What works for your skin, and what’s just hype.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies, and that being the case, it has almost everything to do with the appearance of our skin. Simply put: the more collagen we have in our skin, the firmer and plumper the skin looks.
Unfortunately, as we age, collagen production slows and skin starts to wrinkle and sag. Reversing collagen loss could mean healthier, less-wrinkled skin, which is why the recent years have seen a slew of trendy collagen-rich products flood the market. From creams to supplements (like the seemingly ubiquitous “collagen water”), today we’ll explore which products have been proven to be effective, and which ones are simply clever marketing hype.
Collagen-filled creams and moisturizers have been around for some time, but as the collagen-craze has grown, so have the number of creams. It’s important to note that these products can be very good for helping to hydrate your skin, but smearing pure collagen on the outer layer of your skin is very unlikely to actually stimulate any real growth.
The structure of collagen is braided and rope-like. Amino acids combine to form long chains that stick together, forming strands. Those strands bundle and twist to form triple helices, which are then clustered together on top of one another. Which is to say, the final molecules are large and wildly intricate. Their size is ultimately the largest problem, as the molecules are far too large to penetrate the skin’s surface and make it down to the dermis, where collagen is actually produced.
To combat the size issue, companies have started to break down these larger molecules into much smaller sizes, often known as collagen peptides. These peptides theoretically do stand a better chance of penetrating the skin, but so far this theory hasn’t been well-tested, and certainly hasn’t been clinically proven.
Again, these creams can be very moisturizing, as collagen does create a luscious texture that feels soothing to the skin’s surface, but as far as actual production goes, unfortunately, it’s just not in the cards. Simply applying collagen on the skin’s surface does not stimulate the actual production of the protein.
Supplements touting the improvement of collagen levels are everywhere. From powders to foods to water, companies are churning out collagen products left and right. The good news is that several studies have shown that your body may retain small amounts when ingesting collagen supplements. The bad news, sadly, is that because supplements aren’t FDA regulated or tested the way drugs are, there’s no way to be sure of exactly what’s in the products or how effective they really are.
Additionally, there’s been no proof that supplements provide a greater collagen boost than a healthy diet would. Protein-rich foods are well known to be high in collagen, so incorporating meat, eggs and beans into your diet is a more natural way of getting your collagen boost.
Getting to The Source
While applying topical collagen, or trying to ingest it, may not achieve the results you’d hoped for, there are other products that have been clinically proven to help stimulate production or slow the decline of collagen.
First: sunscreen. Nothing takes a toll on collagen like the sun’s UV rays. Applying sunscreen is the most effective way to slow the destruction of collagen cells, not to mention a good practice in general. Wear it liberally and daily to prevent the break down of healthy cells.
There are also a number of products that work to stimulate collagen production, rather than just putting it on top of your skin. Retinol and retinoid creams do a wonderful job at boosting collagen, and they’ve been clinically proven to reverse the signs of aging for decades. Additionally, certain products (like our Needle-less Serum, for instance) contain ingredients like Niacinamide, Hyaluronic Acid, and our Copper Complex, all of which have shown significant results in the stimulation of collagen production. Recent studies have shown that by stimulating the collagen cells your body already has, instead of trying to artificially add more, treatments like Needle-less Serum have boosted collagen levels by as much as 190%.
Clinical Interventions in Aging, December 2006, pages 327-348
Biopolymers, March 2012, pages 189-198
Dermatoendocrinology, July 2012, pages 308-319
Nutrients, November 2017, online publication