By Lori Cohen

Plump. That’s how we all want our skin to look, and it’s collagen that acts as ‘scaffolding’ that keeps our complexions looking full and juicy. Elsewhere in our bodies, the protein makes up parts of our connective tissue in tendons, ligaments and muscles. It’s pretty important stuff. The issue is that as we age, our collagen production drops and the collagen we already have starts to break down. For our faces, this means a sagging effect starts to take hold, and wrinkles begin to appear. Can you replace lost collagen? The issue is that pure collagen molecules are too big to penetrate the epidermis (skin) and the dermal layer below it. To sidestep the size issue, most products contain collagen peptides instead. This is collagen that has been broken down into smaller chains of amino acids. It’s these that penetrate the dermis to provide the building blocks for fibroblasts to make new collagen.

Top Up Through Your Tum

Some research shows that oral collagen may improve skin appearance. However, for most people this is unnecessary. If you’re eating a balanced, protein-rich diet, you’ll be getting all you need. Other nutrients that aid the process of collagen production include zinc, vitamin C, and copper. So, fruits and vegetables high in vitamins and minerals are also a friend to supple skin.

Alcohol and a poor diet will work against your skin because they affect the stability and production of the collagen protein. They do this by activating pathways that damage collagen and reduce its formation. Feel like you’re lacking? In Japan, marine collagen has had a firm following for over 300 years. As the rest of the world’s caught on, it’s sparked a trend for smoothies, snack bars and supplements infused with collagen. These supply the body with the amino acids that your body needs to repair and rebuild all types of collagen throughout the body. In particular, athletes and fitness followers have taken to collagen supplementation, enjoying the benefits it gives them in tissue repair and injury prevention. Then there’s gut health. The collagen provides the amino acids needed to repair and rebuild the intestinal wall. It also has anti-inflammatory properties – an essential part of the puzzle in overall gut health.

Inflammation is the root cause of a range of conditions and diseases
such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Finally, it also promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. These macrobiotic critters are critical to a healthy digestive system and a healthy digestive system is key to a healthy body and mind, it’s a no brainer.

Turn Up the Volume

Then there are the beauty products that help to produce or maintain collagen. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps the skin maintain its elasticity and collagen levels. It does this by protecting the skin from oxidative stress that triggers collagen breakdown. (Smoking, pollution and sun exposure are the big three culprits here, so avoid all three if you want to keep your collagen levels in their prime.) The most effective products to have in your beauty cabinet are those based on retinoids. Retinoids are

5derived from vitamin A which promotes new collagen formation,
by ‘turning on’ genes and cells involved in collagen production.
They can be found in over-the-counter creams or prescription-only products based on their strength. They can include irritation and sun sensitivity, and shouldn’t be used when pregnant or breastfeeding. It’s recommended you introduce retinoid use into your daily skincare cream slowly (a couple of days a week in low doses), allowing your skin to build a tolerance. Dermatologists also offer a variety of specialised treatments. ‘In my opinion, in-office collagen stimulation is far superior to any tablet or cream one can use. Collagen boosting treatments include those offered through various devices such as
IPL, non-ablative fractional lasers and skin needling as well as skin booster treatments combined with platelet-rich plasma,’ says dermatologist Dr Genevieve Marks.