Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, accounting for about 25 to 35 percent of total protein. The word “collagen” comes from the Greek word “kolla,” meaning glue. In fact, collagen is often considered to be the glue that holds the body together. Produced by fibroblasts (cells in the dermis), collagen is the main component of connective tissue.
In the dermis, collagen helps form a fibrous network (the extracellular matrix or ECM) upon which new dermal cells can grow. Collagen gives skin its strength, structural support and elasticity (in conjunction with elastin) and aids in the constant renewal of skin cells.
But what happens to collagen as we age? Beginning at age 20, the production of extracellular matrix decreases by 1 percent per year, eventually resulting in fine lines, wrinkles and loss of skin tone and elasticity that causes your skin to sag. When you smile, squint or frown, those facial movements stress the ECM in your skin. Over time, that stress contributes to fine lines and wrinkles.
Estrogen plays an important role in collagen production. As estrogen levels decline during and after menopause, collagen production decreases significantly. By your 60s, this lack of ECM production manifests in more pronounced wrinkles and sagging skin.
In addition to the natural decline in collagen due to aging, several extrinsic factors damage collagen and other ECM molecules, leading to fine lines, wrinkles and loss of skin elasticity:
UV radiation leads to damage of collagen and elastin by breaking down collagen and slowing the production of new collagen. Exposure to UV rays is the leading cause of skin aging, accounting for about 90 percent of the symptoms.
Toxins in cigarette smoke damage collagen and elastin, prematurely aging skin.
Excessive sugar intake.
Consuming too much sugar over time leads to glycation, a process that ages skin prematurely. Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) damage collagen fibers, causing them to lose elasticity and become rigid. These collagen abnormalities result in skin changes such as thinning, discoloration, loss of elasticity and tendency to rashes and infections.
How can you increase collagen production?
Eat foods containing nutrients that support collagen formation:
- Essential amino acids: Like all proteins, collagen is made of amino acids. Nine amino acids are essential—they can’t be synthesized by the body so must come from food.
- Proline: found in egg whites, meat, cheese, soy and cabbage
- Anthocyanidins: found in blackberries, blueberries, cherries and raspberries
- Vitamin C: found in oranges, strawberries, peppers and broccoli
- Copper: found in shellfish, nuts, red meat and some drinking water
- Vitamin A: found in animal-derived foods and in plant foods as beta-carotene (found in carrots, sweet potatoes and cantaloupe)
Micro-needling is a skin rejuvenation procedure that uses tiny needles to create micro-injuries in your skin. In response to these micro-injuries, your body initiates its natural wound healing process. During this healing process, existing collagen and elastin are remodeled. Micro-needling pushes the epidermal cells aside with minimal cell damage. One of the advantages of micro-needling is that it doesn’t cause heat shock proteins (proteins produced in response to exposure to stressful conditions), which can lead to pigmentation issues. Micro-needling using SkinPen improves the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and acne scars.
Use skincare products that contain vitamin C.
Topical application of vitamin C for at least 12 weeks has been shown to increase collagen production and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Skinfuse Surge 1 Collagen Boost and Skinfuse Reclaim Hydrating Support both contain vitamin C in the appropriate forms to both protect the skin from environmental and solar damage, as well as to contribute to the production of ECM.
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