Press into your cheek. Does it feel soft, firm and cushion-like under your fingers? You can thank collagen for that. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, making up 30% of your whole-body protein content. It’s found throughout the body, especially in your skin. Collagen gives your skin strength and elasticity, and plays an important role in replacing and restoring dead skin cells, making it essential to healthy, firm and supple skin. This good stuff however, starts to naturally decline as you age. After the age of 20, your body produces less collagen each year. Skin becomes thinner, drier and looser, and develops sags and wrinkles. The growth of new skin cells also slows down dramatically. Dead cells aren’t shed as quickly, resulting in a dull, listless complexion. Your lifestyle choices can deplete collagen too, and make your skin more fragile. These include:
- Sugar. One too many cupcakes increases the rate of glycation, a process in which sugar attaches to proteins responsible for smooth, wrinkle-free skin, and forms harmful compounds. These are called advanced glycation end products (appropriately known as AGEs!). AGEs can make collagen dry, brittle, and weak, causing premature wrinkles and dull, saggy skin.
- Smoking. Tobacco smoke contains chemicals that damage collagen in the skin. Smoking also affects the way collagen is created, and increases collagen degradation, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Dermatology. This is why a smoker’s face is likely to look wrinkled, grey and dried out.
- Excess sun exposure. The ultraviolet rays in sunlight cause collagen in the skin to break down faster. When collagen breaks down, skin loses its firmness and forms fine lines, wrinkles, and a rough, leathery look.
Take years off your face
- Vitamin C is vital for the formation of collagen and may protect existing collagen from damage. Oranges, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, broccoli, and tomatoes are good sources of Vitamin C.
- Vitamin A can restore collagen that’s been damaged, and improve the texture of your skin. Find it in beef liver, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and apricots.
- Bone broth is an excellent source of dietary collagen, gelatin, amino acids, and other nutrients that support the collagen cycle in your body. Enjoy a bowl or two once a week to renew collagen in your skin and keep wrinkles at bay.
- Exercise activates the production of human growth hormone (HGH), which in turn increases the production of collagen. Strength training is especially good for optimal HGH and collagen production.
- Exfoliation removes dead skin cells from the surface of your skin. This stimulates the production of new collagen, giving your skin a healthier, more youthful appearance.
What about collagen creams?
Many moisturisers and lotions containing collagen claim to increase the collagen levels in your body, and minimise the signs of facial ageing. These products aren’t likely to work though, as collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed into your skin. There’s no scientific evidence to prove that slathering collagen directly onto your skin will increase collagen production. Instead, enjoy a run around the block, followed by a hearty bone broth. Not only will these make you look better, but you’ll feel better too!