Most of the time when you hear about collagen, it’s all about boosting the production in your skin to make you look fresher and younger. We see it all over the place and that leads us to question, what is collagen? Why do we need it? And most importantly, what happens to it when we age?
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a long, fibrous structural protein that makes up 30% of all of the protein in the body. It connects and supports all of our body’s tissues and can be found in our skin, hair, tendons, bones, cartilage, and fascia (ie. everywhere). The most abundant place we see collagen is in the skin, where it makes up 70% of the total mass—when you consider that skin is our largest organ, it becomes pretty clear that it is an important protein.
Collagen has great tensile strength—meaning that it can hold a lot of tension without breaking. It is responsible for the elasticity in the skin and is the most prominent protein in the tendons that bind our muscles to our bones. In a nutshell, collagen is the main reason for our natural ‘bounce back’ whether it’s got to do with the resilience of our skin, the movement of our joints, the creation of our bones, or strengthening our blood vessels.
These elongated fibrils are strong and tall when we’re young, but as we age, that starts to change.
What Happens to Collagen as We Age?
Like with every part of our bodies, the more summers we add, the less collagen we produce. Starting in our mid-twenties, our bodies produce about 1% less collagen each year. Not only do we produce less collagen, the collagen that we already have deteriorated (the rate of this can vary depending upon lifestyle choices and environment) and that has a pretty big impact on our bodies.
Thinking about a decrease in the protein that connects our muscles to our bones and allows our joints to move fluidity offers an insight into how our bodies change as we age. We slow down and have a harder time building muscle and retaining flexibility. Joint aches and pains become more prominent and our hair thins. Most noticeably, our skin loses its luster and we start to see things like fine lines, wrinkles, sagging, and thinning.
Is There a Way to Counteract Breakdown?
There are whole companies built around stimulating collagen production or consuming collagen for our bodies to utilize and the products appear to have results – but the jury is actually out on whether or not these products are truly effective at stimulating collagen.
First, can you topically apply collagen to the skin? So far, science tells us this just doesn’t work. You may have collagen in your cream, but collagen molecules are too large to penetrate deeply into the dermis, which is where you need them to go to do any good. Even nano-particle collagen in skin care doesn’t seem to give the skin the type of boost that it can utilize.
Most scientists think that consuming collagen for beauty is a waste too because it is a protein that the body will just break down and use as energy like any other protein. That being said, we had some collagen protein here in the office and more than one team member noticed a difference in their skin and nails so we asked the obvious question — how are they producing results? Well, it could be that the supplements are full of amino acids and phytonutrients that are amazing for the overall health of the body (which naturally improves the health of the skin) or it could be that the specific amino acids that the collagen protein are utilized to produce more collagen—again, the jury is still out at the cellular level.
What scientists do agree on is that vitamin C can play a helping hand with this issue because it’s a natural precursor to the creation of the protein and its known to be a powerful force against oxidative stress, a major cause of aging and environmental collagen degradation.
Also, if you're interested in learning about the best facial oils for different skin types you can check out our resource page!
Have you ever taken a collagen supplement? Tell us about your experience!
“What is Collagen – The science behind collagen & anti-ageing.” MedColl The Ultimate Scientific Beauty Supplement. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.
“The materials science of collagen.” Journal of the mechanical behavior of biomedical materials. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.
“Collagen Supplements – Do They Really Work? What Does?” Collagen Supplements – Do They Really Work? What Does? N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.
Cook, Jenny. “Do collagen supplements and drinks actually work?” Netdoctor. N.p., 14 June 2016. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.