Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist - Written by Rithi Choudhury (Journalist) on 15th Oct 2020
7 Ways To Boost Collagen Production In For Healthy And Youthful Skin
Pop quiz - What is responsible for keeping the elasticity and firmness of our skin?
If you guessed collagen taking a cue from this article's title, pat yourself for being a smarty!
Now that we know collagen is vital for keeping our skin from looking saggy and loose, let us further dive into the science and learn how to get more collagen into our body because the bad news is that our body makes less and less collagen as we age.
Collagen is a protein synthesized in our body, a fibrous protein found in the connective tissues. There 28 types of collagen categorized according to their amino acid composition. But from a skin and body health point, only five types are most important. The most abundant collagen (about 90%), type 1 collagen, is found in skin, tendons, internal organs, and organic parts of the bone.
- Type 1 collagen: Up to 90 percent of the body's collagen types I collagen, found in the skin & bones and blood vessel walls, as well as connective tissue and fibrous cartilage. It is the collagen associated with keeping the skin looking youthful and also promoting the healing of wounds.
- Type 2 collagen: This type of collagen (Type 2 collagen) is found in more elastic cartilage than the kind I and is known for its lubrication and flexibility.
- Type 3 collagen: Type III collagen provides and improves the structure of muscles and organs and blood vessels.
- Type 4 collagen: Type 4 is a less common type of collagen, which aids in the kidneys' filtration and other organs. This type of collagen exists naturally as building blocks in different skin layers, which surround our muscles, organs, and fat cells (adipose tissues).
- Type 5 collagen: Type V collagen is fiber-like collagen found in some layers of skin, hair, &, most importantly, the placenta's tissue. This type of collagen is even found in the cornea of the eye. The deficiency of type V collagen has been associated with decreased cornea transparency, impacting vision and overall eye health.
How Does The Body Make Collagen?
The body breaks down the protein from our diet and makes amino acids. These amino acids are what builds collagen along with various other proteins.
Dr. Andrea Suarez, a board-certified dermatologist from Denver, popularly known as Dr. Dray on YouTube. Says:
Each collagen has a specific role in a specific tissue, and each collagen has the gene that encodes it. So within your DNA, you have a blueprint for every type of collagen where it's supposed to go, where it is supposed to be made in the body. So it's an essential protein.
What Does Collagen Do For Skin And Body?
- Maintains Skin Elasticity: Collagen is the protein that allows our skin to stretch and yet regain back its original shape. It is what keeps wrinkles and fine lines at bay. It prevents the skin from losing its elasticity and becomes saggy.
- Repairs And Renew Skin: Collagen is also responsible for forming new skin cells, repairs, and replaces skin cells after an injury/inflammation.
- Keeps The Skin Supple: Our skin's plumpness is due primarily to collagen as it is what makes up the meat of our skin is by large collagen. 75% of the dry weight of our total skin is, in fact, collagen. Young people have supple and plump looking skin whereas older people have thin and sallow skin, as collagen production decreases with age.
- Maintains Bone Density: Collagen is responsible for strengthening the bones as bones are composed of collagen (type 1) mostly. The decrease in collagen production reduces bone density and thus weakens them.
- Keeps The Joints Flexible: Collagen (type 2) is also present in the joints and reduces tension and pressure. Breakdown of collagen in joints is what leads to joint pains and arthritis as we age.
7 Ways Of Boosting Collagen In The Body
1. Get Your Vitamin C:
Vitamin C plays an essential role in creating collagen in the body. It is the necessary cofactor for the two enzymes required for the synthesis of collagen. Research also shows that vitamin C acts directly on DNA to increase the intracellular amount of collagen. While dietary Vitamin C is crucial, the topical application of Vitamin C has also shown an increase in skin collagen, according to studies.
Antioxidants are essential because they protect the collagen from degradation by scavenging free radicals and rejuvenating the skin cells. Antioxidants like Vitamin E, lycopene, and niacinamide (vitamin B3) increase collagen production in the body. Get your dose of these antioxidants from your diet and topical application of products containing these antioxidants. (See: Vitamin E rich food; Minimalist Niacinamide 10% + Zinc Serum, lycopene-rich foods. )
3. Omega 3 Fatty Acids:
Omega 3 Fatty Acids found in food sources like salmon, salmon oil, cod liver oil, flax seeds, etc. are essential for maintaining skin, nail, and hair health. Omega 3 Fatty acid is rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, it repairs free radical damage in the skin cells that is responsible for the destruction of collagen.
4. Hyaluronic Acid:
Hyaluronic acid is a natural compound found in the body responsible for maintaining skin moisture and lubricating the joints. But HA also boosts collagen production by aiding in its synthesis by surrounding the skin cells that produce it with water and protect it from environmental damage. However, HA is naturally occurring like collagen. Its production also decreases as we age. Therefore the topical application of HA is necessary for that added boost. (See: Serum - Minimalist Hyaluronic Acid 2% + Vitamin B5)
5. Bone Broth:
Bone broth is the liquid obtained by bones (from chicken, mutton, beef, fish, etc.) It is a rich source of collagen, vitamins like A, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, etc. Though bone broth is nutritionally packed and is beneficial for health, there is little scientific evidence on the efficacy of the amino acids, which the body breaks down from bone broth proteins, on skin and bone health.
6. Aloe Vera Gel:
It is highly rich in antioxidants & has anti-inflammatory properties that repair and soothes the skin. Studies have also found that dietary aloe vera gel increases collagen and hyaluronic acid production in the skin and helps improve skin elasticity.
Retinoid is an umbrella term for several Vitamin A derivatives. Retinoids are excellent ingredients for skin anti-aging, cellular turnover, and stimulating collagen production, which combats skin thinning due to aging. It even inhibits the activity of certain enzymes that destroy collagen. Topical retinoid comes in OTC grades like retinol (See: Minimalist Retinoid 2%) and prescription-grades like tretinoin.
Factors That Destroy Collagen
- Aging: "The quality of that collagen, not only the quality but also the quantity of it begins to decline slowly and steadily as a result of age," adds Dr. Suarez. It is what contributes to the visible signs of aging like wrinkles formation, discoloration, dryness.
- Oxidative Stress: Oxidative stress, that is, imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body, leads to cellular damage and breaks down collagen leading to premature signs of aging like wrinkles and loose skin.
- UV exposure: UV rays are an enemy to collagen. Even a few minutes of unprotected UV exposure can breakdown collagen and lead to photoaging.
- Smoking: Cigarette smoking leads to collagen and elastin damage and restricts blood flow by narrowing the blood vessels.
- High Sugary Diet: A diet high in sugar is bad for the skin as too much sugar causes cross-linking of collagen, resulting in stiffening and loss of elasticity of our skin.
- Caffeine: Too much caffeine intake is not suitable for skin health, and studies have also shown that caffeine reduces the synthesis of collagen in the skin.
Something to Ponder - Myth Busting Topical Application Of Collagen
Topical Application Of Collagen For Youthful Skin: Several skin serums and creams are sold in the market in the name of topical collagen.
The truth is collagen atoms or molecules are too big to penetrate through the skin and deliver results. Therefore, when looking for products, go for formulations with collagen amino acids that are small enough to penetrate and actually work.