We first heard of collagen as kids during science lessons, and then through skincare and beauty ads in our later years. It is no longer passed off as a quick check list on products by cosmetic chemists. Collagen is now taken more seriously than ever before - whether as a targeted USP in skincare products or ingested as a dietary supplement. Collagen sure sounds like some fancy stuff, but what is it all about, really!?
Collagen is a form of protein that is most abundantly available in our body. It is produced naturally, and depletes over the course of time, owing to age, exposure to UV light, unhealthy lifestyle, etc. Although present throughout the body, it functions mainly in the skin, bones and connective tissue.
The human body consists of at least 16 different types of collagen.
Alright. So, what does it do?
Quite a lot of important stuff, actually. Collagen is secreted by cells in the connective tissue, and is present in the dermis i.e the middle layer of the skin. It also helps in replacing dead skin cells, and serve as a protective layer for delicate yet vital organs like the kidneys.
Collagen provides the skin with structural integrity, and keeps it supple and youthful. It also keeps the hair and nails strong and healthy. To put it simply, collagen is the key protein to keep you looking and feeling younger.
Here’s the catch…
As amazing as collagen is for the entire body, inside out, its production reaches a steady decline with progression of age. In fact, women experiencing menopause are likely to face a drastic drop in collagen synthesis. But collagen deficit is not limited to women alone. Men are just as likely to experience a collagen deficit and its consequences. Plus, unhealthy lifestyle choices such as excessive smoking and drinking, as well as direct exposure to UV light can also cause a decline in collagen.
What happens if that happens?
The earliest and most obvious signs of lack of collagen in the body are: dry and wrinkled skin, brittle hair and nails, and weakness in the joint cartilages.
Woah. How do I prevent this?
Before you even begin with Mission: Saving Collagen, it is important to remember that it’s natural to lose collagen as you get older. You can only slow it down and keep replenishing your system, but not fully prevent it. Now that we have that out of the way, here are a few simple ways to maintain the collagen in your body:
Diet: This is perhaps the best and simplest way to stock your body up with collagen. Make sure your daily diet is loaded with: Proline - present in egg whites, meat, cheese, fermented soy and cabbage; Anthocyanidins - present in blackberries, cherries, blueberries and raspberries; Vitamin C - present in citrus fruits, strawberries, pepper and dark green vegetables; Copper - present in shellfish, nuts, red meat and water stored in copper utensils; Vitamin A - present in animal derived foods and red, orange and yellow vegetables; Sulfur - present in garlic, coconut milk, dried fruits, cruciferous veggies and legumes.
Lifestyle: Smoking is directly damaging to collagen synthesis. Nicotine narrows the blood vessels in the outer layer of the skin, cutting off supply of oxygen and essential nutrients like proteins (read: collagen). This reduces skin elasticity and increases wrinkles.
High sugar diet. Donuts may never judge you or ask you unreasonable questions, but it definitely accelerates the downward spiral of collagen. Foods high in sugar speed up the process where blood sugars get attached to proteins and form new molecules known as Advanced Glycation End Products which in turn weaken collagen, making it dry, brittle and unable to do its job.
Sunlight and other sources of ultraviolet rays cause collagen to disintegrate faster and damage the fibers. UV rays also interfere with the process of skin rebuilding and elastin buildup.
Workout. Ah, nothing like the good old feeling of your heart hammering against your chest and you turning into the Niagara Falls of sweat. Regular exercise not only flushes out the toxins and improves blood supply, but also stimulates production and synthesis of collagen.
What about skincare products?
The question on every anti-aging enthusiast’s mind. Do skincare products infused with collagen work? I hate to break it to you, but it doesn’t really. Not yet, anyway. Collagen molecules are just too large to be absorbed by the pores from the surface. So, if you’re reaching for that overpriced jar of anti-aging miracle cream, sit back down and update your grocery list instead.
But, don’t lose hope yet. There is a way to keep the collagen levels high through skincare products. Look for products with Vitamins A, C and E, amino acids, peptides, antioxidants, minerals and active ingredients that promote collagen development.
Retin-A pills and Hyaluronic Acid injections are also used to fight premature aging as a result of collagen depletion. But I wouldn’t recommend going for any of these without a lengthy discussion with your doctor first.
To sum it up, stick to these simple practices over the course of years:
- If you’re in your early to mid-twenties, congratulations on the early headstart! Quit or at least strictly limit your smoking habits and processed sugar consumption. Start working out and maintain an active lifestyle. Fighting premature aging is a long term thing and requires some measure of mindfulness and discipline! Strength training not only makes you look younger, but also feel stronger (win-win).
- For those in the Terrific Thirties, you’re not exempted from strength training and sweating it out regularly. Also, eat clean as much as you can - your metabolism isn’t what it used to be. And if you’re still smoking, quit, like, YESTERDAY. Exfoliate, moisturise and sunblock your skin regularly. Seriously, don’t even think of stepping out of your house without slathering sunscreen or covering your face up with a scarf and oversized sunglasses.
- In your forties, you should be doing most of the above mentioned things already. In addition, include Collagen Hydrolysate in your diet. It’s a form of gelatin, abundantly available in bone broth. If that’s not something you’re into, then this is available in powdered form too - which you can add to water, lime juice, smoothies and even your coffee.
- By the time you’re in your fifties, collagen production has come to a minimum and your hormones are off-kilter thanks to menopause. Replenish your skin with Hyaluronic Acid. Include plenty of red, yellow and green veggies in your diet. Don’t expose your skin to the sun for long. Get plenty of rest and stay hydrated. Include Retin-A and Vitamin C in your skincare routine. Switch to a moisturiser that targets hormone production, and to a cleanser that’s milder and doesn’t strip away the natural oils.
You can’t fight the fact that you are going to grow old and the wrinkles will eventually set in. However, a few tweaks in your lifestyle choices and focus in your skincare routine can help you keep that youthful radiance and suppleness for a long, long time. Good luck!
If there are any tips that you would want to share on natural ways to fit & fine skin, please drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below! We would love to hear from you :)