We’re always talking about collagen. Things like:
- How to stimulate collagen production
- how to keep the sun and lifestyle habits like smoking under control so they don’t breakdown collagen
- how collagen production starts to decrease after age 25 and by your 30’s you’re losing about 1% a year.
- How to increase your collagen production.
What is collagen anyway?
Simply put, collagen is a protein.
Proteins are the building blocks of your body-bones, tissues, organs, skin and hair. They’re the bricks and mortar of your body.
Collagen is the most common
Collagen is important because it’s the main structural protein in your body.. It’s the main component of your skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. It’s the glue that holds your body together.
There are about 28 known types of collagen. But types, I, II, and III make up 80-90% of the collagen in your body. Types I and III make up the structure of your skin, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Type II is found in your eyes and cartilage.
Collagen and your skin
The reason we talk so much about collagen when we’re talking skin care is that collagen makes up about 80% of your skin’s structure.
Collagen gives your skin its firmness and structure. But collagen isn’t the only protein that's important for your skin.
Your skin also needs the ability to stretch and then bounce back.
This is where the protein elastin comes in. Just like it sounds, elastin is like an elastic band. It allows your skin to stretch to reach for something or make a facial expression, then bounce back so you don’t have big flaps of stretched out skin. Love elastin.
Aging and collagen
Now for the bad news. As you age, your body makes a bit less collagen each year. After about age 25, you’re losing a little more collagen than your body is making. By age 30, you’re losing about 1% each year.
Menopause accelerates the process as does stress, sun exposure, smoking, and poor diet (especially sugar ).
As collagen and elastin break down faster than they’re replenished, you start to see changes like wrinkles and fine lines, sagging, and skin that just doesn’t bounce back well.
Age related bone loss also changes the structure of your face.
It’s all part of the natural aging process and nothing to be ashamed of.
But, I get it. It can be hard when the face looking back at you in the mirror isn’t the same face you’ve grown accustomed to.
Time to throw in the towel?
Only if you want to.
Here’s the good news.
There are things that you can do to slow down time and encourage collagen and elastin production.
First, avoid breaking down collagen even faster.
Photo damage from exposure to the UVA rays of the sun causes collagen to breakdown faster.
So does stress. Cortisol is released as a response to stress. Chronic stress means more cortisol circulating in your body. High levels of cortisol mean a poor insulin response and chronic low level inflammation which breaks down collagen. Not only do you feel like crap, your collagen and elastin break down faster and you don’t look so good either.
And, of course, smoking also breaks down collagen faster. So many reasons to quit smoking.
Dietary stress happens when you eat too much sugar or processed foods. Your body doesn't get the nutrients it needs to work properly.
These things also cause chronic low level inflammation. Sugar also starts a process called advanced glycation that also ages your skin faster (we’ll talk about this in another blog).
You can help your body make more collagen by giving it the proper building blocks. There is a lot of research that shows getting collagen in your diet supports collagen production in your skin.
Your body makes collagen with amino acids (amino acids form peptides which are the building blocks of proteins like collagen) and vitamins and minerals.
The best sources of high-quality amino acids are protein rich animals foods like meat, fish, eggs and poultry. You can also get them from some plant sources like beans and legumes (peas, lentils, etc.).
Veggies, fruits and whole grains supply vitamins and minerals, like vitamin C, copper, and zinc, that you need to help your body make collagen.
For your best skin (and your best health), it’s important to include lots of fresh, unprocessed foods in your diet.
One of the best ways to help your skin make more collagen and look great is with bone broth.
I’m a huge fan of bone broth because it not only makes your skin glow, it helps heal your gut lining, your joints and boosts your immune function. Bone broth is easy to digest, full of nutrients that are easily absorbed (especially minerals and amino acids) and it tastes good.
You can buy bone broth, but it’s easy to make. I really like the bone broth recipes from Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions. You can find them online or buy her book. I make bone broth in my crockpot. You can also do it on your stove top.
Here are the basics-
- Place bones (beef or chicken) into a large stock pot or slow cooker and cover with water. If you’re using beef bones, you can roast them in the oven at 400 for 30-45 minutes to brown them and give your broth a lovely brown color.
- Add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to water prior to cooking. This helps to pull out important nutrients from the bones. You don’t taste the vinegar in the finished broth.
- Fill stock pot or slow cooker with filtered water. Leave plenty of room for water to boil.Heat slowly. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for at least six hours if you’re doing this on your stovetop.
- If you’re using your slow cooker, use the low setting. Chicken bones can cook for 24 hours. Beef bones can cook for 48 hours. You need a low and slow cook time to get all the nutrients in your broth.
- You can also add in vegetables, such as onions, garlic, carrots and celery, for added nutrition and flavor.
Keep in the frig or freezer.
I keep out the bone broth that I’m going to use in the next few days and freeze the rest. Then I just thaw as needed.
NOTE: if you’re buying bone broth, check out who’s making it and from what. Most “stocks” and “broths” that you find in the grocery store are made from lab produced “flavors”, water, and salt. Not good. There are some good ones out there, though, so just be sure to check your sources.
Let’s face it, you don’t always have the time or bandwidth to make your own bone broth. Or maybe you don’t like the flavor.
That’s ok. It turns out that collagen supplements work too.
There are some small but promising studies to back this up.1 In a double blind study of women 35-55, half the women were given collagen peptide supplements daily for 8 weeks. These women showed a statistically significant improvement in firmness and elasticity compared to the control group (who got no supplementation). 2
Another study of post-menopausal women showed similar improvements. 3
These women showed a noticeable a significant reduction in wrinkle depth and visible improvements in skin elasticity and hydration.
Besides better skin, many people find that getting extra collagen also helps their joints feels better.
Interesting fact: When you take collagen, it gets broken down into its component amino acids just like any other protein you eat. The theory behind why collagen supplements work is that they trigger your body to increase collagen production on its own. Which is how peptides in skin care products work too. Cool.
If you’re going to use a collagen supplement, what should you look for?
Collagen supplements generally come in a powdered form that you can mix into drinks, smoothies or plain water. Or capsules.
Collagen peptides are what’s best utilized by your body.
Note: collagen peptides are the same thing as hydrolyzed collagen. Remember, peptides are short chains of amino acids (or fragments of protein, depending on how you want to look at it).
Since collagen can only be gotten from animal sources, it’s important to know where your supplement is coming from. High-quality collagen supplements should be made from grass-fed, pasture raised animals or wild caught fish, and whose products have been third-party tested for purity.
Some suggestions for collagen powder:
If, like me, you like taking capsules:
HUM nutrition Collagen Love
Mito Q Skin Support Complex- (this is my personal favorite because it’s got ingredients to support your mitochondria, ceramides for moisture, and collagen from marine sources. It’s designed to nourish all three layers of your skin from the inside out. It’s also more pricey. If you’re interested in getting this supplement, contact me. )
There are more, these are just a few of my favorites.
Collagen on your skin
Collagen molecules are large. Too big to penetrate your skin and actually do anything. That’s why we’ve talked about peptides, retinol, and vitamin C for skincare. They trigger your skin to produce more collagen.
Using collagen stimulating skin care products and/or collagen induction therapy in the form of gua sha or dermal rolling can help keep your skin firmer and bouncier.
*The information and content on this website is provided only for informational purposes. It is not meant in any way as a substitute for the professional advice provided by your physician or any other healthcare professional. The statements on this site have not been evaluated by the FDA. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.