Do Collagen Creams + Supplements Really Work?

Collagen skin care products have been around for decades, especially in anti-aging products. Recently, there has been a huge influx of collagen drinks, elixirs and supplement popping up on social media with big claims. So what is all the buzz?

What is collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the human body. It's in the skin, bones, muscles, and tendons. It pretty much is the scaffolding that holds the body together. In skin specifically, collagen helps form a network of fibers, so new skin cells can grow. With the help of elastin, this dynamic team keeps the skin plump and youthful. Here is a fun fact because I am a dork, the word "collagen" is from the Greek word "kolla" which means glue.

Collagen in Skincare

Unfortunately, this ingredient has a secret. THE COLLAGEN MOLECULE IS TOO LARGE TO BE ABSORBED INTO THE SURFACE OF THE SKIN! I realize this may be pretty shocking since it's in a bunch of skin care products from moisturizers, eye creams, serums, masks and even body lotion. In my opinion, it's one of the biggest lies told in the beauty industry. 

Why is this lie told? As well age, unfortunately, we lose collagen. In fact, we lose about 1% of our body's collagen every year after we turn 40. This contributes to sagging, fine lines and wrinkles. Other factors such as environmental pollution, sun damage, smoking and a diet high in sugar can also contribute to the breakdown. So in theory, applying topical collagen to the skin sounds like a fantastic idea to replace what we are losing when we start to see the signs of aging. Well, guess what? The unregulated beauty industry has been capitalizing on this for decades to consumers that are simply unaware of this fact. Anything with the word "anti-aging" or "collagen" on the package usually totes a pretty hefty price tag I might add.

Now, don't get wrong if you have felt or seen "results" from a collagen skin care product I am sure you have. Since the ingredient sits on the surface of the skin and holds on to water pretty well, it does make an effective hydrator and skin plumper. You are just not receiving the anti-aging results from the actual replacement of collagen.

Ingesting Collagen

Currently, there aren't a ton of studies proving either way for a solid answer. I realize this may come as a surprise or conflicting since there are so many claims by super popular brands of collagen supplements. I am just going to provide all the information, studies and research I have done with no BS. In fact, I am pretty neutral about the topic because I can't blindly believe (or recommend to you) something without science to back it up. But, I sure hope it's proven to be beneficial because I will be drinking collagen by the gallons if that is the case!

In a 2014 study, it suggests ingesting hydrolyzed collagen has increased the pro-collagen (precursor to collagen) levels in the dermis. In this particular study, the test subjects ingested the brand Pure Gold Collagen on a daily basis for 60 days resulting in "a noticeable reduction in skin dryness, wrinkles, and nasolabial fold depth." This sounds fantastic, right? 

However, I will play the devil's advocate and ask a few questions - Could it be the other vitamins and minerals in the product too? This supplement formula also contains copper, biotin, vitamins C, E, and B6 which are all proven to help the hair, skin, and nails with antioxidant benefits and stimulating the body's own collagen. Collagen, when ingested converts to the amino acid proline-hydroxyproline. This helps to increase the skin's hyaluronic acid content, so could it be the skin is plumper and more hydrated giving the illusion the skin is benefiting from collagen production? Lastly, this study amongst many are performed by the companies themselves so could the results be a little massaged to provide better results?

Now, the other school of thought acknowledges the digestion system and how it functions. It's easy to assume what we ingest automatically means we benefit directly from that particular ingredient. Unfortunately, that isn't how the gut works and there are a lot of factors that come into play during the digestion process. During this process, stomach acids break down the collagen (since it's a protein) turning it into an amino acid. Here lies the problem, the gut changes the molecule and this is the process that very well can prevent the collagen we ingest from providing little or no skin benefits at all. Saying that it may be unlikely that any collagen makes it into the bloodstream let alone the correct layers of the skin.

Bottom Line

Needless to say, this is very confusing and conflicting. I am excited to learn and read more (unbiased and non-collagen brand funded) studies on how collagen can affect the skin in the near future. If you currently drink a collagen supplement and feel you are seeing any kind of benefits that's awesome and it really can't hurt! At the very least you are ingesting a ton of other great vitamins and minerals. There just isn't much science to explain or back it up as of yet. Me on the other hand, I will be sticking to the proven and effective topical ways of stimulating collagen. My thought is why not deliver the ingredients directly to the source?

Proven ways to stimulate collagen

It's best to help collagen you already have from breaking down in the first place or help your cells create more collagen naturally.

» Don't smoke

» Wear at least an SPF 30 daily

» Consume less sugar

» Eat antioxidant-rich foods that help to fight off free radicals like fish, berries, green leafy vegetables, green/white tea etc.

» Treat your skin with red LED lights 

» Use vitamin C serums

» Use AHA like glycolic acid

» Use OTC or Rx retinoids

» Get a Fraxel laser or radio frequency treatments. Laser treatments work by stimulating collagen in the top layers of the skin, while radio frequency treatments stimulate collagen in the deeper laters for longer lasting results and deeper wrinkles. These types of treatments are performed at a medical-spa, dermatologist or plastic surgeon office.

If you have any questions or blog topics you'd like me to write about feel free to send me a message!  

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