I take a collagen supplement. Every weekday I pop the powder into a green smoothie and drink it in the hope of plumping up my skin with every sip. Has it helped? Look, I think it might have. Maybe. I don’t really know, it could be the retinol serum that I’m using or the RECREATION new product I’m currently testing. But it might be the collagen (insert hands up emoji here).
Or it could also be just a giant plastic container of hope.
This week, The Coveteur spoke to New York plastic surgeon, Dr Melissa Doft. Here’s what she had to say on whether taking collagen orally actually does anything to help improve skin tone.
What is collagen?
It’s not just beauty addicts who should care about collagen—it’s a vital molecule for overall health, says Dr. Doft, “Collagen is a complex protein [found] in many of our organs—muscles, bones, tendons, skin, digestive system, blood vessels, etc. It provides a structural scaffold to allow cells to form organs. In the skin, it leads to strength and elasticity.”
What are the benefits of having high collagen levels in the skin?
There’s a reason collagen is such a popular ingredient in anti-aging. “Increased collagen leads to smoother, firmer skin. It is important in cell renewal and repair.”
When do collagen levels start to deplete, agewise?
Your brain is fully mature at age 25, but your skin is reaching its physical peak as well. According to Dr. Doft, your collagen starts to decrease by 1 percent every year starting in your mid-20s.
Are topical collagen products effective?
Yes, but not in the way you think. Dr. Doft explains, “A [double-blind] study [where subjects] applied collagen-like proteins topically was shown to decrease the depth of wrinkles. But collagen is a large protein, and very large molecule, and cannot penetrate the skin’s barrier. Topical collagen is a great humectant and can add moisture to your skin, thus making your wrinkles appear improved.”
What about ingestible products?
They might not be necessary if your diet contains the right foods. “A study in which 35–55-year-old patients were given 2.5gm or 5.0gm of oral collagen daily demonstrated that oral collagen increased skin elasticity after four weeks. Naturally good sources of collagen are cow meat, chicken, fish, and egg whites. But orally ingested proteins are broken down in your gut, so a collagen protein ingested will turn into amino acids. Perhaps the answer to this study is that eating more protein improves your skin elasticity. But it is very unclear if eating collagen has any benefit.”
Are there alternatives to topical collagen products that work better?
“Instead of applying topical collagen, which cannot penetrate the skin, it would [be] better to apply ingredients known for boosting your skin’s own collagen, like retinol and vitamin C.”
Remember not to use these two at the same time, as they can cause skin irritation. “Treatments which cause micro-insults to the skin lead to a boost in collagen, such as microneedling, lasers, and chemical peels.”
How can you prevent collagen loss most effectively?
Sunscreen! All day, every day, with at least a 50 SPF. You can get sun damage even on a cloudy day, so don’t skimp. Also, quit smoking if you do, and never start if you’re younger. Round it all out with a diet high in protein and rich in antioxidants so your skin can start to repair itself from the inside out.
So will I keep taking it? God, probably. I'm hopeful like that. Vitamin C serums aren't great on my skin so I'm reliant on retinol. I also don't like the idea of causing harm to my skin so that it produces more collagen to fight the injury (the way most lasers and dermarollers work). Don't get me wrong, I've done those things, I just don't like the idea of them, so if I can find something else I can drink that will work then I'll try that for a while and see if it works. Keep you posted.
Do you take collagen? Tell us what you do to boost your skin routine in the comments, natural perfume and natural beauty products aside.