started to make accommodations for (if I haven’t done so accidentally).

Craft the right diet for you!

What surprised me the most about all of the “Best Ways To Produce More Collagen” type articles was their lack of mentioning how important our diet plays when it comes to internal collagen production processes. Again, our bodies naturally produce collagen, and if our diets accommodate our aging process, theoretically we can produce as much collagen as we need and desire. The good news is that you’ve already been making collagen; the ingredients for its production include Vitamin C, Glycine, Proline, and Copper - all of which can be consumed from foods you eat today like citrus fruits, high quality proteins, lentils, and cashews. Apparently, bone broth makes a really good collagen-boosting brew as it’s filled with Gelatins, which are rich in collagen.

Apply ingredients topically on your skin that help you build collagen!

Retinoids (Vitamin-A) are clinically proven to help you build collagen. Antioxidants (like Vitamin-C) can help reverse the inflammation that is harmful to the collagen in your skin. An AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) like Glycolic Acid has been proven to be anti aging in the sense that it stimulates your production of collagen; I actually apply Glycolic acid as a toner in my own daily skincare regimen. You can also try peptides that are dedicated to addressing collagen production and retention (see my article on Peptides here), though the efficacy of peptides for skincare benefits are highly debated amongst the skincare and scientific communities.

Apply sunscreen!

Ultraviolet light actually breaks down collagen; applying sunscreen daily is the best way to prevent this and help retain that much wanted collagen your body has worked so hard to produce. If you have oily skin, be mindful to procure a sunscreen product that is oil free; I learned my lesson the hard way by choosing an oil based sunscreen that caused me a ton of acne.

What else should we consider about collagen when it comes to the health and appearance of our skin?

There are of course habits that are counterproductive to your anti aging, collagen producing efforts that you are mistakenly doing right now. Admittedly, I have fallen victim to these in my most recent years (and still continue to do so) in moderation and am looking to cut back on these habits further.

Habits like smoking and drinking are known to cause decreases of collagen production levels. Think about the person you know who has smoked their entire life.. I’m guessing they haven’t aged well; this is because a decrease in collagen means wrinkly skin..

Also, with any ingredient that’s highly commercialized, there are some falsehoods around products that help collagen production that we can easily debunk.

Topical ointments, creams, and moisturizers that include collagen as an ingredient, doesn’t actually help you increase your skin’s collagen or enable the retention of collagen. 

The molecular weight of collagen is too great to reach deep and impact your dermis, which is the layer in your skin for which collagen is produced and stored. Hydrolyzed collagen (or Collagen peptides) address this issue of collagen size, however the studies done for the efficacy of this ingredient is quite limited.

Ingesting collagen in the form of capsules, powders, and oral supplements is also questionable with regard to improving collagen production. The stomach acids involved in our digestion process are known to break down this collagen and it's unclear if we absorb ingested collagen.

Armed with this information, I’m excited to implement more of these practices and principles involved with retaining and producing collagen because I won’t be young forever. 

I’m 27 now, and by these accords, I’ve been losing out on collagen production for a better part of 5 years, and truthfully haven’t helped my body in retaining the collagen I’ve produced naturally. 

As with my own personal disclaimer when it comes to my conscientious efforts of my skin’s health, it’s better late than never.

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