Collagen is not only on everyone’s lips these days but seemingly also on everyone’s skin, and recently in everyone’s cup of coffee. While in Western countries collagen has only just started to become widely popular as a beauty product, collagen has been long known to slow down the ageing process and make skin more beautiful in Asian countries, such as Korea and Japan. In fact, collagen is so popular over there that it is available in supermarkets. And undeniably, Asian women have one of the prettiest skins in the world. But what exactly is collagen, where does it come from, what does it do for you and how can you integrate it into your daily routine?
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a structural protein made of several amino-acids such as glycine, proline, hydroxyl proline, and arginine. In fact, collagen provides us with 8 out of 9 essential amino acids our body needs to build up proteins that are needed for almost any physiological function in our body.
Collagen mainly occurs in mammals and can be found in several parts of the body such as skin, bones, cartilage, blood and teeth. It makes up to 30% of our total bodies’ protein and up to 70% of our skin’s protein, making it the most abundant protein in our body.
As a “structural protein”, it fulfils several functions in our body. Not only does it serve as connective tissue between cells, playing an important role in the building and support of our joints and holding our body literally together like glue, but it also gives our skin its elasticity and strengths. Moreover, it replaces dead skin cells, helps to reduce cellulite and skin roughness. A lack or reduced production of collagen, which naturally occurs as we age, is one of the main reasons why our skin becomes wrinkly and saggy. Unfortunately, in a typical Western diet, we hardly get to eat collagen, as we usually throw away the parts that are rich in collagen, such as the skin or bones of animals.
Collagen versus Gelatin
Collagen is often associated with or believed to be gelatin, which isn’t too far from the truth as collagen is simply a more processed form of gelatin. Hence, both gelatin and collagen, share the same amino acid profile but differ in two major things: First, hydrolyzed collagen is a lot easier for our body to absorb, due to the broken-down proteins. Second, collagen is a lot easier to consume compared to gelatin, as it is fully water soluble and doesn’t cause liquids to gel. Both gelatin and collagen are completely taste- and odorless, making it a great additive to drinks and other foods, since we usually don’t eat enough of it in our diet.
What kinds of Collagen are there?
There are at least 16 different kinds of collagen, but the majority falls into the category of collagen type 1, 2, or 3. Each type fulfils different functions in the body.
Collagen type 1 & type 2: Collagen type 1 the most abundant form of collagen in our body and can be found in our skin, tendons, ligaments, bones, teeth, intervertebral disks, and scar tissue. Collagen type 3 is the second most abundant form of collagen and can be found in muscles, intestinal walls, and blood vessels. Both, type 1 and type 3 are the most thought after for beauty purposes as they promote strong skin, nails, hair, reduce appetite and the appearance of cellulite.
Collagen type 2: Collagen type 2 is less abundant and usually found in articular and hyaline cartilages as well as the eyes. It primarily builds cartilage which is essential for joint health.
Where does Collagen come from?
Collagen is exclusively found in mammals and is often derived from fish, pigs, chicken or castles, each containing varying amounts of the three main different types of collagen.
Collagen type 1 and 3 are most commonly found in bovine (beef) and porcine (pig) collagen. Marine (fish) collagen consists only of collagen type one. While marine collagen is said to be 1.5 times more easily absorbed than bovine collagen, the differences aren’t very strong. In addition to that, it is advisable to consume both types of collagen. Hence, we recommend going for either bovine collagen or mix bovine and marine collagen.
Collagen type 2 is most abundantly found in chicken.
Benefits of Collagen
The benefits collagen brings to your body are plentiful. Some of them include:
- Improving skin condition and reducing wrinkles (type 1 & 3)
- Promoting hair growth (type 1 & 3)
- Promoting growth of strong nails (type 1 & 3)
- Reducing appearance of cellulite (type 1 & 3)
- Improving skin moisture and hydration (type 1 & 3)
- Reducing joint pains and degeneration (type 2)
- Increasing bone strength (type 2)
- Reducing appetite (all types)
- Helping to balance hormones (all types)
Collagen and Aging
While our body naturally produces collagen, this production declines once we hit our mid- to end twenties, causing first signs of ageing, such as saggy and wrinkly skin, less shiny hair and more fragile nails. Also, our joints become less resilient.
While a certain decline in collagen production is completely natural and cannot be stopped, there are several factors that increase the decline of collagen productions such as:
- Smoking – you’ve probably heard of smoking leading to premature ageing. One of the reasons for that is that smoking creates collagen-destroying enzymes, leading to less collagen and more wrinkles
- Stress – when you are stressed your body produces cortisol and cortisol has shown to play a role in premature collagen loss leading to faster ageing
- Sunlight –UV exposure deteriorates the structure of collagen and elastin altering the function of fibroblasts, which are responsible for not only repairing damaged collagen but also for producing new collagen
- High sugar consumption – you hear it all the time: sugar is bad for you. And yep, it is. The reason: Sugar attaches itself to almost any protein in the body, also to collagen and elastin making them more rigid and hence causing more wrinkles
Hence, to keep the automatic collagen production as high as possible it is advisable to make healthy lifestyle choices, including a balanced and low in sugar diet, exercise and sun protection. Additionally, you can support our body by including additional collagen into our daily diet.
Collagen in Beauty Products
Many skin care products containing collagen claim they could do XYZ to your skin. While it is not harmful to apply collagen-containing products to your skin, you might want to invest your money elsewhere. Why? Collagen in topical skin care products is most likely to have no effect other than maybe hydrating the outer layer of your skin (as any other moisturizer does) because collagen molecules are too large to penetrate the outer layers of your skin. Therefore, while it can hydrate your skin, it is not able to strengthen your skin.
Luckily there are two ways you can get collagen to where you want it to go: deep into your skin.
- Instead of purchasing topical skin care products that contain actual collagen you should purchase skin care products that encourage collagen production in your skin. You should especially watch out for ingredients such as Vitamin C and Hydraulic Acid in your skin products as they have shown to be able to penetrate the outer layers of your skin and increase the production of collagen in your skin. In this blog post, I explained a daily skin care routine that includes all ingredients for anti-ageing skin.
- Integrate collagen into your daily diet. This means you should consume collagen internally on a daily basis, rather than putting it onto your skin. Asian women are already doing it: instead of simply applying collagen onto their skin they also consume it internally, to let the real beauty come from the inside out.
I would like to hear from you! 🙂 Are you using collagen in your diet already and if yes, did you see visible differences? Simply leave a comment or contact me via PM. I am also on instagram.