Collagen 101: The Experts Weigh In

  • Written By:Alexandra Perron, Managing Editor
  • Photography:Ben Ritter
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by Alexandra Perron

When it comes to beauty buzzwords, it’s safe to say that collagen is trending. The newest lotions, serums, and oils promise to harness its powers, treatments have been designed to boost production, and nutritionists are incorporating it into diets (bone broth, anyone?). So what’s the deal with collagen? We tapped Dr. Amy Shah, immunologist and all-around wellness expert and Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, celebrity cosmetic dermatologist to break it all down for us. We’re looking into what is it, how it works, and ways you can protect and stimulate its production.

WHAT IS COLLAGEN?

Simply put, collagen is a protein that makes up the structure of our connective tissues — our skin, hair, and nails. It’s made up of amino acids and is one of the most abundant proteins in our body, making up 70% of the protein in our skin. Think of it as the glue that holds your body together. Without collagen, our skin starts to sag, our hair will lose that bouncy quality, and our nails can become weak and brittle. The amino acids in collagen are also linked to better gut health and digestion.

COLLAGEN & AGING

“The body does regularly produce collagen; however, the production does slow up as one ages,” says Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank. “Lifestyle and diet also play a part including things like sun exposure, smoking, and excess sugar consumption.” As we age, our collagen production slows and gravity starts to take its toll on skin elasticity. This is when we also start to see changes in facial volume, which Dr. Frank describes as “too much fat in some places, not enough in others.” Once we hit age 25, it’s estimated that we lose 1% of our collagen each year.

The best thing to do to promote collagen growth is to eat a really vegetable-heavy diet.

COLLAGEN & YOUR DIET

Dr. Amy Shah agrees that age has the biggest impact on the amount of collagen we have - and of courrse, it's the most difficult aspect to control. Our diet and lifestyle, on the other hand, are a bit easier to manage. Start by limiting excess sun exposure and wearing SPF on a daily basis. (Just because it’s cloudy outsides doesn’t mean you can skip sun protection.) When it comes to your diet, Dr. Shah recommends cutting down on sugar and upping your veggies. “The best thing to do to promote collagen growth is to eat a really vegetable-heavy diet,” says Shah. “Eat foods that are high in vitamin C, vitamin A, proline and antioxidants, like those found in berries.” Vitamin C, for example, has been proven to stimulate collagen production while also providing protection for your skin against UV damage.

PRODUCTS AND TREATMENTS

Just like having a diet high in vitamin C and vitamin A, Dr. Frank suggests using topical products with these ingredients to help stimulate collagen production and to keep skin looking and feeling firmer. “Retinoids, like Retin-A, are best for boosting collagen production,” says Frank. He also recommends a new treatment, Vivace Microneedle RF, to stimulate collagen and elastin production. Don’t let the name scare you, this treatment combines microneedling and radio frequency to tighten and smooth the skin, with minimal downtime. “It’s also great to reduce pores, scars, uneven skin tone, and fine lines,” says Dr. Frank. He recommends a series of 3 treatments and promises a glow that will only get better over time.

SUPPLEMENTS

When it comes to supplements, the research is promising. “Some small studies show that increased collagen intake can help with hair skin and nails,” says Dr. Shah. Whether you’re going for a pill or a powder, it’s important to note that these supplements are often made from the bones or skin of cows or from the scales of fish. (If you’re a vegan, you might way to stick to fruits and veggies.) Collagen supplements will be most effective when added to a healthy diet, they shouldn’t be considered a substitute.

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