Collagen is a protein made in the body which helps our blood, bones, muscles and tendons to heal and keeps our skin elasticated and firm. In essence, it holds the whole body together.
As we grow older, collagen reproduces as at lower rate and this in turn leads to saggy skin and wrinkles. The body naturally produces the collagen that it requires to do a good job, but this production is gradually disrupted as part of the natural aging process. Women produce less collagen than men and lose it at a rate of about 1% per year. This means that a white-skinned woman will naturally lose almost half of the collagen from her skin by the age of 50. Because of higher levels of melanin in darker skin, this is a slower process for black and brown-skinned women.
Columbia University dermatologist Monica Halem, MD told Web MD that people who have darker skin often look younger than their lighter-skinned peers. “A black African, for example, doesn’t feel the aging effects of the sun as much as a blond-haired, blue-eyed, light-skinned person of Scandinavian descent,” Halem says.
More melanin, though, also puts darker skin at higher risk of scarring and pigmentation problems.
Thanks to this unfortunate sign of ageing, there is such a huge market in creams and serums claiming to be fortified with collagen. Unfortunately, it is a scientific fact that collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed through the skin, so most of these products are unlikely to work. So steer clear.
So how can we stimulate collagen production in our bodies?
According to most dermatologists, collagen reduction is down to lifestyle. Get enough sleep, lay off sunbathing – or wear sunscreen – and stop smoking and eating sugar. Simple really.
But, how else can we revitalise collagen production?
According to dermatologists, the treatments that are proven to work are: Laser therapy and the use of all-trans retinoic acid (a form of vitamin A) or Hyaluronic acid, a natural water-binding component of the skin, helps to stimulate collagen production by surrounding fibroblasts – the skin cells that produce collagen – with plenty of water. As the skin ages, this important component of the skin also suffers a decline.
University of Michigan medical school researchers found that injections of Hyaluronic acid not only stimulated the fibroblasts around them to increase collagen renewal but also seemed to be protective of the existing collagen in the area as well.
Laser treatments are designed to stimulate collagen regrowth on the surface and epidermal (top layer) areas, and radiofrequency skin tightening works in the deeper dermal areas for greater wrinkle and line rejuvenation.
Collagen, like all proteins, is made up of amino acids, nine of which are considered essential, i.e. they cannot be synthesised by the body and must be acquired through diet.
You can support collagen renewal in the body by eating:
- Proline: found in egg whites, meat, cheese, soy and cabbage
- Anthocyanidins: found in blackberries, blueberries, cherries and raspberries
- Vitamin C: found in oranges, strawberries, peppers and broccoli
- Copper: can be found in shellfish, nuts, red meat and some drinking water
- Vitamin A: found in animal-derived foods and in plant foods as beta-carotene.
sources: The Derm Review/ MT/ Cosme MD/ Web MD