In the world of science name-dropping, collagen is king. It gets mentioned in every other article—’collagen stimulation’, ‘increasing collagen’, ‘collagen supplements for skin’—but what is it?
To be fair, for all the pseudoscience, collagen is an absolutely essential part of our bodies. It’s the single most abundant protein in humans! Holding together our bones, skin, muscles and tendons, collagen gives us structure and strength. In fact, the term even comes from the Greek word for glue (‘kolla’).
Around 30% of our body is protein and 20% of this protein is collagen
The less we have in our bodies, the fewer supporting structures we have in place. This can result in sagging skin, wrinkles, and even bone fragility.
Surely such an important substance is kept in check naturally, right? While our bodies are constantly working to produce more, collagen production does gradually decline with age and environmental factors. We can often exacerbate natural wear-and-tear.
From eating too much sugar to exposing ourselves to too much sun, the human body can struggle to repair damage. Getting collagen back in our skin is a job for nutrition, supplementation, and improvements in our beauty regimes. Our faces generally reveal the most about our lifestyle choices.
Growing in popularity since the ‘80s, copper is often singled out as a skin repair miracle. An element found naturally in our tissues, copper plays a major role in decreasing inflammation. In fact, a lack of copper is linked with a number of degenerative conditions.
When the body swells to fight infections or pathogens, collagen degrades. Copper peptides can reduce inflammatory cytokines and save your skin.
Why peptides? These small protein fragments are what convert inorganic copper into its organic form. Once bound together, peptides turn off any free radical promoting effects, making copper safe to apply to skin.
If we treat ageing as a form of wounding by environmental factors, copper peptides’ scar-healing abilities become very appealing. By putting this substance on the skin, it’s possible to reduce scar tissue formation while former skin is regrown. This is achieved by destroying larger collagen formations and promoting smaller, normal collagen.
What does this mean for restoring collagen? Because copper peptides are small enough to penetrate our skin, they’re able to stimulate collagen growth
while increasing skin thickness and elasticity.
Vitamin C is one of collagen’s preferred fuels. A lack of vitamin C in the diet can result in scurvy, a disease in which muscles shrivel, ligaments tear, and teeth fall out. Why? Because it's perfectly tied into the process of rebuilding collagen structures.
Vitamin C is used up whenever new collagen is formed
. What’s more, as an antioxidant, it’s able to protect newly formed collagen from harmful free radicals found in toxins.
It’s best to look beyond health supplements for vitamins. Although a multivitamin can be useful when trying to meet daily requirements for more niche substances like manganese, vitamin C is so abundant in fruits and vegetables it makes more sense just to eat it. Nutrients in fruits are incredibly bioavailable. Some good sources of vitamin C include:
Red peppers (one of the highest counts surprisingly)
As we already know
, changing our diet should be our first port of call when trying to deal with skin complaints or general health issues. Fruits and vegetables are one of the best ways to get collagen back in the skin.
To boost collagen effectively, sometimes we have to look to new advances in science. Although improving lifestyle factors can play a significant role, dermatology can help people get an edge on skin repair.
What is epidermal growth factor? EGF is a naturally occurring substance found in human tissues responsible for stimulating cell growth and improving survival. EGF is also a synthetic ingredient produced from Nobel Prize-winning research by Stanley Cohen and Rita Levi-Motalcini in 1986.
EGF works specifically by increasing collagen-producing fibroblasts
, rather than procollagen genes themselves. When studied in regards to wounds, the application of EGF was found to aid the body in healing.
When skin is injured, platelets release EGF during inflammation to draw osteoblast cells to the site of wounds. This allows skin to repair quickly, and importantly, evenly.
Modern cosmetic products are able to recreate EGF from animal and plant-based sources
, using this natural technology to smooth wrinkles, improve skin density, and restore collagen. Dermatology is starting to treat ageing as the environmental damage it is, giving our skin the extra push it needs to repair itself.
Working in the opposite direction, creating a bit of damage can actually help your skin. Sounds strange?
Exfoliation can be a boon to your skincare routine. It means sloughing off dead skin cells. By using a brush or applying exfoliating chemicals, unwanted cells are removed to make way for new ones. We’re effectively helping a natural bodily process along.
When you remove skin cells from the surface, a signal is sent to produce more collagen in the lower layers. This is part of the repair process. Exfoliation doesn’t just help regrow a softer epidermis, it can achieve the same thing at a deeper level. New collagen means tighter, smoother skin.
While granular scrubs are a popular commercial product, it’s always important to exfoliate for your skin type
. Harder physical scrubs can hurt weaker skin, while a chemical exfoliant might actually be gentler in the long run.
Everyone who knows how skin works is looking to boost collagen. Because it’s such an industry buzzword, it’s often difficult to tell quality products from the countless imitators. Always look for trusted brands, do your own research, and—in this instance—follow the crowd. The above are some of the tried-and-tested ways of supplementing beautiful, radiant skin.