Is eating collagen the secret to great skin?
Edible collagen could be the new fountain of youth.
The new fountain of youth
putting collagen on your face has long been the talk of the beauty industry, with lotions promising smoother skin. Now, with the rise of the foodas-medicine movement, people are buzzing about ingesting collagen via pills and powders. A number of supplements infused with the stuff have hit the market. Dermatologist Dr Jessica Wu noticed the trend when her patients brought home collagen products after being in Europe, saying that they made their skin look better. Dr Wu found early studies to be promising enough that she now recommends collagen supplements to her clients. Soon enough, A-listers got on board.
Collagen is the padding that gives your skin, bones and joints the strength, structure and cushioning they need. When you smile, collagen provides the elasticity that lets your skin plump back out. As you age, environmental factors like the sun, stress and pollutants can cause collagen to degrade, and declining oestrogen levels in your mid 30s make your body produce less of it. When collagen breaks down faster than your body can make it, your skin loses elasticity and may begin to wrinkle.
Makers of collagen food products say ingesting collagen, which is usually extracted from the bones or skin of cows or fish scales, can restore the body’s diminishing supply. But does a daily dose really work? Several studies have shown that downing collagen can reduce wrinkles and improve skin elasticity. A 2018 meta-analysis in the Journal of Sports Medicine found that collagen could help reduce pain in people with osteoarthritis. And a small 2008 study found that collagen supplements may reduce joint pain in athletes. Still, many experts are holding out for more research before recommending collagen supplements.
“When you ingest a collagen supplement, your body doesn’t take that collagen and put it directly into the skin or joints,” says Romi Londre, a registered dietitian. Like any other protein you eat, collagen is broken down into basic building blocks called amino acids. Then your body reassembles those into many different protein structures, of which collagen is only one. Instead of supplements, Romi recommends eating foods known to boost collagen production: lean proteins, unsaturated fats like avocados and olive oil, and colourful fruits and vegetables. Whole grains and nuts also contain antioxidants that can both amp up your production and protect any of your existing collagen from wearing down.
If you want to try collagen supplements, Dr Wu suggests hydrolysed collagen or collagen peptides, which are smaller and easier for your digestive system to absorb. Dr Wu also notes that one of the most important things you can do is safeguard the amount of collagen you do have. “It doesn’t matter how many drinks or supplements you’re ingesting if you’re not protecting your collagen from being broken down,” she says. Wear sunscreen daily and use a retinoid cream at night, which has been proven to increase collagen production.
“As you age, environmental factors like the sun, stress and pollutants can cause collagen to degrade.”