Collagen is the magic ingredient for glowing, bouncy skin, but how does it impact skin health?
According to Consultant Dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe: “Collagen is the main supporting structure for the skin, lining of the joints, ligaments and tendons, and is very important for our overall health. The more collagen your skin has, the smoother and tighter it appears.”
“The skin is made up of three layers: The epidermis is the surface layer of the skin, which gives the skin its appearance and colour, and contains hair follicles and glands. Sun exposure creates damage to the epidermis, and causes pigmented dark spots.”
“Collagen is mainly present in the mid-layer of the skin, the dermis. This gives the skin its support. Within the third sub-cutaneous layer, there is fat, blood vessels and fibrous bands, which are also made up of collagen.”
As we get older, we produce less collagen. Dr Lowe cautions: “We start to lose collagen from 20 years old, which gradually becomes less dense as we age. As years go by, less collagen is produced, and our fibroblasts – a common connective tissue which helps to create new collagen in the dermis – are less effective. When collagen is lost, we start to get fine lines and wrinkles, due to less efficient support of the skin. Smokers and sun worshippers will see a greater reduction of collagen and elastin, and toxins and pollutants also induce a breakdown of collagen, causing wrinkling. That is why sun protection is vital to reduce the breakdown of collagen.”
Despite collagen itself being a protein, protein based foods don’t help stimulate collagen production, according to Dr Lowe: “You can’t increase levels of collagen production through the diet, although you can help maintain levels by eating a well-balanced diet to support optimum health. Fruit, vegetables and foods containing vitamin C are best.”
We are bombarded with products that promise to increase collagen production, from gummy vitamins to collagen infused skincare. But do they work?
Dr Lowe says: “Collagen supplements were first on sale several decades ago, and keep recurring over the years. In my professional opinion, they don’t really work. “
“Collagen has to be manufactured in the tissue to be functional, so drinking collagen isn’t effective because your body doesn’t know where to send the protein to – it may not end up where you want it within your dermis. While the drinks aren’t harmful to your body, they are expensive.”
“Skincare products claiming they can boost collagen production are also a myth, they don’t do anything. This is because while skincare containing hyaluronic acid (HA) hydrates and smooths the skin’s epidermis, it can’t penetrate the deeper skin structure and doesn’t increase the level of collagen in the skin. This is due to the skin barrier, which is efficient at blocking large molecules like HA and collagen to protect itself from external pollutants. Collagen needs to be injected or induced to increase levels within the body.”
“Instead, I would recommend maintaining your vitamin C intake, as this is a cofactor in the production of collagen along with hyaluronic acid. Vitamin C boosts fibroblast cells, which help to create new collagen in the dermis.”
Dr Lowe also recommends minimally invasive treatments like Ellansé to boost collagen. He says: “Ellansé is the ideal treatment to increase collagen production. A biostimulating treatment which encourages the skin to produce its own collagen is the holy grail of facial rejuvenation.
“You can then follow up an Ellanse treatment with fraxel lasers and radiofrequency to give greater skin tightening if it’s needed – a combination treatment is ideal. In addition to this, I would recommend using skincare products which contain retinols and sun protection to improve the skin’s health.”
Meet the Expert
Dr Lowe is an internationally-renowned Consultant and Professor of Dermatology, with over 30 years’ experience at the cutting edge of new treatments, technology and research. He is a pioneer in botulinum toxin research and studies into skin problems and ageing.