Out of all the supplements for the skin, collagen has become one of the most prominent in the market. It is the 5th best selling ingredient in the world, with 2019 sales amounting to almost $60 million.
So why is this supplement very famous? For one, many believe this to be the scientific fountain of youth, mainly due to its anti-aging benefits on the skin.
If you are looking to minimize your wrinkles – or just keep your skin healthy, supple, and moisturized – then collagen may be a good fit for you.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein that is found in 25% to 35% of the body. It has a braid-like structure of chained amino acids, which wrap around each other to make thicker bundles.
Because of this arrangement, collagen helps provide a strong structure to the skin, joints, bones, muscles, and other parts of the body.
Of the four major types of collagen, Type I collagen is the one that commonly occurs in the skin. It is mainly found in the dermis, which is underneath the outermost layer or epidermis. With the help of collagen, the skin can maintain its elasticity and strength.
How Do You Take Collagen?
Collagen comes in a variety of forms. It can be consumed orally by way of capsules, tablets, powders, and liquids. Topicals and injectables, on the other hand, are available for dermatologic use.
As such, how you take your collagen will depend on the supplement you have at hand.
If you want a supplement that you can take anywhere – and consume with minimal prep time – then a capsule is perfect for you. According to multiple studies, the recommended starting dosage is 2-2.5 grams a day.
A word of caution though: collagen capsules can be quite big, so you need to have a glass of water ready when you take it.
As the name suggests, this supplement pertains to collagen that takes the form of a loose, white powder. It usually comes in one-serving packets or large tubs, with each serving containing as much as 16 grams of collagen. What’s great about this supplement is that you can add it to any drink - be it a plain glass of water, coffee, or smoothie.
If you don't have the time to mix collagen powder with your favorite drinks, then you should consider liquid collagen. This pre-made beverage usually comes in small shots that contain about 7 grams of collagen. However, there are bigger servings such as collagen water that contain about 10 grams of collagen.
Collagen comes in various topical forms, including that of creams and serums. These products work like moisturizers, meaning they help slow the rate of water loss in the skin. By doing so, topical collagen can help keep your skin supple.
According to Dr. John Zampella of NYU Langone, some researchers and dermatologists believe these peptides “can traverse the skin cells in your outer skin barrier and make their way into the dermis, essentially [providing] the building blocks for fibroblasts to make new collagen.”
If you want immediate results (and don’t mind a shot), then you may opt for injectable collagen. This is a type of dermal filler, meaning it can be used to improve skin tone and reduce scars. While the results are immediate, only a professional can give you this. As the name suggests, it is an injection so you can expect this shot to sting.
When Should You Take Collagen?
As to when you should take collagen, there is no available scientific literature available that recognizes the best time to take the supplement. A majority of users, however, recommend two options. One is morning intake, specifically when the stomach is still empty. Others advocate for night consumption since this allows collagen to work on your body as you sleep.
How is Collagen Absorbed in the Body?
It is important to note that the body cannot absorb collagen in its whole form. After all, this rope-like protein needs to be broken down during digestion so that it could be absorbed by the circulation.
To bypass this obstacle, collagen supplements are hydrolyzed. In this process, collagen’s amino acid chains are broken down into peptides or smaller chains. This form is said to be easily absorbed by the body.
Once in the system, collagen peptides serve as building blocks for collagen and other proteins. They bind to fibroblasts, which are connective tissue cells that produce more collagen.
Apart from this function, collagen also serves as antioxidants for the body. As such, it can help protect the existing collagen from factors that may degrade it.
What Damages Collagen in the Body?
Even if you took all the collagen supplements in the world, they would be useless if you expose yourself to such factors that damage collagen in the body:
Sunlight helps break down collagen at a faster rate. It damages the collagen fibers and paves the way for an abnormal type of elastin, which makes skin 'rigid'.
Additionally, sunlight exposure damages the collagen in the dermal layer. This leads to poor skin repair, which most people see as wrinkles.
Tobacco contains more than 4,000 chemicals that damage both collagen and elastin, substances that help maintain skin strength and elasticity. As a result, smoking can lead to saggy, wrinkled skin.
To make matters worse, cigarettes contain nicotine that narrows the blood vessels. This unfortunately adds insult to injury, since constricted vessels reduce oxygen and nutrient delivery to the skin.
A high-sugar diet accelerates glycation, a process that results in advanced glycation end products. These are very damaging to body proteins such as collagen. As a result, a high intake of sugary foods can lead to dry, weakened, and brittle skin.
Certain immune problems such as Lupus, Scleroderma, and Rheumatoid Arthritis result in antibodies that attack collagen. Unfortunately, this event is something that cannot be completely avoided.
In a NutshellCollagen is a protein that keeps the skin surface strong and elastic. To boost collagen production in the body, supplements such as powders, liquids, and capsules may be taken. While they may be beneficial for the skin, sunlight, tobacco, and a high-sugar diet may lead to the degradation of collagen in the body. As such, they should be avoided (or minimized) whenever possible.