Jason Pozner MD.Dr. Pozner is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and is a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the largest and most prestigious organization of board-certified plastic surgeons in the world. He and also holds a membership in the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery and the American Society for Lasers in Medicine and Surgery. Dr. Pozner has been a consultant or investigator for many aesthetic companies and serves as an advisory board member, enabling him to make sure his expertise helps others and lifts up his colleagues.
Dr. Pozner graduated from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, achieving the honor of “Distinction in Research,” before training for five years in an intensive general surgery residency at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York. He completed a Microsurgery Fellowship at Montefiore Medical Center in New York and his Plastic Surgery residency at New York’s Downstate Medical Center.
One of the newest health trends is collagen. It’s hard to walk out of a grocery store without seeing jars of powdered collagen supplements or other products derived from collagen, that claim they can improve the health of your skin and joints. Despite the recent gain in popularity as a nutritional supplement, collagen is still relatively new and many of us have questions about the recent surge in the popularity of collagen products.
In this article, we will review some of the medical studies and claims on the topic of collagen. We will review the nutritional importance and the various sources and forms of collagen. We will also examine the basics of how our body produces natural collagen and what foods to eat to keep our skin healthy. We also highlight ways to stimulate the production of collagen. One of these is a new non-surgical cosmetic procedure that many dermatologists are seeing good results from.
By the end of this article, you should have a better understanding of this new health trend as well as, answer the questions, do I need collagen supplements and do they work?
What is Collagen?
The word collagen derives from the Greek word kola, which means glue. This is true to its meaning since collagen really is like an adhesive that holds many of our body’s tissues together. For example, collagens are the main structural component of connective tissue that are bound together to form a triple helix known as the collagen helix. It is mostly found in connective tissue such as skin, tendons, ligaments, bones, cartilage.
Collagen is known as the protein that gives skin its suppleness and keeps joints healthy. In fact, collagen is found in your bones, muscles, and blood and makes up three-quarters of your skin and a third of your body’s protein.
As we age, collagen breaks down, making it more difficult for the body to produce new collagen. As a result, we begin to lose collagen, and our skin loses its suppleness and strength. This degradation of collagen causes wrinkles and an aged appearance.
To try and offset this change in our bodies, many people will begin using collagen supplements as part of their skin anti-aging regime. These collagen supplements come in various forms, including powder, tablets, creams, and liquid collagen.
Our bodies make up 16 distinct types of collagens. Most common in the human body are Type l, ll, and lll.
- Type l collagen is the most common and is in our bones, ligaments, and tendons. Type I is also found in the skin, where it helps maintain the skin’s suppleness and strength.
- Collagen Type II is in cartilage.
- Type III is in the skin, blood vessels, and internal organs and is always present with Type I.
Here’s a closer breakdown of the three primary forms of collagen and their functions in your body:
- Type l – Is found throughout the body except in cartilaginous tissues. It is in the skin, tendon, vascular organs and is the main component of bone. Over 90% of the collagen in your body is type l.
- Type II -collagen is the main component of cartilage, which cushions your joints.
- Type III -collagen found in the walls of arteries, muscles, organs are all supported by this sort of tissue.
We also examined how our body makes collagen. What we learned is that all proteins are made up of tiny molecules called amino acids.
When we eat protein, our body breaks it down into its individual amino acids. It then uses those amino acids to make new proteins. Amino acids have been described as the building blocks, and our body puts them together to form collagen. The most prevalent are the three amino acids are glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. We describe these in more detail later in this article.
What does collagen do to your face?
According to studies, collagen is an essential protein found in our skin that can help with suppleness and hydration and strengthen the skin. As we get older, collagen production decreases. You begin to lose some fat under your skin, and your skin’s elasticity drops. That combined with dryness causes fine lines and wrinkles. There are ways to improve the production of collagen when these changes to your skin begin to occur. These can include our body’s natural production of collagen to eating or drinking collagen peptides found in supplements. As well as, today’s new advanced energy-based cosmetic treatments.
Dermatologists that have studied collagen powder explain that collagen powder is made from animal tissue, specifically skin and bones. The protein is processed into a gelatinous form, which is then hydrolyzed into peptides to make the protein more easily absorbed by your body. There is some evidence that collagen peptides can improve the skin by increasing moisture and suppleness while decreasing lines and wrinkle depth.
Overall, collagen plays a vital role in the face.
Does collagen do anything for your skin?
Our natural collagen maintains our skin. Collagen activates fibroblasts’ skin cells, which cause collagen and elastin, a protein that gives our skin elasticity.
For ages, Chinese ladies have consumed such things as pig’s feet, shark fins in the hopes of smoothing wrinkled skin and maintaining aging joints. It wasn’t till the 1980s that collagen became well-known in the United States as a costly injectable filler for plumping lips and softening wrinkles.
Recently edible collagen has gained popularity in the United States, as companies have come up with more attractive methods to consume it. Collagen is known to be the body’s scaffolding, the substance that holds the body together. Collagen accounts for around 75% of the dry weight of your skin, giving volume that keeps your skin appearing plump and wrinkle-free. Our bodies break it down quicker than we can restore it. As we get older, data shows that we start losing around 1% of our collagen every year in our mid-20s and lose up to 30% during the first five years after menopause.
When choosing what collagen is best for your skin, there are several things to consider. First, consider finding one with a diverse amino acid profile, the more amino acids, the better. Second, though collagen can come in many diverse sources, bovine is the strongest and most effective. We also learned that, when collagen is hydrolyzed, it means the amino acids within it have been broken down, so they’re easier for your body to absorb. The third and final recommendation is to think about finding a supplement that contains types l & lll since they are considered most potent and best for the skin.
Are collagen supplements safe?
Collagen supplements are found in the skin, tendons or other connectives tissues of cows, pigs, chickens, or fish. Collagen that claims to be vegan is genetically modified yeast bacteria, however, there is not enough evidence currently to determine if it has the same benefits as animal-derived collagen.
As with all dietary supplements, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not verify that collagen supplements contain what they say they do or determine whether they could even possibly be contaminated with heavy metals, bacteria, or other pesticides before they are sold.
That said, the short-term studies that we reviewed have not found any serious or harmful effects from taking collagen supplements.
What are the myths about collagen supplements?
One of the most common myths is about collagen-containing body creams, lotions, medicinal ointments, and moisturizers that claim to increase collagen levels. However, simply applying a collagen cream to boost your skin’s elasticity is more complicated than that. In fact, currently, there is no actual scientific evidence supporting that just using topical collagen can increase collagen production.
Myth: Collagen supplements burn fat
There are dietary supplements out there claiming that collagen has the power to burn fat. That said, today there is no proven scientific research to indicate that this is true.
Myth: collagen supplements can help you sleep better
Some sleep supplements on the market claim that collagen can help you get a better night’s sleep. That is because of collagen’s glycine content which can be an excellent sleep stimulator. Again in this case also there is no scientifically backed evidence for this claim that indicates collagen contains enough glycine to impact sleep.
In summary, collagen supplements have been shown to provide some legitimate benefits that include promoting skin, hair, muscle, and joint health. Although buyer beware, not all claims made about collagen are supported by research, so choose wisely before you decide to purchase.
What time should I take collagen?
Whether you take collagen supplements in the morning or at night will depend entirely on an individual. The best time to take collagen supplements is determined by why you’re taking them in the first place. If you’ve had problems with vitamins in the past, there is some evidence that says it’s best to take your collagen first thing in the morning.
We also learned that mixing them into a smoothie or a cup of coffee sugar is a significant contributor to the breakdown of collagen. To conclude more evidence-based studies are needed on whether collagen can help with sleep.
Ways to stimulate collagen production
One example that will stimulate collagen production is retinoic acid. Retinol is said to increase collagen synthesis in the skin, according to a March 2016 medically reviewed study published in the “Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology”. This medically reviewed study states that alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid, and peptides, can stimulate collagen production.
Similarly, the use of hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is an important compound for collagen in the skin specifically for the face.
Others are vitamin C, Aloe vera gel, ginseng, and other antioxidants, which are a few that have claims that say they improve skin health.
Evidence shows that equally important is maintaining a healthy diet. Protein-rich diets will provide your body with the amino acids required to make collagen. Eating a diversified diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean meats, seafood, and nuts is thought to increase collagen production.
Sleep is also thought to boost collagen, although further human research is needed. A study on mice published in “Nature Cell Biology” in January 2020 reveals that maintaining a regular sleep schedule may aid collagen renewal. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should receive 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.
There are also many Dermatologists who are proponents of new cosmetic procedures that stimulate collagen production. One such procedure is SofwaveTM a clinically proven, breakthrough procedure that can increase collagen formation and improve skin appearance.
Here’s what you should know about SofwaveTM
This is a non-invasive treatment that uses innovative technology to stimulate collagen production.
SofwaveTM can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while also revitalizing your skin. Its advanced “synchronous ultrasound parallel beam technology,” SUPERBTM which tackles collagen remodeling, is the key. The procedure has the ability to reach and treat the mid-dermis, and can safely and effectively stimulate collagen development by targeting the proper depth underneath the skin. This can be achieved in a 30–45-minute treatment, without surgery or recovery time.
Overall, there is much written about how to stimulate collagen production, further research is needed to prove the science behind some claims. Sofwave however, is a clinically proven, science-based procedure that is gaining in popularity with dermatologists and their patients as an effective and safe way to stimulate collagen production to improve fine lines and wrinkles.
What roles do peptides play in the skin?
Collagen peptides, also known as collagen hydrolysates, have a range of functions. At their most fundamental level, they are the building blocks for collagen and other proteins in the body. Additionally, the peptides bind to receptors on collagen-producing fibroblasts, causing them to produce more collagen. Even more, the peptides function as antioxidants, shielding the body’s existing collagen from oxidative stress, which would otherwise cause it to break down.
Peptides, also called polypeptides, naturally occur in the skin and are ingredients in many skincare products. Peptides are amino acids that make up proteins needed by the skin. They are often described as short chains of amino acids that act as building blocks. These building blocks are made of three polypeptide chains, so as a result, adding peptides can help stimulate your skin to produce more collagen.
According to studies we reviewed, peptides can help minimize wrinkles and dryness in the skin and slow aging. One example claims that when peptides are administered to the skin as a serum or moisturizer, they work as a messenger. Peptides are thought to help stabilize and transport compounds that are necessary for collagen synthesis. As a result, peptides can aid in the reduction of wrinkles and fine lines. Additional evidence shows that peptides are broken down collagen molecules that are easier to digest and absorb. These peptides dissolve well in liquids so that you can drink them.
There is research that has examine if collagen hydrolysate (CH), which makes up specific collagen peptides, may aid in the biophysical features of skin aging. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 69 women aged 35 to 55 were randomly assigned to receive 2.5 g or 5.0 g of CH or a placebo once a day for eight weeks.
The research determined that the skin’s elasticity, hydration, and roughness were measured objectively. The study showed after four weeks of regular intake (t1), the skin elasticity significantly improved in collagen hydrolysate (CH) dosage groups compared to placebo. Peptides can be unpredictable because of their makeup of 50 amino acids. By adding, deleting, or replacing one of those amino acids, you can have a new peptide with a different function, such as improving skin quality and reducing inflammation or locking in moisture.
Although there are hundreds of peptides, there are two that impact your skin. These are tetrapeptides and hexapeptides that have physical properties that influence their actions. One example of this explains that hexapeptides brighten while tetrapeptides boost elasticity.
Additionally, we learned that signal peptides send signals to the skin, telling it to up collagen and elastin production. Matrixyl-3000 and copper peptides are two examples of signal peptides.
In summary, medical studies that have been conducted indicate peptides provide a significant role in slowing the skin aging process.
Limitation & drawbacks of peptides
While peptides can be good for the skin, they are a few drawbacks.
According to studies, we learned that when choosing a peptide, to be mindful of what peptides work well with other ingredients. For example, using a peptide with an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) will make the peptides work less efficiently.
Another drawback is peptides can be very expensive. Considering this, it is important to be informed that several distinct types of peptides exist and that some don’t have any effect on the skin. There are more research studies needed to back all these claims.
Lastly, because research is still developing for peptides. You might want to consider other ingredients AHA’s and retinol that are currently more scientifically backed anti-aging ingredients.
How do peptides work?
Peptides can penetrate the outer layer of the skin, so instead of sitting on top of the skin, they sink in more deeply. They are often called messengers for cells that send signals telling the cells to produce collagen and elastin.
A medically reviewed study indicated that women who consumed a beverage containing a collagen peptide supplement regularly for 12 weeks had improved skin hydration and a substantial reduction in the depth of their wrinkles compared to a control group.
There are also claims that collagen supplements have wrinkle-reducing properties since they increase your body’s natural collagen production. As well as, that collagen supplements aid in preventing acne and other skin diseases. Continued research is needed to support these claims.
What does collagen do to your joints?
When it comes to joint support, collagen, the most abundant protein found in your body, plays a vital role. Research shows that collagen stimulates cartilage growth. Over time, the cartilage can wear off due to aging and the repeated movement of joints and cause joint pain. As a result, tendons stretch, and bones rub against each other causing this pain. Collagen can provide support for the growth and repair of cartilage tissue and relieve joint inflammation and pain.
Type ll collagen found in joints is the body’s areas more prone to wear and tear. When choosing a joint supplement, medical experts recommend looking for one that contains collagen as an active ingredient to support joints.
Overall, collagen is a broad word for the primary structural proteins present in humans’ and animals’ skin and connective tissues, accounting for around 30% of total protein in the body. Collagen can also be found in plants. There are amino acids in collagen (glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, lysine, and arginine). There are at least 16 different kinds of collagen. Humans primarily have Types I-III. Skin, tendon, vasculature, organs, and bone are the most common where type I can be found. Type II is found in cartilage, while Type III can be found in reticular fibers (thin branching fibers in connective tissue).
To sum up, this plentiful protein found in our body not only plays a key role in our skin but is also a vital role in our joints.
What can damage collagen production?
Collagen damage can occur by overeating sugar and refined carbs. Sugar interferes with collagen’s ability to repair itself. So, minimizing your intake of added sugar and refined carbs is important to reduce or eliminate from your diet.
Two other factors that can lead to collagen breakdown is getting too much sun. Ultraviolet radiation can accelerate the natural decline of collagen. Lastly, smoking also can lead to the breakdown of collagen which in the end results in less collagen being produced.
Foods that are high in collagen
According to some sources, the collagen diet is a way of eating that involves avoiding sugar and refined carbs while consuming foods high in collagen.
Healthy food sources of collagen are protein-rich foods. Such as garlic, citrus fruits, berries, white tea, red and yellow vegetables, leafy greens, cashews, soy, avocados, meat, eggs, fish and seafood, legumes, and dairy. These sources provide your body with a variety of amino acids necessary for collagen production. Other collagen-rich meals include bone broth and gelatin.
Foods that contain collagen peptides are collagen molecules that have been broken down to make them easier to digest and absorb. If you want to drink your collagen, the peptides dissolve well in liquids.
Recent studies have revealed there are some benefits of collagen consumption. Those who recommend this diet consider these foods promoting skin elasticity, anti-aging, as well as, relieving joint pain. It is uncertain from these studies if these benefits would have happened with any form of protein and a balanced diet. We also learned that because collagen cannot be absorbed and is broken down into amino acids when digested, its ingestion cannot guarantee the production of new collagen.
Overall, there are many individuals who follow a collagen diet or use collagen supplements that there are health benefits. These can include improved skin tone, reduced hair loss, improved sleep, build stronger muscles, promote bone health, strengthen the immune system, healthy for your heart overall. It is believed by these individuals, that foods that are high in collagen can increase your lifespan.
Collagen filler ingredients to avoid
Avoid artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners. Medical advice recommends a high-quality food with at least 90% protein—for the best effects, take your collagen powder once or twice a day for at least three months. Collagen powder dissolves in water and food, so you can mix it in with anything you’re drinking or eating. It’s always a good idea is to ask your doctor before starting a new supplement regimen.
A final word on what can speed up collagen breakdown. Environmental variables like sun exposure, smoking, and pollution, as well as the natural process of aging.
Does collagen do anything for your muscle growth or weight control?
The idea behind claims that collagen can help with weight loss is that protein, in general, will make a person feel full. On the other hand, Collagen research is scarce, and all the studies that have been done so far have only involved small populations.
For example, one study revealed that eating gelatin caused an increase in gut hormones linked to fullness, but it only included 22 people. In another study, researchers fed 24 people meals containing several types of protein, such as casein, soy, whey, alpha-lactalbumin, or gelatin. Finally, a single-protein diet containing alpha-lactalbumin or gelatin produced 40 percent greater satiety than a diet containing other proteins, as well as 20 percent fewer calories at lunch. A study of single-protein diets found that a gelatin diet produced greater appetite suppression. Again, this study, too, only included 23 participants.
The most widely cited study that we found was an article in “Today’s Dietician” which showed how collagen benefits muscle growth in a small, randomized trial of 53 older men with sarcopenia. The supporting evidence came from studies of older persons, who often have poor dietary protein consumption in general. It discovered that using collagen peptide supplements and resistance training boosted muscle strength and mass more than resistance training alone. However, it is not known whether these findings may not apply to younger people or athletes.
What are the benefits of collagen drinks?
Collagen peptides in these drinks are said to be digested into smaller molecules before being absorbed in our intestines. They’ve been proven to appear in the bloodstream one hour after ingestion, and studies have shown that these absorbed peptides can reach the skin and stay there for up to two weeks.
- Nutrients are absorbed faster into your circulation than any topical treatment.
- These collagen peptides enter your body and stimulate fibroblasts in your skin, causing your collagen to become more active.
- According to medical experts, what happens is there is a significant quantity of hydrolyzed collagen that enters your system when you eat, and this allows 90-95 percent of the collagen peptides to reach the target areas in your body.
- These collagen peptides can also aid with digestion. Collagen boosts stomach acid production due to its high glycine concentration, which helps with food digestion.
In summary, collagen drinks according to some studies illustrate they can be a useful source of collagen for our bodies.
How to choose collagen supplements
If we could get enough collagen from our food, that would be ideal. However, the truth is that a fast-paced lifestyle often prevents us from paying closer attention to the aspects of our diet that contribute to the focus on collagen consumption. As a result, nutritional supplements are a convenient and economical option and they frequently include other beneficial ingredients.
Here are some helpful hints for selecting the best collagen supplement. Vitamin C functions as an antioxidant, promoting the development of fibroblasts and controlling collagen synthesis. It is necessary for the creation of collagen and elastin, which give the skin a youthful appearance.
After the production of procollagen, the critical moment in collagen creation occurs. It must go through a hydroxylation process before moving on to the next phase, glycosylation, which gives collagen a functional structure.
There will be no hydroxylation and consequently no collagen formation if vitamin C is not present. As a result, when selecting a collagen supplement, be sure it also contains vitamin C.
The best source for collagen in supplements is animal sources, such as marine animals or cattle. These are used to make collagen-containing dietary supplements. We learned that organic farming offers the best source for dietary collagen supplements because they do not contain heavy metals or pesticides. Collagen originated from calves that have been fed grass and have had adequate life conditions are considered superior. We also examined would it be better to get collagen from cow or marine animals? We learned they both contain diverse types of collagen. For example, bovine collagen has type I and III collagen. Type III is in the intestines and is responsible for lining repair. Given the range of sources, it was concluded that the best source, will be determined on your own personal circumstances, but organic should always be part of the equation.
Lastly, when choosing a supplement make sure the ingredients read hydrolyzed collagen. The whole amino acid sequence is present in hydrolyzed collagen. As a result, it makes sense to choose a collagen source that has all the necessary components.
Are there any drawbacks to taking collagen supplements?
A glutathione-based dietary supplement is one of the newest ingredients that has recently made claims to fight skin aging while also brightening the complexion. The product is targeting primarily Asian women who are looking for remedies to lighten their skin.
So, can collagen whiten the skin? Our findings show that vitamin C can play a role, but there is still more evidence needed on glutathione. It will be interesting to follow the new collagen product glutathione to see what further medical studies will find.
Our exploration of collagen examined its various critical roles and its recent gain in popularity as a nutritional supplement. We learned that collagen supplementation could be especially beneficial as we age because our bodies begin to produce less collagen. We learned that there isn’t robust evidence to support that ingesting collagen supplements is an effective way to improve your health or increase collagen production. That is not to say they are completely ineffective as some research is showing positive results.
Yet until there’s more conclusive evidence in science backed studies in favor of supplements or collagen-enhanced foods and drinks, the best solution we concluded may be to focus on eating a healthy diet that supplies enough protein and limits our sugar and sun exposure.
Bottom line, we found that the business component of collagen is further along than the science component. Continued research will discover innovative ways to use collagen to improve our health in the future.