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It has been called "the king of anti-aging", "the fountain of skin youth " and many other superlatives – but what exactly is collagen, what is its role and what does Dr. Marina Landau have to say about it?
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a large and complex protein molecule (called a "structural protein") that is formed by fibroblast cells located in the dermis layer – the middle layer of the skin. Collagen is the most common protein in the body tissues of most animals, including humans. It constitutes about a quarter to 30% of all proteins in the human body and serves as the main component in our connective tissues. It also constitutes about 80% of the proteins in the facial skin. It is responsible for shaping, supporting, and strengthening the skin's infrastructure.
To date, 29 different types of Collagens have been discovered. The main ones are type 1 collagen (found mainly in skin, tendons and bone tissue), type 2 collagen (found mainly in cartilage) and type 3 collagen (found mainly in skin and blood vessels). Collagen is rich in two amino acids, proline and glycine. Vitamin C is essential for the biochemical process of collagen structuring. Vitamin C deficiency leading to collagen deficiency, may result in bleeding, weakening of the skin and bones and associated symptoms.
Collagen has a wide range of uses. It is widely used in the cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, medicine and food industries, due to its high level of biological compatibility, being a non-toxic and perishable substance.
Men, women, and Collagen
Young skin is rich in collagen, and the collagen fibers in it are abundant and tight. With age, there is a decrease in the rate of collagen production by the fibroblast cells, and additionally, the collagen molecules themselves begin to break down at the influence of external factors such as smoking, sun exposure and free radicals. This reduction in collagen causes wrinkles as the skin, which remains the same size, surrounds a smaller volume.
Studies have shown that in women, starting at age 30, the amount of collagen in the skin decreases by about 1% each year, although a genetic effect also plays a role. Around the age of menopause, the amount of collagen decreases dramatically and the body's ability to produce new collagen decreases by up to 75%. This is the reason women feel a significant decrease in the elasticity of the skin and the appearance of wrinkles at around this age. Furthermore, collagen molecules break down as a result of environmental factors, such as sun exposure and smoking, which penetrate the skin through a damaged epidermal barrier. To restore the skin to its volume and elasticity one must make the skin produce more collagen.
And what happens to men you ask? As always, here too, men find it easier in life 🙂 Men's skin is rich in collagen, and hence they usually wrinkle less with age.
Collagen in cosmetics
We consume collagen through the digestive system from animal food sources (chicken, beef and most fish). The collagen we eat dissolves into amino acids which are absorbed into the tissues and cells of the body. That is, collagen does not remain in its raw configuration when it is absorbed by the body.
Although some efficacy of a collagen dietary supplement (although limited and especially in relation to skin moisture) has been proven on skin quality, the body's main way of compensating for collagen loss or a gradual decrease in its quality is by stimulating the fibroblast cells to produce it by themselves. This can be achieved with dedicated equipment or the use of active ingredients that have been shown to stimulate the self-production of collagen. A combination of active ingredients to stimulate collagen production together with hyaluronic acid, will result in a significant moisturization of the skin along with the preservation of its elasticity, and a healthier and fuller looking skin.
Collagen intake – a word from the doctor
So if collagen is so good for the skin and appearance – why don’t all cosmetic products contain collagen?
The collagen molecule is larger than the skin pores and therefore cannot penetrate the epidermal barrier and be absorbed into the skin.
Ingredients that encourage collagen production and restoration of its fibrous structure are retinoic acids (or the natural substitute – bakuchiol), alpha and beta hydroxy acids, peptides and vitamin C. When applying these substances on the skin, and to make sure they optimally perform their purpose, without evaporating out through the skin – it is important to maintain a restored and dense epidermal barrier.