Do collagen supplements actually work?

There are some pretty huge claims that taking collagen can improve skin elasticity, firmness and hydration. But collagen’s efficacy is still pretty up in the air. The supplement industry can use very clever marketing and very little clinical evidence to push product claims. A lot of companies have jumped on the collagen bandwagon – and now topical creams, pills, powders and liquids are all promising to beautify your skin. Is it just an edible hoax?

There is debate over whether consuming collagen-rich animal based supplements actually increases the levels of this protein in your body – as its broken down into amino acids acids then reassembled, so collagen consumption doesn’t translate directly into higher levels in your body.

Let’s talk science…

You will typically lose around 1% of your collagen each year from approximately the age of 25. This process can become faster if you make certain collagen-destroying lifestyle choices.

Let’s not forget that collagen degradation is only ONE factor in the ageing process. Collagen, elastin, and GAGs (glycoaminoglycans) ALL play a role in keeping the skin supple and smooth. All 3 should be addressed in order to keep the skin healthy as we age. 

Animal (bovine and marine) collagen has not conclusively been proven to work. Animal based collagen is completely absent from many gold standard lists, such as the EU’s Health and Nutrition Claims Register. What has been proven conclusively time and time again to support your own production of collagen? Plant based nutrients. Such as vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc and copper. 

Some “collagen” supplements don’t actually contain collagen, and may contain these plant based nutrients instead.  

One of the biggest downsides of consuming collagen, said Dr. Robert Anolik, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the N.Y.U. School of Medicine, is that just because you’re taking collagen that doesn’t mean it’s all going directly to your skin. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, found in the bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. Some collagens act as protective coverings for delicate organs in the body, such as the kidneys.

Proven alternatives

If collagen supplements do work, and you’re looking for long-lasting effects, you’ll have to take supplements for the rest of your life. Why? The answer is collagenase – an enzyme created by our bodies that eats away at our natural collagen. Lifestyle factors such as a high sugar diet further feed this enzyme – creating “sugar wrinkles” (glycation). As does alcohol consumption, cigarette smoke and poor sleep. 

Collagen fibres, elastin fibres and GAGs are produced by fibroblasts and are primarily affected by photoageing – causing visible changes in the skin such as wrinkles, pigmentation and changes in thickness. A.k.a extrinsic factors, such as UV exposure, play a huge part in the ageing process – so one could argue that the use high quality sunscreen and fastidious reapplications is a more effective anti-ageing investment than any collagen powder.  

Our favourite is Medik8 physical sunscreen – with anti-pollution, anti-infrared, and anti-glycation technologies to shield skin from environmental aggressors to help prevent fine lines and wrinkles.

Plant extracts (applied topically and ingested) exhibit high or satisfactory anti-collagenase (collagen destroying enzyme) and anti-elastase (elastin destroying enzyme) activities, which means inhibitory activity against both enzymes. Oxidative stress furthermore DNA damage to your skin cells can be combated with a high plant based diet. We recommend safeguarding your skin from the inside out with the Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Antioxidant supplement. 

So what DOES produce collagen in the skin?

Moral of the story – collagen powders/pills are not miracle workers.

1. IN-CLINIC TREATMENTS

Skin Needling, Laser Genesis and IPL Photo Rejuvenation are our go-to treatment recommendations if you are concerned with ageing. These treatments help to rebuild and remodel collagen – therefore improve collagen related concerns such as wrinkle depth, lax skin, crepey skin, enlarged pores, scarring. Significant lasting results occur after 6-8 treatments performed monthly.

2. COSMECEUTICAL SKINCARE PRODUCTS

The use of chirally correct skincare is a game changer. Topically applying botanical ingredients will help to support the skin matrix – with animo acids, peptides and powerful antioxidants. Vitamin A is widely considered to be one of the most important ingredients in skincare because it is the only molecule that can assist in reprogramming and normalising skin cell function. It assists in the promotion of healthy collagen and elastin formation by stimulating fibroblasts (cells that produce collagen in the dermis). 

At Skin ResQ we stock a plethora of cosmeceutical products – Let us prescribe skincare that is most suitable for your needs.

3. INTERNAL HEALTH FACTORS

You should aim to minimise collagen-destroying lifestyle factors such as a high sugar diet, smoking, sun exposure and poor sleep. Eating a healthy balanced diet with plenty of colourful, fresh fruit and vegetables and plenty of water consumption.   

 

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