What is Collagen?

Collagen is a protein that binds tissue and is one of the main building blocks of the skin. It makes up around 75% of the dry weight in our skin.  Collagen is made up of 3 amino acids: glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. Together these amino acids provide the skin with volume, giving it a plum look and feel and help wrinkles or lines stay away.

There are 28 types of collagen with three types that are most abundant in the body.

Type I: This is the main type of collagen and accounts for roughly 90% of the body’s collagen. It is made of densely packed fibers and is found in the skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue and teeth.

Type II: This type is made of more loosely packed fibers and is found in the elastic cartilage, which cushions joints, and in the eyes.

Type III: This type supports the structure of muscles and blood vessels and is also found in the skin.

How is collagen made? 

Collagen starts off as procollagen. Procollagen, a precursor, is a combination of two amino acids, glycine and proline. The process then involves steps to convert procollagen to collagen, which requires vitamin C. Therefore, if the body is deficient in vitamin C collagen cannot be produced with the risk of scurvy developing. Other amino acids involved hydroxyproline, glutamine, and arginine. In addition, minerals that support collagen production are manganese, copper and zinc.

What source of collagen should I use?  

The sources of supplemental collagen depend on the type of collagen. If the source is beef or bovine, this supplies type I and III. If the source is chicken collagen this supplies type II. Fish collagen is type I and eggshell membrane is mostly type I and some type III and IV.

Type I and II collagen have specific benefits for the skin whereas is type III is best for cartilage.  Small amounts of bovine collagen, type I and III, haven been used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

Look for hydrolyzed collagen. When a product is hydrolyzed collagen, that means the collagen is processed to smaller collagen molecules and the small intestine can efficiently absorb the collagen.

Collagen is animal source, how about if I am vegan?

Collagen must be from some type of animal or fish source. However, there are products that contain supplemental amino acids, vitamins and minerals that help the body make collagen molecules.

What about vitamin C?

One study found that vitamin C supplements can boost the production of type I and type III collagens. Vitamin C also induces the production of enzymes that encourage your body’s own natural collagen development. Without vitamin C your body cannot convert amino acids into the strands that form collagen fibrils.

What are additional ways to supplement or help delay the loss of collagen? 

1.    Use topicals to enhance collagen production to help replenish collagen stores.  Retinoids or retinols: stimulate collagen synthesis in the skin. Alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid, and peptides trigger collagen formation

2.    In-office treatments performed by dermatologists: lasers, radiofrequency, ultrasound, micro-needling, fillers

Micro-needling: is a skin procedure that uses tiny needles that prick small holes in the top layer of skin. It is thought to disrupt the collagen and stimulates the body to form new, more youthful collagen fibers.

3.    Protein-rich foods

4.    Nutrients: vitamin C, zinc, copper

5.    Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30

6.    Regular skin massage: helps encourage the formation of procollagen-1 and enhance the benefits of anti-aging creams