Welcome to the world of skincare, where the quest for youthful, radiant skin is never-ending. One of the most popular trends that is buzzing in the korean skincare world is the use of collagen masks that promise to give your skin a youthful glow with just a sheet of dry collagen mask sprayed over with a mist that melts into your skin. What exactly is collagen and does this trend really work? Let’s look at the science behind this vital ingredient and the importance of collagen in our skin so you can make the best decision for your skin. Grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable and let’s geek out about collagen together.
What is collagen and what does it do?
Did you know that collagen is like the MVP of our body? This fantastic protein is a real team player, found all over our body, including the skin, muscles, bones, tendons, organs, blood vessels, and intestinal lining. It's the ultimate multi-tasker, providing structure, firmness, and elasticity that our skin craves. In fact, did you know that collagen makes up a whopping 70%-80% of the dry weight of human skin? That's right, it's like the scaffolding that keeps everything in place. Now, let's get a little technical - collagen is made up of amino acids, including proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline, which group together to form the structural molecule of collagen. Type 1 collagen, which is found abundantly in connective tissues, is especially important for keeping our skin tight and supple. When we start to lose it, we can see the telltale signs of aging - sagging skin, fine lines, brittle nails, and thinning hair.
How is collagen produced in the skin?
Picture this: a team of tiny construction workers busy at work, building a sturdy framework that keeps your skin firm and plump. That's basically how collagen production works in your skin!
Collagen is produced by cells called fibroblasts, which are found in the dermis layer of your skin. These cells are like the foremen of the construction team, directing the building process and laying down the framework that gives your skin its structure. So, how exactly do fibroblasts create collagen? Well, it all starts with a molecule called procollagen. Procollagen is made up of chains of amino acids that are like long, twisting ropes. The fibroblasts use enzymes to snip these ropes into shorter, more manageable lengths, which they then weave together to create the triple-helix structure of collagen.
Once the collagen is formed, it's bundled together into fibers that form a mesh-like structure in the skin. This mesh provides the scaffolding that keeps your skin firm and elastic, while also helping to hold moisture and nutrients in place.
How does collagen production change with age?
Unfortunately, as we age, our collagen production slows down. This is because the fibroblasts become less active and produce less procollagen. The collagen fibers also start to break down and become less organized, leading to loss of elasticity and firmness. This is like a rubber band that has been stretched too many times -it loses its ability to snap back in shape. As a result, the skin becomes thinner and more fragile.
What are the benefits of collagen in skin?
Collagen improves skin elasticity
When collagen fibers in the skin are abundant, they provide a supportive framework that holds the skin together. Collagen acts as a glue that holds the skin's cells in place and keeps them from sliding around. The elasticity of the skin is largely attributed to the mechanical properties of collagen fibers. These fibers are capable of stretching and returning to their original shape, providing the skin with the necessary structure to resist external forces, such as the repetitive movements associated with facial expressions. Unfortunately, as we age, the production of collagen declines, which leads to a reduction in the number of fibers and their quality, resulting in decreased skin resilience and a loss of elasticity. Ultimately, this can contribute to the development of wrinkles and sagging skin.
Collagen enhances hydration in the skin
Collagen has a unique ability to attract and retain water molecules. This means that when collagen is present in the skin, it helps to lock in moisture, keeping your skin plump and hydrated. Without adequate collagen, your skin's ability to hold onto water diminishes, leading to dry and dull-looking skin. When collagen is present in the skin, it not only attracts water molecules but also helps to prevent water loss. Collagen acts as a barrier, reducing the amount of water that evaporates from the skin's surface. This means that even in dry environments, skin with adequate collagen levels can maintain its hydration levels.
To put it simply, think of collagen as a sponge. Just like a sponge absorbs water and retains it, collagen in the skin attracts and retains water molecules. When the sponge is full of water, it expands and becomes plump, just like your skin when it is well-hydrated. When the sponge is dry, it becomes brittle and loses its shape, just like dry and dehydrated skin.
Collagen improves skin texture
Collagen acts as the building block of our skin's structure, providing it with strength, resilience, and firmness. It is responsible for giving our skin its texture and elasticity, as well as its ability to maintain its shape. When collagen production is optimal, it helps the skin to remain supple, soft, and youthful-looking. On the other hand, when collagen levels decline due to age, exposure to environmental factors, or poor lifestyle choices, the skin's texture can become rough, uneven, and prone to wrinkles.
Collagen helps heal wounds
The body naturally produces collagen by breaking down dietary proteins into amino acids. It is the glue that keeps the tissues together and structurally sound to maintain tissue elasticity that allows for movement.
In the presence of a wound, whether it’s external or internal, the body needs extra collagen and other structural proteins to begin to heal and repair the wounded area. Collagen is essential for wound healing because it attracts fibroblasts that produce collagen and other fibers. As a person ages, the natural collagen production declines, which means it may take longer to heal from a cut or a wound versus during the teenage years.
Can you boost your collagen production naturally?
Naturally supporting your skin's collagen production and maintenance can be achieved through a balanced diet, supplements, and skincare products that contain key ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, peptides, and Vitamin C. These ingredients help support collagen synthesis in the body, which is essential for maintaining healthy skin.
Including collagen-rich foods like bone broth, eggs, meat, fish, and spirulina in your diet can help support collagen production from the inside out. According to a recent study in 2022, consuming enough collagen from your diet can delay skin aging and promote joint health.
In addition, a recent review published in 2021 found that taking hydrolyzed collagen supplements for a period of 90 days can effectively reduce wrinkles, improve skin elasticity, and boost hydration levels. So, incorporating these simple steps into your routine can help support your skin's collagen production and promote healthy, youthful-looking skin.
Do topical collagen skincare products prevent skin aging?
From a scientific standpoint, collagen is a large molecule that cannot penetrate the dermis layer of the skin. This means that it only works on the surface of the skin. However, it's important to keep in mind that although collagen molecules can't penetrate the skin to stimulate collagen growth or synthesis, skincare products containing collagen can still provide topical hydration for the skin. For deeper collagen production stimulation, it is recommended to use adjunct actives such as hyaluronic acids, peptides, and vitamin C. If you're looking for an effective solution to promote collagen production, we highly recommend trying out Mary & May's 6 Peptide Complex Serum or Sollalla's Multi-Vitamin C Serum. These two fantastic products can help stimulate collagen production in your skin while also providing it with much-needed moisture and suppleness.
What are the side effects of using collagen in skincare?
Collagen is overall, an ingredient that is considered safe to use topically for all skin types without any potential side effects. Although rare and typically mild, those with sensitivity towards this ingredient may experience inflammation of the skin with breakouts or rashes.
Now that you have learned more about collagen in skincare, would measures would you take to maintain the collagen levels in your body?
A Oikarinen. Aging of the skin connective tissue: how to measure the biochemical and mechanical properties of aging dermis. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed.1994 Apr;10(2):47-52.
Miranda, RB., Weimer, P., Rossi, RC. Effects of hydrolyzed collagen supplementation on skin aging: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Dermatol. 2021 Dec;60(12):1449-1461. doi: 10.1111/ijd.15518
Al-Atif. Collagen Supplements for Aging and Wrinkles: A Paradigm Shift in the Fields of Dermatology and Cosmetics. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2022 Feb; 12(1): e2022018. Published online 2022 Jan 1. doi: 10.5826/dpc.1201a18
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