Since its introduction to the masses, collagen has reigned supreme as the ultimate beauty supplement buzzword. There’s a whole host of easy shot-style drinks, powders, and pills on the market (collagen buffets exist now, too – say whaaat) that claim to rejuvenate your skin from the inside-out, firming and plumping it up to keep you looking younger for longer. But before we give you the lowdown on consumable collagen and whether or not they actually work, we first need to understand the role collagen plays within our bods.
So, what on earth is collagen?
Produced by skin cells called fibroblasts, collagen is essentially a structural protein that occurs naturally in the connective tissues of the body. It’s necessary to keep your skin tight, as its connecting fibres allow the skin to bounce back easily as it’s pulled (cue a series of commercials physically demonstrating that). Yup, that’s collagen. It acts like a cement holding all your skin cells, keeping your skin supple so you don’t develop wrinkles prematurely.
Why are people so obsessed with collagen supplements?
As you age, your body begins to produce less collagen, which leads to sallow, sagging skin. Cheeks gradually deflate, fat starts to move downwards (thanks gravity!), and your skin will lose its elasticity and become a lot less firm. When collagen no longer undergirds the architecture of your skin, the widest part of your face will be at your jawline… You can see it, can’t you? Yeah, not a good look. After hitting 25, your body will start to lose collagen at a rate of 1% every year, and that seemingly minuscule rate will increase up to 2% when you’re in your 40s. Before you know it, you’re 60 and you’ve lost half of your collagen. And that physical flip of youth is exactly what drives people to buy into collagen supplements. Of course, we won’t be delving into our psychological fear of aging, but at least you’ll understand the situation the next time you see someone throwing money at those products.
Does consuming collagen actually help to boost its production?
Like we mentioned, collagen is actually a protein, so when you ingest it, your digestive system will ultimately break it down before it even reaches your skin. This is because your body’s unable to tell the difference between protein that’s derived from a collagen supplement from protein that’s derived from meat, so ingesting collagen is actually pretty useless because they won’t even make it through the digestive process. There simply aren’t enough studies out there to support its efficacy, and those that did prove successful owed it to external factors rather than the collagen supplement on trial. Marine collagen has been trending for a while now, too, but likewise, there isn’t enough evidence out there to support this.
What works then?
Stimulating the body to produce more collagen appears to be one of the most effective ways to go about this. By filling micronutrient gaps, you can aid your skin fibroblasts in creating more collagen. So, consider taking a high-quality fish oil supplement daily, along with a good dose (approximately 1,000mg) of vitamin C to help neutralise free radicals and help our bodies make collagen and elastin. If you aren’t too keen on pills and supplements, then incorporate some lemons and raspberries into your diet. Sounds easy enough, right?
There are several topical treatments out there that can help boost the production of collagen as well. Intelligent Nutrients makes a Renewing Oil Serum that’s great for feeding the skin, and it also features a certified-organic antioxidant called Intellimune, which helps to prolong the life of skin cells as it stimulates collagen and elastin production. You can also invest in Fresh’s Lotus Youth Preserve Face Cream, which is crafted from the brand’s proprietary super 7 complex to combat signs of aging. A good drugstore pick would have to be Olay’s Regenerist Micro Sculpting Moisturiser Cream. It combines an Amino-Peptide Complex with hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin back to health.
TLDR: Most collagen supplements don’t work, but consuming the right food and using certain topical products can help to stimulate and increase collagen production in the dermis naturally. At the end of the day though, try not to worry about it too much. I’m pretty sure most of you reading this barely have one foot over the threshold of your mid-20s. Ultimately, sticking to a healthy, balanced diet and wearing sunscreen daily will help you retain your good looks for longer.
Main image: Noon By Noor SS17, courtesy NARS