Collagen For Your Skin
It’s your body’s largest organ. It covers an area of 22 square feet. It makes up 16 percent of your total body weight, and it has approximately 1.6 trillion cells. It’s your immune system’s first line of defense, helps regulate your body temperature, and protects everything inside your body.
You’re right – it’s your skin.
Your skin is a remarkable organ that renews itself every 27 days. The epidermis (outermost layer) creates skin tone and is comprised mainly of cells called keratinocytes, that maintain the protective barrier skin provides, and melanocytes that create skin pigment. Below the epidermis is the dermis, made up of connective tissue, hair follicles, and sweat glands, and below that the hypodermis, a deeper layer of fat and connective tissue.
The exposures of daily life, even changes in humidity, create a harsh environment to which your skin is constantly adapting. This leads to a high rate of turnover for cells of the outermost skin layer – shedding dead cells and replacing them with new ones – and a high demand for the macro- and micro- nutrients needed to continue this work of protecting, healing, shedding, and replacing. One substance in particular, a protein called collagen, is constantly produced in skin for this purpose.
Collagen, the body’s most abundant protein, comprises one-third of the total protein, and it’s what gives structure and toughness to tissues. There are many types of collagen, but types I, II, and III make up the bulk of collagen found throughout the body. When it comes to skin health, types I and III are the most important, with type I making up 80-90 percent of the collagen in skin. Collagen provides a support matrix for skin, weaving with elastin to create incredible strength and promoting firmness and elasticity, while helping to retain moisture and contributing to resiliency.1
Simple aging is tough on skin. Collagen production decreases with age – approximately 1-percent less collagen is made each year after age 20. Damage from exposure to UV light (photodamage) also causes collagen reduction. Studies have shown that sun-damaged skin dials down production of collagen compared to sun-protected skin.2 This loss of collagen in skin, whether by aging or other means, leads to the hallmarks of aging – dryness, wrinkles, and thin, sagging skin.
Collagen itself has become a buzz word recently, particularly in the beauty industry. Even your local grocery store probably has a collagen product on the shelf – in most cases multiple products – from powders to snack bars to coffee and gummies, the options now are endless. Many of these collagen products are available in the form of collagen peptides. Collagen peptides are made when collagen is hydrolyzed (predigested by enzymes), which breaks it into smaller segments. Peptides are only a few amino acids long, rather than hundreds, making collagen peptides much more easily absorbed. But does consuming collagen by mouth (as opposed to topically) support healthy skin? Is there research on that?
Yes – research shows taking collagen works
A 2021 systematic research review and meta-analysis compiled data from 19 studies on collagen and skin health that met their inclusion criteria as high-quality studies. With more than 1,100 participants across those studies, the authors concluded that supplementation with collagen peptides was superior to placebo for improving skin hydration, elasticity, and wrinkles.*3
Likewise, a 2019 review considered results from 11 other collagen studies and found that collagen supplements have a positive effect on skin hydration, elasticity, and dermal collagen density* – all while remaining generally safe to use with no reported side effects.4
A 2020 systematic review of research highlighted the mechanisms by which collagen supplementation might support healthy skin aging. The conclusion was that collagen supplementation positively impacts skin cells, including dermal fibroblasts, the cells that naturally produce collagen, and M2-like macrophages, immune cells involved in tissue remodeling and repair.*5
Regarding collagen-related skin benefits, studies show improvements are noticeable within a reasonable time frame. In two double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, positive changes in skin elasticity were measurable within four weeks of starting daily collagen supplementation.* Even more intriguing, improvements in skin elasticity remained significant four weeks after collagen supplementation ended.*6,7
How can you boost collagen levels?
In addition to nutritional supplements, collagen-boosting benefits can come from foods. Bone broth is a good source of collagen, whether from beef, chicken, or fish bones. Bone broth is also a source of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids that support skin health. A bonus? Because bone broth is water-based, it’s also a source of hydration.
Remember the micronutrients mentioned earlier that have a role in skin health? Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins for your body’s natural collagen production and repair.* Although everyone thinks of citrus fruits for vitamin C, kiwifruit and strawberries contain two of the highest amounts of vitamin C per serving. Sweet red peppers and broccoli are also great sources.
The minerals zinc and copper are necessary for connective tissue and collagen formation.* Seafood is a good source of zinc and copper. Meats and legumes are rich in zinc, while nuts, seeds, and lentils are copper superstars. Eating a variety of mineral sources is a good way to not only support zinc and copper in your body but to maintain healthy levels of a wide variety of other nutrients as well.
Antioxidant rich foods have a positive impact on collagen. While certain antioxidants, like vitamins C and A, play a role in collagen production, others fight the oxidative stress and photodamage that cause collagen reduction over time.* The phytochemicals that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colors are antioxidants. So, eating a diet filled with colorful plants is an excellent way to be sure you’re consuming a wide variety of antioxidants that support collagen health and so much more.
You can also consider a collagen supplement like Thorne’s new Collagen Plus for healthy skin aging.* Collagen Plus contains collagen peptides along with nicotinamide riboside (NR) and the botanical extracts HydroPeach™ (Japanese white peach ceramides) and MitoHeal® (blackcurrant and redcurrant extracts) that support skin hydration, texture, and tone.*
- Reilly D, Lozano J. Skin collagen through the lifestages: importance for skin health and beauty. Plastic Aesthetic Res 2021;8. doi:10.20517/2347-9264.2020.153
- Varani J, Dame M, Rittie L, et al. Decreased collagen production in chronologically aged skin. Am J Pathol 2006;168(6):1861-1868. doi:10.2353/ajpath.2006.051302
- de Miranda R, Weimer P, Rossi R. Effects of hydrolyzed collagen supplementation on skin aging: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Dermatol 2021 Mar 20. doi:10.1111/ijd.15518
- Choi F, Sung C, Juhasz M, Mesinkovsk N. Oral collagen supplementation: A systematic review of dermatological applications. J Drugs Dermatol 2019;18(1):9-16.
- Barati M, Jabbari M, Navekar R, et al. Collagen supplementation for skin health: A mechanistic systematic review. J Cosmet Dermatol 2020;19(11):2820-2829. doi:10.1111/jocd.13435
- Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, et al. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2014;27(1):47-55. doi:10.1159/000351376
- Sangsuwan W, Asawanonda P. Four weeks daily intake of oral collagen hydrolysate results in improved skin elasticity, especially in sun-exposed areas: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Dermatolog Treat 2020 Mar 9:1-6. doi:10.1080/09546634.2020.1725412