Drinking Collagen Works! (But Applying It Probably Doesn’t)
Just like any other beauty addict worth their salt, plunging myself into a product-specific deep dive has always been a non-negotiable before any skincare purchase. So when I tossed up topping off my beauty routine with an ingestible collagen supplement, naturally, I put away my wallet and whipped out the laptop (I’m not about splashing the cash to get played by a potential skincare fad.)
With countless positive testimonials from both friends and colleagues already on mental file, I was half-way through adding their top collagen-spiking products to my cart—but I wasn’t ready to commit and click ‘buy’ just yet. Rather than taking someone’s beauty rec’s for gospel, I decided to dig a little deeper, with the help of two leading New York-based dermatologists, to finally answer one of my long pondered beauty questions: “Will a collagen supplement really plump my skin?”
How does collagen actually work?
Before I wax lyrical about the efficacy of collagen powders—which seem to be hitting the shopping pages of our go-to beauty e-tailers, and the shelves of health food store aisles, in their dozens—I wanted to make clear what collagen is, and what exactly it does for our skin.
Collagen naturally occurs in the dermis (AKA the deeper layers of our skin) and serves to keep our skin plump, elastic and smooth. Think of it as the firmness and youth-promoting building blocks of our skin. And although it does naturally regenerate in the skin, this regeneration doesn’t go on for as long as you’d hope.
That's nice...but why do I need it again?
*First, a gentle warning: these next few sentences may be mildly depressing*. You know that tired old aphorism, “my body is a temple?” Well, as it turns out, your body is also a collagen factory, and as early your mid-twenties, those stocks begin to plummet along with your skin’s elasticity. In short, if plump, bouncy glowy skin is the outcome you’re after – along with healthy joints, skin and nails – you do not want your collagen stocks to crash.
According to one of New York City’s leading dermatologists, Dr. Whitney Bowe, we begin to lose 1% of our collagen from that point, leaving fine lines and wrinkles in its place. And if sun exposure, stress, pollution and smoking read like a rap sheet of your daily habits, you’re only further sabotaging your skin. I’m guessing a little ingestible collagen is sounding pretty damn appealing right now…
So, is there hope?
Absolutely! You’ll be pleased to know that (almost) all signs look to point to the fact that ingestible collagen can indeed contribute to your quest for plump, bouncy skin.
“Oral supplements can help to support the body’s natural collagen production through being absorbed through the bloodstream, supporting underlying layers first,” notes celebrity dermatologist, Dr. Dendy Engelman, M.D, a collagen supplement convert.
According to Dr. Bowe, once in your bloodstream, the amino acid and peptide fragments which make up your collagen supplement react with your internal enzymes and get to work, travelling to your skin, hair follicles, and even your bones and cartilage. Your ingestible then hits the ground running, its fragments mimicking one of your body’s stress signals, specifically one that alerts your body that damage has been done, sending it straight into repair mode.
“Studies show that if you take collagen on a daily basis for between 4 and 12 weeks, it can improve skin elasticity, hydration, and even improve the appearance of wrinkles,” says Bowe.
And the good times keeps rolling. Being that collagen and keratin have amino acids in common, Bowe adds that ingestible supplements may also send additional beauty benefits your way, more specifically, strong nails and healthy hair due to their keratin-heavy structures.
FYI, if you are looking to work a little ingestible collagen into your day to day, Dr. Englemen suggests sticking to hydrolised collagen supplements (keep your eye out for mentions of ‘marine’ or ‘bovine’), more specifically types 1 and 3.
But with a little hope always comes a grain of scepticism… Bowe does clarify that although early studies are hopeful, they have been relatively small-scale and infrequent at this point in time.
Other things you can do to keep collagen high and skin bouncy.
Back to the topic of plump skin. Short of hydrolised collagen, there are a few more tweaks you could make to your regime and diet to up your chances of bouncy, youthful skin. Sure, most topical treatments that pass through our hands can fall short on the plump front, their collagen molecules too large to penetrate the skin’s surface. But hold up, don’t give up on slathering skincare on just yet, because there are a select few active ingredients than make an exception.
Dr. Engleman spruiks retinol. Why? Well, a lot of your body’s anti-ageing powers fall on the shoulders of its naturally present vitamin A. So replenishing the much needed vitamin via its active form, retinol, not only works to build your skin’s collagen supplies, but also increases cell turnover, improve pigmentation and skin tone and ups skin’s hydration by strengthening your skin’s barrier.
Now to plan C: Diet. NY-based nutritionist, Keri Gans, isn’t in total denial of the plumping powers of ingestible powders, not at all. In fact, her exact words are “preliminary research that suggests that collagen supplements may possibly help with improving our skin elasticity.” But when it comes to her personal practice, she tends to forgo supplements, and makes a beeline for a vitamin C-rich diet to up collagen levels.
And Dr. Bowe is right there with her armed with her 360 degree approach to skincare, tapping vitamin C as a non-negotiable in collagen production. “Vitamin C is critical for the synthesis of collagen and we can’t produce vitamin C on our own,” she says, suggesting you start adding citrus fruits, kiwis, bell peppers and broccoli to your diet ASAP.
Well, I have my answer…
Don’t mind me, I’ve already re-entered my cart and am checking out as we speak.
A Collagen Shopping List, Vetted By Yours Truly: