The Collagen Confusion
Collagen: it’s the stuff that keeps your skin together. Actually, it keeps your entire body together. It’s the most abundant protein in the body, yet it declines with age. We don't understand why children have massive stores of collagen, while our collagen is reduced year by year.
Loss of collagen is the prime cause of the signs of aging in the skin. Not only do we see it in our hair, nails, and skin, but we also feel the lack of collagen in our gut and joints. We want to look and feel young for as long as possible, but our lack of education about collagen and how it works is the reason why we continue to decline.
So, how do we get more collagen into or onto our body?
What is the Best Method for Increasing Collagen?
Have you ever wondered, is it most effective to rub collagen on our skin, inject collagen into our body directly, or eat collagen?
Here is a look at the pros, cons, and myths regarding the most well-known methods used in efforts of increasing collagen with age:
1. Rubbing Collagen Creams on the Skin
Here’s the short story. Applying collagen on top of your skin doesn’t work. Period.
The collagen molecule is too large to penetrate your skin, resulting in the material simply sitting on top of your skin. In short, you won’t get any lasting or legitimate skin improvement from this method.
“But the lady at the makeup counter said this cream contains collagen and stimulates the collagen in my skin,” you say?...
Peptide creams, or neuropeptide creams, are a newer version of the old “collagen cream” approach. You may have heard about these on TV, or at the makeup counter at your local department store. The theory behind these creams is that these smaller molecules, called “peptides”, will penetrate the the dermis and stimulate the natural collagen production on the skin. But, truth be told, there is no evidence of peptide creams being able to contribute directly to the existence of collagen inside your skin, their direct benefit is controversial.
These peptides creams may help with skin hydration, but will not increase the amount of collagen in your skin. Further, they are typically accompanied with many other undesirable ingredients. Peptide creams are known to be filled with preservatives and other harmful ingredients that, if you really understood how they impacted your body, you wouldn’t want to put anywhere near your skin. Don’t be sold.
We believe peptide creams are not worth the risk, cost, or the supposed benefit.
A Better Alternative to Collagen Creams
The use of serums containing natural nano materials, like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and DMAE will have a more immediate and hydrating effect on the skin over the use of peptide creams. These ingredients have been clinically shown to visibly and measurably improve skin quality (hydration, firmness, tone).
And here’s a secret… most peptide creams already contain these ingredients to increase their effectiveness!
These ingredients boost skin hydration, stimulate collagen production, as well as protect the collagen fibers already in your skin, acting like a cushion around the dermis.
For best results, find an organic or natural serum with these ingredients to avoid absorbing harmful chemicals into your body through your skin.
2. Injecting Collagen
Collagen fillers and injectables have been an effective way to temporarily increase the collagen content locally under the skin. They are injected beneath the skin, in the dermis, where the body assimilates the material into its own matrix. (There are other applications for collagen injections, related to various medical conditions, but we’re only discussing the cosmetic uses of collagen.)
Collagen fillers can come from human donors, your own body, or animal sources, and their use has trended down in preference of hyaluronic acid and other fillers for their safety and effectiveness.
While the immediate cosmetic effect of collagen injections may be good, the downside is that the benefit is only skin deep. Maybe you’re ok with that. However, the filler will degrade, just like your natural body collagen, and replacing it with continued injections is costly.
Types of Collagen Fillers
The following collagen fillers are known to temporarily increase or replace body collagen where it is locally injected.
- Autologen is extracted from your own body.
- Dermalogen is extracted from deceased human donors.
- Other synthetic injectable fillers are not considered actual collagen, and may be rejected by the body.
3. Eating Collagen
Over the last 30 years, the idea that we can replenish our body collagen through food has emerged as a legitimate way to continuously maintain collagen levels in the body. In fact, eating collagen is the only way to truly increase your body's collagen supply with age.
Not to be confused with collagen boosters, edible collagen protein can be found in animal bones, chicken cartilage, eggshell membrane, chicken skin, and fish skin. Cultures that routinely eat these parts of animals are known to have excellent skin and joint quality.
But, there's a downside...
Eating whole collagen is only minimally effective. It may be accompanied by a large dose of unwanted saturated fat and cholesterol, and, much of the benefit of the protein gets lost in the digestion process. Basically, you will likely have to eat more collagen material than you're willing to eat in order to reap the long-term rewards for your hair, nails, skin, and joints.
There must be a better way to get collagen from food.
The Answer Is Amino Acids From Collagen...
To get the most benefit from eating collagen, the whole protein from collagen must be broken down (or "hydrolyzed") into smaller amino acids ("peptides") prior to ingesting it. Amino acids are the fuel your body uses for building up skin, tissues, and bone, and you need enough of the right balance of amino acids for collagen synthesis.
For this reason, and a very good reason, hydrolyzed collagen supplements, have been gaining popularity in health and beauty. Without the unwanted saturated fat and cholesterol, collagen supplements come in many forms (powder, tablets, and liquids), and from various sources (bovine, chicken, porcine, fish, or marine).
Choose the one that’s right for you.
The good news about collagen powders, is that the powder form allows for more generous dosing than tablets, and there have been numerous clinical studies measuring real improvements to the skin. Beyond the outward benefits, collagen peptides bring improvement to the whole body, including the gut and the joints as well.
The results will last as long as you eat collagen peptides daily.
Tips on Choosing a Collagen Supplement
The best source of collagen peptides have been studied and found to be in fish. While bovine and porcine are also fine sources, the unique amino acid profile of fish collagen peptides are known to be superior in absorption and bioavailability. (Do not confuse fish collagen with lower-quality marine collagen.)
Avoid collagen powders that are combined with sugars, preservatives, or other unhealthy ingredients. Elavonne’s Amino Collagen C contains pure fish collagen peptides with hyaluronic acid and vitamin C (collagen boosters), and has many years of positive reviews.
The Bottom Line
We now know that rubbing collagen creams on our skin doesn’t work and may contain harmful chemicals and preservatives that we’re better off avoiding. Injecting collagen into the dermis, while immediately effective for solving cosmetic issues like wrinkles and skin fullness, is still just a temporary and limited solution to increasing collagen content in the body. Both methods are costly.
A superior, long-lasting, and natural method of getting collagen into the body is through ingesting the amino acids from collagen protein. An affordable and healthful solution, collagen peptides are by far the best way to maintain collagen levels in the body on a regular basis.
Eat it or drink it, collagen supplements are the best method to increase your body's collagen.
What to expect from different types of collagen supplements.
How much collagen do you need per day? When to expect results?
Cites and References
Dev Biol. 1984 Jul;104(1):28-36. Collagen in the egg shell membranes of the hen. Wong M, Hendrix MJ, von der Mark K, Little C, Stern R. Jun Kit Wang, Kim Pin Yeo, Yong Yao Chun, Timothy Thatt Yang Tan, Nguan Soon Tan, Véronique Angeli, Cleo Choong.
Fish scale-derived collagen patch promotes growth of blood and lymphatic vessels in vivo. Acta Biomaterialia, 2017; 63: 246 DOI: 10.1016/j.actbio.2017.09.001. Jun Kit Wang, Gordon Minru Xiong, Baiwen Luo, Chee Chong Choo, Shaojun Yuan, Nguan Soon Tan, Cleo Choong.
Surface modification of PVDF using non-mammalian sources of collagen for enhancement of endothelial cell functionality. Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Medicine, 2016; 27 (3) DOI: 10.1007/s10856-015-5651-8
Nanyang Technological University. "Scientists discover fish scale-derived collagen effective for healing wounds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 March 2018.
2017 Nov; 9(11): 1209. Effect of Orally Administered Collagen Peptides from Bovine Bone on Skin Aging in Chronologically Aged Mice. Hongdong Song, Siqi Zhang, Ling Zhang, and Bo Li
Collagen Injection for Female Urinary Incontinence After Urethral or Periurethral Surgery. The Journal of Urology, Volume 181, Issue 2, February 2009, Pages 701-704. Ginger Isom-Batz, Philippe E. Zimmern.
Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55. doi: 10.1159/000351376. Epub 2013 Aug 14. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Proksch E1, Segger D, Degwert J, Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S.