Collagen, a protein naturally produced in the body, is also a popular supplement and beauty product ingredient that claims to improve the health of your skin.
The marketing for collagen products claims they can improve skin elasticity, reduce visible wrinkles, and increase blood flow to the skin.
“Collagen is what keeps our skin from sagging, giving us that plump, youthful look.”
Collagen’s role in the body
Collagen is a protein that serves as one of the main building blocks for your bones, skin, hair, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
“Collagen is what keeps our skin from sagging, giving us that plump, youthful look,” says dermatologist Dr. Ohara Aivaz.
Your body naturally makes collagen, but this production decreases with age.
“Starting in our mid-20s, we slowly begin to lose collagen,” Dr. Aivaz says. “For women, we can lose up to 30% of our collagen production in the first 5 years of menopause.”
Because we lose collagen as we age, many are using collagen supplements as part of an anti-aging beauty regimen.
Do collagen supplements work?
Collagen is often sold as a supplement, like collagen peptide powders, capsules, or liquid. But do they work?
“We’re not actually sure if collagen supplements benefit us,” Dr. Aivaz says.
“The issue is that most things we ingest are broken down by stomach acids and are not absorbed into the bloodstream. It’s unclear if we absorb ingested collagen or if it’s totally broken down in the stomach.”
Dr. Aivaz says we still need an objective, wide-scale study focusing on collagen to determine the long-term effects of this oral supplement.
“I tell patients that the jury is still out on taking collagen,” Dr. Aivaz says. “If they pick a safe collagen product, there’s probably very little harm from trying it.”
What about collagen creams?
Dr. Aivaz says topical treatments like retinol and tretinoin are scientifically proven to promote collagen formation. Additionally, antioxidants such as vitamin C can reverse the inflammation that causes damage to the collagen in your skin.
“From what we know now, people are likely to get more benefit from retinol or vitamin C skin care products than from a collagen-containing cream,” Dr. Aivaz says.
Protecting your natural collagen for healthy skin
Ultraviolet light from the sun breaks down collagen, so it’s important to wear sunscreen daily.
Eating foods high in antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables, can also prevent collagen breakdown.
If you have questions about adopting a new skincare routine or using anti-aging beauty products, Dr. Aivaz recommends scheduling a consultation with a dermatologist, who can help determine what’s appropriate for your skin.