Collagen is a nutrition supplement that is believed to provide many health and beauty benefits for women. Some of the potential benefits include improved skin health, elasticity, and appearance, better hair growth, and preservation of muscle mass and bone density.
While there is some research that supports the use of collagen supplementation to improve loose skin, more evidence is needed to provide conclusive results in larger populations long-term. It is possible that collagen supplementation may improve skin quality along with other healthy lifestyle practices, but it’s good to keep expectations reasonable.
What Does Collagen Do?
Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins found in the body. Like other proteins, it is an essential component of structure and function in the body. Collagen is responsible for providing structural support in many parts of the body including the skin.
Up to 90% of the collagen in the human body is type 1 collagen. Most collagen molecules are made of the amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. These amino acids build three strands, which make up the triple-helix structure characteristic of collagen.
Collagen is found in many parts of the body including cartilage, connective tissues, skin, bones, and tendons. Not only does it provide structural support for the body, but it also facilitates important cellular processes including tissue repair, immune response, communication between cells, and tissue maintenance.
The Role of Collagen for Skin
Skin health and collagen are closely related. Collagen plays an important role in providing strength and structure to the skin, as well as maintaining elasticity and hydration.
Why Does Skin Lose Tightness as We Age?
The body produces collagen on its own, but around age 25, this production starts to decrease. This is why skin may appear less youthful and supple with age.
Fibroblasts are cells found in connective tissues that produce and maintain collagen. As you age, fibroblast function is impaired, collagen becomes damaged, and the production of new collagen decreases. The body’s collagen production continues to decline annually by about 1%.
These changes in fibroblast activity, collagen production, and a decrease in another essential structural protein called elastin often cause an increase in the physical signs of aging, such as sagging skin and wrinkles.
Excessive levels of psychological stress have been shown to negatively impact skin and hair health due to increased levels of cortisol in the body. High levels of cortisol can break down collagen, as well as increase inflammation, both of which may contribute to sagging skin and volume loss.
Outside of the body’s decreased ability to produce collagen, there are also environmental factors that accelerate aging such as dietary intake, UV rays from the sun, alcohol, and tobacco use, and exposure to pollution.
Can Collagen Help With Loose Skin?
Some studies have shown that supplemental collagen is beneficial for skin health, including tightening sagging skin, boosting hydration, and lessening the appearance of wrinkles.
How to Increase Collagen's Impact on Skin?
Collagen supplements are not a bandaid for poor lifestyle habits. It’s important to keep in mind that supplements are meant to supplement what healthy lifestyle choices cannot do alone.
Consider these other steps to increase collagen supplementation’s impact on skin health.
Hyaluronic Acid for Hydration
Hyaluronic acid supplements may improve skin elasticity, resulting in healthier-looking skin. Hyaluronic acid is a compound found naturally in the skin, where it binds to water to help retain moisture.
However, much like collagen production, the natural aging process and exposure to environmental factors (like ultraviolet radiation from the sun, tobacco smoke, and pollution) can decrease the amount of hyaluronic acid in the skin.
Taking hyaluronic acid supplements may counteract this decline by providing the body with extra amounts to bring into the skin.
According to a study from 2014, oral doses of hyaluronic acid at 120–240 milligrams per day were shown to significantly increase skin moisture and reduce dry skin in adults. Hydrated skin also reduces the appearance of wrinkles, which may explain why several studies show that supplementing with it can make skin appear smoother and plumper.
Oral hyaluronic acid supplements can help increase skin moisture and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Topical treatments can soothe redness and dermatitis, while injections of hyaluronic acid fillers done by dermatologists can make skin appear firmer.
Sleep is an important part of skin health. A night of poor sleep can cause unwanted effects on the skin, mouth, and eyes, such as:
- Paler skin than usual
- Wrinkles and fine lines around the mouth
- Hanging corners of the mouth
- Drooping or hanging eyelids
- Red or swollen eyes
- Dark circles below the eyes
Make sure you get adequate sleep. Most people need about 8 hours of sleep per night. If you have difficulty sleeping, try setting a nightly routine to prepare your body and mind for restful sleep.
Diet plays a significant role in the health and appearance of the skin. In general, a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats can improve skin health and appearance and delay aging.
Fatty fish, like salmon, contain omega-3 fatty acids that help moisturize the skin and reduce inflammation. Avocados are high in healthy fats and contain vitamins E and C which are both advantageous for skin health. Walnuts and sunflower seeds are also excellent sources of fatty acids and vitamin E.
Beta-carotene and vitamin C are important antioxidants for your skin. Vitamin C is also required for the body to create collagen. Eat sweet potatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli to increase your intake of these amazing phytochemicals.
For optimal skin health, avoid highly processed foods with added sugar and saturated fat. Limit junk food and processed meats. Aim to fill your diet with fresh, whole foods to keep your skin looking healthy and beautiful.
Lastly, make sure you drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated.
Exercising regularly has many health benefits, but it can also improve the health and appearance of your skin. One study showed that people in their 40s who exercised regularly had similar skin quality to people in their early 30s. This is believed to be related to sweating. Increased sweating seems to regularly clear the skin of impurities, leaving it appearing healthy and glowing.
Exercise is also a great way to take a break from the stresses in life. We know that increased stress levels can increase the signs of aging, so taking a break for a walk or a hike can lower those stress levels and keep you looking younger.
How to Replenish Youthful Collagen
Take a Collagen Supplement
Taking a collagen supplement can provide the body with the amino acids it needs to produce more of its own collagen.
Proponents of collagen supplements claim that they can improve skin appearance, hydration, texture, and firmness. Second to skin health, healthy hair and nails are another popular reason to take collagen supplements.
Bone Broth, Vitamin C, Zinc
Animal proteins are a good source of amino acids that your body can use to make collagen. Other plant-based foods, like citrus fruits and garlic, are high in vitamins and other substances that help your body produce collagen on its own.
Vitamin C is important for the production of pro-collagen, the body’s precursor to collagen. To help the body produce more collagen, make sure you get enough vitamin C.
Here are some foods that are rich in collagen, or contain other vitamins and minerals that may help promote collagen production:
- Bone broth
- Fish and shellfish
- Egg whites
- Citrus fruits
- Tropical fruits
- Leafy greens
- Bell peppers
Skincare Procedures That May Improve Collagen Production
There are some skincare procedures that might help increase the production of collagen.
Ask your dermatologist if you are a good candidate for a resurfacing laser, radiofrequency treatment, micro-needling, IPL (intense pulsed light), Juvederm/Restylane, or Radiesse.
These treatments work by stimulating collagen production and can help treat the visible signs of aging.
How Much Collagen Per Day for Skin?
Most collagen supplements have a recommended daily dosage printed on the nutrition label. Powdered supplement dosage often ranges from 1–2 scoops (or tablespoons) daily, while a pill or gummy supplement may suggest 1–2 pieces.
Depending on the supplement, the serving size can vary greatly in collagen content, so read the nutrition facts label for specific dosage information.
It’s not likely that you can take too much collagen. Collagen is considered safe and nontoxic for most healthy people. However, some people have reported stomach discomfort, excessive fullness, and unpleasant taste when taking a collagen supplement.
Collagen supplementation has many possible benefits including better skin health. Research shows that taking 2.5 to 15 grams of collagen per day is safe and may be effective in promoting skin elasticity and more youthful-looking skin.
If you’re looking to improve skin quality, hydration, and appearance, you should increase your intake of antioxidant-rich foods and consider adding a quality collagen supplement to your routine. Don’t forget to include restful sleep, exercise, and stress management as a part of your beauty routine.