Do collagen creams act the same as natural collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body, making up around 25-30% of our total protein content. It plays a critical role in providing structure and support to our tissues, including our skin, bones, tendons, and cartilage. In the skin, collagen is found in the dermis, the deeper layer of the skin that provides support and elasticity. It forms a network of fibers that give the skin its strength and resilience, helping to prevent wrinkles and sagging.
The Science Behind Collagen
As we age, the production of collagen in our body naturally declines, which can lead to a loss of skin elasticity, wrinkles, and other signs of aging. This is why collagen supplements and skincare products have become popular in recent years, as people look for ways to boost their collagen levels and improve the appearance of their skin.
“Despite the wide distribution of collagen-containing products in the market, clinical studies on skin rejuvenation following topical collagen treatment are lacking. It has been assumed that topically applied collagen can replace the native one, but unfortunately collagen fibers are too large to penetrate the stratum corneum (SC). Since the effect of collagen is ascribed to its penetration depth it can be assumed that a topically applied collagen cream has little to no effect on the skin.”, Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications.
Experts Explain the Myth of Collagen Creams
- Dr. Krant, Art of Dermatology: “Despite the important role of collagen in skin, adding collagen in a topical product is worthless in terms of anti-aging benefits. While topically applied collagen will moisturize the skin, that’s about the extent of what it can do. Applying collagen topically has never been shown to stimulate collagen synthesis or growth. This is because collagens have molecular weights making them too large to penetrate the top layer of skin. Typically only molecules of size 500 Daltons or less can effectively cross the skin barrier.”
- Dr. Cate Shanahan, M.D., a board-certified family physician: “Paying more for a skin cream that contains collagen is probably a complete waste of money. The collagen in the cream is not going to feed your living skin cells or rejuvenate your skin because the outer layers of skin are all dead cells. So it does nothing more than a skin cream without collagen.”
- WebMD: “Skin creams with synthetic collagen may not be an effective way to boost this protein in your body. They add a protective barrier on your skin and stop water loss, but they don’t raise the amount of it in your skin. It’s better to protect your skin from the sun, especially early in life when skin may be more sensitive.”.
“If you eat a balanced diet, your body likely makes enough collagen for your needs. Most of the studies into collagen supplements have been small. he FDA doesn’t regulate collagen supplements, so companies that make them don’t have to prove that they work or are safe. If you buy them, look for these keywords in the ingredients: collagen hydrolysate, hydrolyzed collagen, or collagen peptides.”
- Michael Matthews certified personal trainer, and bestselling author: “There’s no valid evidence that collagen protein improves skin, hair, or nail health, and no reason to think it would.”
“People selling collagen protein often refer to a couple of studies that seem to show results, but when you look beneath the hood, you quickly realize it’s just more chicanery.
For instance, two studies commonly cited are one conducted by scientists at Minerva Research Labs and another conducted by scientists at International Research Services. If you simply read the abstracts of these papers, you’d probably conclude that consuming collagen protein for 8 to 12 weeks can decrease the appearance of dry skin, flaking, lines, and wrinkles and increase the collagen and moisture content of your skin.
The Solution: Stimulate the Collagen Production in your Skin
The best way to boost collagen production in the skin is not necessarily through topical application, but rather through a combination of healthy lifestyle habits such as a balanced diet, regular exercise, and protecting the skin from sun damage.
Products that Stimulate Collagen in your Skin:
- Hyaluronic acid: A study titled “Hyaluronan enhances wound repair and increases collagen III in aged dermal wounds” discusses the effectiveness of Hyaluronic acid in stimulating the collagen to heal wounds. The researchers treated one of the study sample’s wounds with water and the other with hyaluronic acid. Wounds treated with hyaluronic acid improved significantly more than those treated with water. Also, levels of two types of collagen were higher in the skin around those wounds.
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- Vitamin C: “Vitamin C plays a critical role in the maintenance of a normal mature collagen network in humans (anti-scurvy properties) by preventing the auto-inactivation of lysyl and prolyl hyroxylase, two key enzymes in collagen biosynthesis.”, NIH.
“To stimulate collagen better, use a retinoid or vitamin C,” Boston-based dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch said.
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- Retinoids: According to The Medical News today, “The term retinoid refers to a group of compounds that derive from vitamin A. This means that they possess structural or functional similarities to vitamin A. Retinoids can be natural or synthetic and include many types and forms, such as retinol, retinal, and retinyl esters.”
“Retinoids regulate the cell apoptosis, differentiation and proliferation. Anti-wrinkle properties of retinoids promote keratinocytes proliferation, strengthen the protective function of the epidermis, restrain transepidermal water loss, protect collagen against degradation and inhibit metalloproteinases activity. Retinoid activity is related to high affinity for nuclear receptors: RAR – retinoid acid receptors and RXR – retinoid X receptors.”, Research Paper based.
Habits that Help in Keeping Collagen Production
- Always Use Sunscreen: sunscreen doesn’t stimulate collagen but it keeps our skin from the rays that reduce it. “UV radiation can cause collagen to break down at a higher rate than normal aging. It does this by penetrating the middle layer of skin (dermis), causing the abnormal buildup of elastin. When these elastins accumulate, enzymes are produced which inadvertently break down collagen and create so-called “solar scars.” Continued exposure only speeds the process, leading to further wrinkling and sagging.’’, Verywellhealth.
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- Following Collagen-Rich Diet: “Products to boost your collagen levels may be helpful, but you first need to consider if your body needs more.”, Elizabeth Bradley, MD says.
According to Cleveland Clinic, below are the foods packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals:
- Bone broth draws collagen out of beef, chicken, or fish bones.
- Protein-rich foods: Beef Chicken, Fish, Beans, Eggs, and Dairy products (milk, cheese).
- Vitamin C-Rich Foods: Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits), Red and green peppers, Tomatoes., Dark green, and leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts).
- Zinc-Rich Foods: Meats, Shellfish, Nuts, Whole grains, and Beans.
In summary, while collagen creams may provide some moisturizing benefits to the skin, their ability to actually improve the appearance of the skin is not well supported by scientific evidence. Protecting the skin from UV radiation and adopting a healthy lifestyle can help to slow down the loss of collagen and maintain healthy, youthful-looking skin.
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