You know, if there were a contest for the most important protein in our body, collagen would probably get first place. With its ability to repair and rebuild our connective tissue, encouraging strong muscles, skin, joints and mobility, its capacity for giving our skin the youthful tone, elasticity and firmness we are craving as we, ahem, mature.
But, speaking of which, as we age, we lose it, collagen I mean, so our skin becomes less supple and firm and more vulnerable to damage. And, armed with this knowledge (and our fears), an entire industry of collagen skin care was born. Collagen repair creams, treatments, facials—if you can think of it, it exists (even applying placenta and snake venom topically, but I digress…)—all marketed to women “of a certain age” as “anti-aging.” The problem is that these products are just slathered on top of our skin, and our cells can’t effectively absorb all the collagen we need that way.
The solution? Enter collagen supplements! Taken internally, they are the next wave in anti-aging “skin care,” with clinical-backing data that proves that they directly affect and improve skin tone, including wrinkles, fine lines and other associated issues around healthy aging (when coupled with other ingredients like omegas, and topically with hyaluronic acid, etc.). Look for a flood of new collagen supplements to hit the skin care market in 2013 and beyond.
Our bodies can’t absorb simple collagen, so it needs to be processed so that we can utilize and absorb it. So, scientists break down collagen for us to use with a process called hydrolysis, which involves the decomposition of compounds by a reaction with water molecules. Vegans and vegetarians should be aware that this hydrolyzed collagen is made using the bones and cartilage from animals, usually cows or chickens. Based on several studies, an appropriate dose for adults (age 21+) is 5 to 15 grams per day.
Beyond collagen supplementation though, there are other natural ways to support healthy aging that include:
·protecting your body from free radical damage
·avoiding synthetic ingredient exposure
·using only ingredients you know to be healthy
·slowing skin damage by limiting excessive UV radiation
·boosting your body’s own collagen production.
Pollution and stress never did anyone any good, and it will tend to show up on our faces. These free radicals, as well as toxic exposure to chemicals like synthetics, (think of it like pollution in a bottle) and overexposure to UV radiation causes collagen to break down at a faster rate than normal aging, damages and breaks down collagen fibers, causes wrinkles, can also impair enzymes that repair DNA, can cause wrinkles, pigmentary skin changes, broken blood vessels and a rough skin appearance, and also causes the accumulation of abnormal elastin.
There are a number of foods that may help to improve collagen production in the body. Foods rich in lysine and proline convert into collagen when we eat them. Foods high in lysine include meat, fish, egg whites, legumes, peanuts, and soybeans. Proline is found in gelatin-based foods and dairy products. But, you need to eat vitamin C-rich foods along with your proline foods so everything is synthesized and processed by the body, and you actually gain the benefits from all the foods you are eating. (Remember when food pairing was all the rage? There was a medical reason for it. Certain foods are actually needed for the body to get the benefits out of other foods…) So, in this case, make sure your diet includes lot of fresh citrus fruits, dark, leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, collards and spinach, all of which help promote collagen production.
Avocados, high in vitamin E, are also great for collagen production. This is why historically we’ve used the fleshy pulp around the pit and the luxurious avocado oil to soothe and hydrate our hair and skin and to keep our skin youthful.Other collagen-happy foods include red fruits and vegetables like berries and beets. Seafood and nuts are rich in collagen, as are foods high in sulfur, like fresh cucumber, celery and black olives.
Making all this part of healthy lifestyle change is so necessary for youthful skin, and of course it works! But you need to know that it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s just like a diet, if it’s temporary, it’s never going to work, and to note any change, it needs to be stuck with for a significant period of time. Together with collagen supplements and topical skin care rich in hyaluronic acid, omega 3 fatty acids along with natural actives and 100% free from synthetics, eating foods rich in collagen will help your skin mature without looking prematurely weathered and also looking radiantly healthy.
If you’re looking for a quick fix to replace your body’s collagen supply, sorry, I just can’t help you, or offer a solution that doesn’t exist! Slow and steady wins the race, unless of course you’re willing to fly to Japan. Collagen you can eat or drink is already all the rage in Asia, where you can find everything from collagen candy and marshmallows to collagen-infused beer foam, touted to improve skin, hair and nails. This powdered pork collagen, which you pour into a glass and top off with beer, and whose English translation is "enjoy the collagen foam," can, sadly, only be found in Japan… such a shame.
About the expert
Suki Kramer founded Suki Clinically-Proven Natural Solutions Skincare with a commitment to education, empowerment and 100% natural beauty products that work like they should. Suki’s vision for the brand is without fail reinforced by an open and honest belief that every beauty product should guarantee efficacy and longstanding benefits to its users. Her passion for effective, natural products and ingredients has made her a leader in the health skin movement.