Collagen is the most abundant protein found in mammals, including us. It makes up around 25-35% of the protein in our bodies, and it is not just found in the skin. Collagen is found in tendons, ligaments, cartilage, muscles, bones, blood vessels, the gut, the intervertebral discs; there’s quite a lot of it in our
corneas and of course in the skin.
The name, collagen comes from the Greek ‘kolla’ meaning glue and the suffix ‘-gen’ which denotes producing; which is appropriate as collagen literally holds cells together and connects different body parts.
Collagen and the skin
The skin is made up of three basic layers the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue, each layer has its own internal subdivisions. Collagen and keratin within those layers give the skin its strength, waterproofing, and elasticity.
It is this layer that gives our skin its elasticity. As we age the production of collagen slows and eventually halts. We lose collagen and our skin loses its elasticity and starts to develop wrinkles. As we grow older still we also start to lose some of the subcutaneous tissue in the face and even more collagen, our wrinkles become deeper and eventually our skin begins to sag from lack of structural support from collagen and subcutaneous tissue.
The dos and don’ts for battling wrinkles
Before we start doing thing to protect and improve our skin we should stop doing things which are harmful to our skin.
- Don’t smoke! For your general health and your skin’s sake. Smoking both contributes to collagen degradation and reduces the skin’s ability to make new collagen.
- Don’t go out without sunscreen. The sun’s ultraviolet radiation penetrates the skin’s surface to the dermis layer and causes collagen to weaken and break down at a higher and faster rate than natural ageing. It can also cause abnormalities and malfunctions in skin cells so collagen cells become unable to regenerate themselves, and the skin becomes even more vulnerable to sun damage. Use at least a SPF 30 UVA and B sunscreen daily.
- Get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep causes the body to produce more cortisol, a stress hormone that can break down skin cells. However, when you get enough sleep, the body produces more human growth hormone, which keeps skin from thinning, and therefore makes it less likely to wrinkle.
- Eat plenty of dark green, leafy vegetables, and red, orange and blue fruits and vegetables. Cabbage, kailan, kale etc. are loaded with lutein, an antioxidant that helps improve skin elasticity. Red, orange and blue fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that increase collagen as does the vitamin C in citrus fruits. Prunes and blueberries also contain high levels of antioxidants.
- Lots of foods contain plant oestrogens that can help replace the effects of lost oestrogen. Try hummus, nuts, soy and pinto beans. It is also known that prebiotics and probiotics are both good for the intestine and the skin. Collagen could also be supplemented orally. A trendin the collagen offering is working on beauty-from-within concept. While topical cosmetics only reach the outer layer of the skin (the epidemic) such powder supports the subjacent dermis and work from inside out.
Now that we are aware of some things that we can do to encourage our skin to produce more collagen and delay unwanted signs of ageing, let us do our best to give our skin the protein it craves!