You’ve probably noticed skin and hair care companies claiming the collagen in their products can reduce wrinkles and fine lines, or strengthen your hair and nails. Is this really true, though?
If you’ve been in the skin or hair care section of any store recently, you’ve probably seen “collagen” everywhere you look. Manufacturers claim it can reduce wrinkles, strengthen your skin, hair, and nails, and even minimize cellulite.
If this is all true, collagen would be quite the wonder ingredient, indeed. But, is it? Let’s find out!
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It’s in our skin, bones, spinal discs, muscles, tendons, and blood vessels. It’s even in our digestive system, where it forms a scaffold to provide strength and structure. It’s also the incredible compound that gives our skin elasticity and strength, while also helping our skin cells repair and renew themselves.
Unfortunately, the production of collagen starts to slow down as we age. Some factors can speed up the depletion, including tobacco and alcohol consumption, overexposure to the sun, a high-processed or sugar-filled diet, autoimmune diseases, and stress. However, it’s a natural process that happens to everyone.
The decrease in collagen production starts in our 20s. The collagen fibers start to break down and no longer fully regenerate, but we don’t really see it until we’re in our late 30s or 40s. Our skin starts to feel looser and our hair starts to thin because the flow of nutrients diminishes, as well. Our bone density also lowers, as calcium binds to collagen to become part of the bones.
So, given this information, it’s reasonable to think that supplementing your skin, hair, or even your entire body with collagen would be helpful, right?
There are 28 different types of collagen, grouped by their structural shape. When it comes to the human body, our food, and potential supplements, though, there are three main types of collagen it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with:
- Type 1: Almost 90% of the collagen in the human body is Type 1. This is also the type that’s most connected with hair, skin, and nail health. It’s also abundant in the bones, connective tissue, and muscle fibers. It can be found alone, or in conjunction with Type 3.
- Type 2: This is more specialized, as it’s the main component of joint cartilage and, when supplemented, it promotes joint health. It’s also been known to relieve the symptoms of rheumatism and arthritis, as it reduces overall inflammation and swelling.
- Type 3: This is fibrillar collagen, which plays a huge role in reducing inflammation, treating vascular diseases, and improving the health of our lungs, kidneys, and liver. It’s also found in the bone marrow, along with Type 1.
There are numerous sources of collagen. It’s primarily found in animal products that are high in protein, like bone broth, bovine, chicken, fish, eggshell membrane, and seafood. However, there’s also a plant-based option: wheat germ.
Eating a collagen-rich diet will ensure you get a good amount of building blocks to promote collagen synthesis. According to Carrie Gabriel, a registered dietitian, eating things like bone broth delivers collagen your body can use right away, unlike supplements.
So, if you’re wanting to boost your collagen, start with your food, then add in some supplements. Because our food and soil are also being depleted and stripped of their nutrients, minerals, and vitamins, some form of supplementation is key, especially after we roll into our 40s.
Luckily, lots of food manufacturers are adding collagen to their products, which makes it much easier to add it to your diet, without having to drastically change your routine.
For example, these collagen-filled protein bars from Kalumi Beauty Food contain 8 grams of type 1 marine Collagen. They’re also non-GMO, and gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free. Plus, they come in three different flavors.
HUM Nutrition’s powerful collagen capsules are packed with types 1, 2, and 3 of collagen. They also contain hyaluronic acid and vitamin C—everything you need to maintain healthy skin, hair, and nails as you age.
If you prefer a powder you can add to your smoothies, overnight oats, soups, hot cacao, or just mix with water, we recommend Dr. Axe’s Multi-Collagen Protein Powder. It contains collagen types I, II, III, V, and X from four food sources: bovine, chicken, fish, and eggshell membrane.
It’s also important to note that many other factors can support and boost the formation and use of collagen in the body, such as vitamins C and E, copper, manganese, lycopene. Foods high in anthocyanidins, such as blue-, elder-, and blackberries, as well as cherries, are also helpful.
This is just another reason why a versatile diet is so crucial for optimal health. Not only does it help with collagen production, but it also helps with every other function in our bodies.
There’s also been some research on yarrow and pomegranate seed oils, which combine their volatile and non-volatile molecules into powerful antioxidant protection, which fights free radicals from breaking down collagen and helps slow down the process.
Additionally, using skin care products that contain retinol is also thought to be helpful with slowing down the formation of wrinkles, as well as reducing the appearance of cellulite and stretch marks, and improving the skin’s elasticity.
So, does collagen live up to the hype? Although the science around it is still fairly recent, numerous studies have shown positive results from collagen supplementation, as its depletion happens to all of us as we age, and there’s no real way around it (at least, right now).
However, you’ll find that a healthier lifestyle and nutrient-rich diet yields better (and faster) results. It also offers health benefits far beyond collagen production, so if you make taking care of your body your number one priority, it will take care of you.
While collagen might not be the “magic pill” some manufacturers claim it to be, if you’ve been thinking of giving it a try, start with your food. See if you notice any change for the better within a few months. While you wait, you might also want to give your face muscles a workout, too.