It’s a well-known fact that collagen loss is what reduces the elasticity in our skin, making it – and us – look older. A lot of skincare brands claim they can help fight that sign of ageing, but it’s hard to know what’s actually possible, especially once the process has already started. We tapped Dr. Mariano Spiezia, medical doctor and herbalist, renowned skin expert and founder of Inlight Beauty, for all the information on collagen’s function in the skin and what you can do to minimise loss.
What is collagen?
“Collagen is a protein made up of more than 1,400 amino acids, which is the base of the connective tissue in the body and the most abundant protein in mammals,” says Dr. Spiezia. High amounts of collagen are in your tendons, skin, ligaments, cartilage and bones, as well as blood vessels and muscles. The word collagen comes from the Greek word for glue, which makes sense, because it’s essentially what holds the body together, along with supporting and nourishing tissues and producing elasticity.
What happens to collagen as our skin ages?
Your body is always producing collagen and elastin fibres, but the process starts to slow down as you age. That said, it’s not just aging that’s responsible for that breakdown. “Factors such as genetic footprint, pollution, UVB, stress, smoke, food and lack of nutrients and antioxidants can highly influence production or loss of collagen,” Dr. Spiezia explains.
How can you stop that breakdown from happening?
Bad news. “Unfortunately, we cannot stop this natural process otherwise we would have found the ‘fountain of youth!’” says Dr. Spiezia. However, there are ways of slowing it down and adjusting your lifestyle to better support the production of collagen. Eat food rich in high quality protein, from both animal and plant sources. Things like spirulina, chlorella algae, yeast, barley grass powder and nuts are great, along with leafy greens, berries and citrus fruit. Amino acid supplements like arginine and ornithine can also help.
Is prevention better than repair?
Preventing that collagen loss is always easier than trying to undo it. Early on, it’s ideal to tackle unhealthy lifestyle habits to minimise the loss of collagen, along with a bunch of other physical and emotional things. “Eating well from early age, growing up with love and care, having a diet rich in organic fruit and veg, spending time with family and friends, avoiding bad habits, dedicating time to others, immersing ourselves in nature, meditating and exploring life and its deepest meaning, laughing more often will contribute naturally to the collagen ‘bank,’” suggests Dr. Spiezia.
What are the most common misconceptions about collagen?
“The most common misconception about collagen is that we can apply it to the skin and look younger,” says Dr. Spiezia. As it said before it should come from within. You can apply externally hydrolysed collagen where the protein has been chemically transformed into smaller parts and is easier for the skin to absorb. But because skin is hydro-repellent and has a lipid layer, it’s still difficult for the collagen to penetrate deeply and in enough quantity to make a change.
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Written by - Tara MacInnis