Lately, we’ve been seeing a popular skincare ingredient buzzing on our Insta-feeds: collagen. You’ve probably heard of collagen as a naturally occurring protein in your skin, with many health benefits and purposes (which we’ll dive into below). But now, it’s gaining traction as an ingredient you can find in both skincare and wellness products to help plump up skin and boost your youthful glow. Sounds like weird science, right? So we turned to the experts to find out if collagen in skincare is actually the secret to baby-soft, smooth, healthy skin. Read on to find out.
Let’s break it down. “Collagen is the main structural protein in the skin,” says board-certified dermatologist, Hadley King, MD. “It is what gives skin its elasticity and strength, and contributes to a youthful appearance.” In fact, collagen is likened to glue within your skin. “The word collagen actually comes from the Greek word ‘kolla’ which means ‘glue,’’' says licensed esthetician Adriana Martino, LE. Another benefit? “In the dermis, it also assists in cellular turnover by replacing and restoring dead cells,” she says. Strong, plumper skin with fewer fine lines? Load us up on collagen, please!
There are many different collagen types, but the most common found in the human body are types I, II, and III. But, as we age our natural collagen production slows and our supply begins to deplete—and once you throw stress and sun exposure into the mix, your collagen levels (and overall skin health) can begin to drop off at an accelerated speed.
“Collagen is the most abundant protein in our skin and is the foundation of our skin, bones, and muscles,” says board-certified dermatologist, Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD. When we have less collagen, our skin in turn has less elasticity. “Collagen and the layers of our skin can be broken down like a mattress,” says licensed esthetician, Graceanne Svendsen, LE . “The stuffing and the springs are the collagen and elastin fibers that hold our skin up. When we’re born, our collagen production is turned over every 10-14 days, giving us that pillowy look.” As we age, this turnover drastically reduces. “By the time we’re in our thirties, the turnover rate dramatically reduces to every 28-30 days,” says Svendsen. And, as women enter menopause, this number slows yet again, to every 50 days.
Since collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in our body, it plays an important role in a number of functions throughout the skin and body.
It’s anti-aging: Collagen helps keep our skin looking plump and wrinkle-free. “Additional collagen intake has been shown to help improve your skin's health and overall appearance of your skin,” says Martino.
Maintains health of hair and nails: Along with skin, collagen can keep hair and nails healthy while encouraging growth, according to Martino.
Helps with wound healing: Known as one of the building blocks of our bodies, collagen proteins help stimulate the healing process and minimize skin scarring.
Repairs tissues: There’s also evidence to suggest that collagen can help repair the connective tissues of the muscles, bones, ligaments, and joints.
One thing that makes collagen particularly popular is that it can be both ingested and used topically. (Collagen fillers can also be injected by a cosmetic dermatologist for things like deep wrinkles, plumping up lips, or scarring.) While your favorite collagen-infused cream may leave you feeling refreshed and hydrated, experts are skeptical as to whether it can actually boost your skin’s collagen supply.
“Applying collagen topically has never been shown to stimulate collagen synthesis or growth,” says Dr. King. “This is because collagens have molecular weights making them too large to penetrate the top layer of skin, but these products can be hydrating and moisturizing, which will temporarily make your skin look better.” According to Dr. Nazarian, “Many collagen products can be quite hydrating and moisturizing to skin, which may make the skin appear more youthful in the short term. Unfortunately studies showing any dramatic long-term effect have not been substantiated yet.”
There are also ways to increase collagen from the inside-out, including supplements and food sources such as bone broth. Some studies show ingesting collagen may be effective at everything from boosting skin elasticity to easing joint pain to strengthening bones, nails, and hair. You won’t see results overnight, but you may notice changes after consistent use over a few months.
So you want to give collagen products a try? First, it’s best to think of collagen skincare products as quick refreshers for your skin—and although they may not magically transform your skin, they can add back moisture to give you a plump, smooth complexion. Try one of our picks for the best collagen supplements and skincare products to try, below.
Scoop this flavorless bovine collagen powder into coffee, smoothies, baked goods, or just about anything in your daily routine to support stronger, shinier nails and hair as well as firmer skin. Composed of types I and III collagen, it’s sustainably sourced, and the packaging is plastic-free.
This hydrating serum contains a blend of antioxidants and peptides to promote collagen growth. These peptides give your skin the hydration it craves, while vitamin C gets to work reducing fine lines and other signs of aging. “I need to bathe in this,” said one Ipster. It's also safe for sensitive skin and is cruelty-free and vegan.
Co-founded by an esthetician, MINTPEAR’s refreshing serum uses marine collagen to smooth away fine lines and wrinkles. “Worked so well on my fine lines and wrinkles,” shared one Ipster. Bonus: it also doubles as a makeup primer.
Mask your way to youthful skin with a collagen-infused sheet mask that helps plump, smooth, and restore your skin. Bonus: It won’t fall off your face. “Love that it doesn’t slip off,” raved one Ipster, while another Ipster wrote this mask "makes my skin feel so refreshed."
Want to try more buzzy skincare ingredients that’ll get you glowing? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram and Twitter @IPSY.
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