Collagen is often described as the ‘glue’ or ‘scaffolding’ of the body for the way that it holds us all together. You can thank this natural protein for the plump, elasticity of your skin (especially the youthful glow in your teens and twenties), and boosting its production can also improve the strength and condition of your hair, nails, joints, bones, and muscle mass.
“This essential protein forms one of the strongest building blocks of the human structural system. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, constituting approximately 25% of the total protein content. It is responsible for the makeup of cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bone, and teeth, while it also provides tensile strength to many bodily tissues and is responsible for the skin’s strength and elasticity,” says skincare expert Joyce Carslaw, founder of SmartAss Beauty.
How Collagen Works
“Collagen makes up around 70-80% of the dry weight of skin. Providing strength and elasticity, it promotes the renewal of cells found in the dermis, the middle layer of the skin that lies below the epidermis, ensuring skin looks radiant and youthful,” says Sharin Shafer, founder of Skinfluencer London. “Unfortunately, from around the age of 20, we roughly lose 1% of our collagen supply each year and as the collagen starts to deplete, signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles will start to appear."
Types of collagen
There are different types of collagen: marine collagen, grass-fed collagen and vegan collagen. As the name suggests, marine collagen comes from fish, specifically the parts that are usually discarded: the scales and skin. It is the most bioavailable collagen, so our bodies find it the easiest to use once in the body compared to other types. Grass-fed collagen, sometimes referred to as bovine collagen, comes from cattle.
Lastly, there is vegan collagen, which works slightly differently. While it doesn’t promote a direct source of collagen to the body like marine or bovine does, vegan collagen contains ingredients that stimulate natural collagen production in the body, and often contains more good-for-you vitamins and minerals that boost other parts of your body, like supporting your immune system and improving sleep.
How can we boost collagen production?
While aging is something that we can’t control, we can take steps to encourage more collagen production for skin, hair, nails, muscles, and joint recovery to help us feel and look younger for longer.
Use vitamin C supplements for collagen formation
Take note of skincare and supplements rich in collagen-boosting ingredients like vitamin C, retinol (vitamin A), and essential amino acids. “Skincare can help reduce the appearance of aging. Supplements containing vitamin C and peptides can help boost collagen production, while retinoids and skin acids (for example lactic or azelaic acid) can help reduce fine lines over time,” says Kevin Herbert, skin health expert and founder of 28 Days Skin.
Use retinol to stimulate collagen production
“Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A which increases cell turnover and stimulates collagen and elastin production, “ says Paterson. “This speeds up cellular turnover, getting rid of the old skin and pushing through the new skin. It helps to improve fine lines and wrinkles and also softens rough-textured skin, for example, acne scarring.” Peterson recommends using collagen from your thirties onwards to reduce early signs of fine lines and wrinkles, but it’s even more important for women experiencing menopause.
She offers a word of warning to first-time retinol users. “Retinol needs to be introduced slowly so the skin builds up a tolerance. There is an expected response from retinol when first used and that is redness, irritated skin, dry and flaky skin. These responses are normal and will eventually settle down. Use at night time only. SPF must be used with this product as the skin will be sensitive to light – [use] retinol in the evening followed by SPF the following morning.”
Advanced Retinol Complex
Eat a varied, nutritious, protein-rich diet
Eat foods rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, copper, and amino acids – specifically proline, glycine, and lysine – to support the natural formation of collagen.
Plus, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods like turmeric protect against harmful inflammation and oxidative stress that can inhibit collagen production. By sticking to a varied, nutrient-rich diet, we feed the body with the amino acids it needs for collagen formation and protect against anything that gets in the way of that. Win-win!
Consuming bone broth has been shown to improve hydration, elasticity, and appearance of the skin. Other foods that contain key nutrients for collagen production are egg whites, citrus fruits, tomatoes, bell peppers, leafy greens, garlic, berries, beans, legumes, potatoes, plant-based oils, wheatgerm, and nuts and seeds.
As well as adding these glow-boosting goodies to your diet, you should also avoid food high in sugar and refined carbohydrates which can damage cells, slow the production of youth-boosting collagen, and cause premature aging. Hollie Simpson, skin health expert and founder of Our Skin Academy says, “These result in the glycation of collagen that creates a lot of lines through the skin.”
Superfoods & Adaptogens
Use SPF daily
The earlier you start incorporating SPF into your daily skincare routine (even when it’s cloudy), the better for your skin. UV rays increase the breakdown of collagen and formation of free radicals causing premature aging.“Use good SPF with UVA filters and UVB filters – you want to look into SPF with broad-spectrum protection to keep from damaging your [collagen] reserves,” advises Simpson.
Antioxidant Sun Protector SPF 50
Use collagen supplements
If you struggle to incorporate collagen-boosting nutrition or practices, or you do and want an extra collagen boost for a younger-looking complexion, whether you choose marine, bovine or vegan collagen, there is a collagen supplement to suit everyone.
Drinking more water, eating a healthy diet, and beauty sleep matters – it fuels the formation of collagen which delivers the all-round glow, from helping you make gains in the gym, to dewy, healthy-looking skin, strong nails and lustrous hair. While we can’t reverse the aging process, we can support what we’ve got and give collagen a little boost along the way to keep us looking younger for longer. Your body glow-up awaits...