The Truth about Collagen

Ohhhhhh collagen skin care products. You big liar.

We have all heard of collagen and it is a very popular ingredient in skin care especially anti-aging skin products. BUT collagen has a deep dark secret that many people don't realize. THE COLLAGEN MOLECULE IS TOO LARGE TO BE ABSORBED INTO THE SKIN! The shock, I know! Especially since there are so many claims and it is in so many skin care products. So lets first talk about what collagen is, how it is damaged and what you can do about it.

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. Fun Fact: The word "collagen" is from the Greek word "kolla" which means glue.

What damages Collagen?
As we age we unfortunately lose collagen. In fact we lose 1% of our body's collagen every year after we turn 40. EKKKKK! This will cause sagging, wrinkles and fine lines. Sun damage, smoking and a diet high in sugar also cause collagen to break down. Environmental pollution and free radicals can also cause the break down of collagen.

The Truth
So again I will say the collagen molecule is too large to be absorbed into the skin. By far it is the biggest lie in skin care. Which means that all the skin care products out there such as collagen moisturizers, serums and mask are well, a lie. But it is not physically possible according to science. In theory putting collagen on your skin sounds like a great idea when we start to see aging. And don't get me wrong there are some great "collagen" moisturizers out there. I am sure they hydrate and make the skin look and feel nice will all the other awesome ingredients in them. And I am sure there is even some collagen in them, but it will just sit on the surface of the skin instead of actually absorbing in. So stop wasting your money!

What you can do
+ Don't smoke
+ Wear sunscreen (Check out my Sunscreen 101 blog post)
+ Consume less sugar
+ Use a topical anti-oxidant product such as Vitamin C serum to stimulate collagen production.

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Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

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+ Use topical retinoids (Vitamin A) which increases collagen production. Retinoids come both over the counter and prescription strength. Over the counter retinol is a great starting point for sensitive skin and new users. And prescription strength will be stronger and more aggressive. You would see a doctor to get a prescription for that strength.
+ Exfoliate the skin with glycolic acid products - this shocks the skin into the production of new skin cells and collagen. My favorite is a 15% glycolic gel serum that you would use nightly.
+ Get a fraxel laser and radio frequency treatments. Laser works 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 medi-spa, dermatologist or plastic surgeon office.

But what about oral supplements?
There are two schools of thought on this at the moment. A recent study suggests that ingesting a certain type of collagen peptide has increased the pro-collagen (precursor to collagen) levels in the dermis by 65%. Woah right? But not so fast, the other school of thought is how can ingesting a supplement, that is broken down by the highly acidic digestive system and end up in the correct layers of the skin? This is all very new to science and I can't wait to read more studies in the future. However, I think there are proven and more effective topical ways to stimulate your own collagen. Why not deliver the ingredients directly to the source?