You probably already know about—or at least have heard people talk about—using collagen to improve skin. It’s also been used for thicker hair, stronger bones and to help provide more flexibility to joints. But the reason why certain collagen supplements work better than others, and why collagen powders work at all, isn’t always clear.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, found in our hair, skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, corneas and teeth. It’s the main protein in all the body’s connective tissues and it plays many vital roles. Despite this, most collagen supplements on the market today target collagen’s role in skin structure. Collagen acts like glue in the body, hence the name, which comes from the Greek word for glue (kolla).
Collagen is made naturally as the body breaks down dietary proteins into amino acids. Vitamin C, zinc and copper from the diet aid in this process. Diet, age and other health issues determine how effective or “well-structured” the collagen proteins in the body are. When we’re young, the collagen proteins are organized and strong.
As we get older, the proteins become less organized and collagen production slows. Diet, exposure to UV rays and other processes involved in natural aging can damage the collagen that we do have. This can lead to wrinkles, loose skin, stiffer joints and sore muscles.
Skincare is more than just looking better, although cosmetic and supplement companies do tend to gear their marketing towards the outwardly noticeable benefits of collagen more than any other benefit. Your skin is the largest organ of the body, and healthy skin plays a role in the body’s healing process and in protecting the body from harmful bacteria as well.
Even though collagen production slows with age, there are plenty of things you can do to take care of your skin, naturally:
Drink plenty of water - Staying hydrated is good for your skin, but it’s also great for everything else in your body. From lubricating joints to regulating temperature and flushing toxins, water is essential for more than just survival.
Wash your face - It’s important to wash your face every day if you wear makeup, but even if you don’t, the oils and dirt that can accumulate on during the course of a day can clog pores and damage your skin from the outside-in.
Eat healthy foods - Water-heavy foods like fruits can help keep you hydrated, help your skin and support good general health. Avoid foods that have been shown to cause acne and other skins problems—foods high in non-natural sugar, processed foods, and refined carbs.
Exercise - Research shows that people who exercise regularly (three hours combined per week) have healthier skin. And people over 40 got the most skin-related benefit from exercise, demonstrated by an observable skin composition that resembles people 10-20 years younger.
Always use sunscreen - No matter what kind of skin you have, or how acclimatized to sun exposure you are, sunscreen is important. Apart from increasing the risk of skin cancer, sunburns and prolonged exposure to the sun can cause premature skin damage and speed up the skin’s aging process dramatically.
Collagen supplements typically come in the form of powders or pills. While quality, source and efficacy vary greatly from brand to brand, the primary obstacle that all collagen supplement companies face is digestibility. Because of the long, dense structure of collagen protein strands—which makes them great as building blocks of the body—collagen can be hard to digest.
Digestive enzymes and collagen hydrolysate can help to solve the problem of absorption. Patented DigeSEB, a targeted digestive enzyme, helps break down collagen so that it’s more readily absorbed by the body. In collagen peptides powder, DigeSEB helps break down the peptide chains into collagen that can be used readily by the body.
Collagen powder is also more versatile than some other types of supplements. Collagen powder is more versatile because it’s flavorless and odorless. This allows people to use it in coffee, smoothies and shakes as part of their diet.
An effective collagen supplement works by repairing the collagen contained in the dermis layer of the skin. Since the body has a harder time producing collagen as the body ages, using a supplement to replace some of the lost collagen production makes sense. By repairing and replacing collagen in the dermis, dietary collagen and collagen supplements (in the form of an ingredient like Verisol) can help reduce wrinkles and tighten skin.
Collagen supplements are also used as a protein powder for post-workout recovery. Adding more collagen to the diet helps strengthen and support the connective tissues in the body, including bones, joints and muscles. This helps with muscle soreness and achy joints that can result from vigorous workouts.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. Since it is found in ligaments, tendons, muscles, joints, skin, hair, eyes and teeth, ensuring that the body gets enough collagen is vital to the overall healthy function of the body. And while collagen powder, as a protein powder, is effective for post-workout recovery, the main reason most people use collagen supplements is skin.
By replacing damaged collagen in the dermis, research shows that supplements can help the skin look younger, more wrinkle-free, and regain or retain elasticity. Collagen powders with digestive enzymes are particularly effective at stimulating changes on a cellular level, solving the issues of digestion and absorption that limit some supplements.
A healthy diet, exercise and plenty of water combined with collage protein powder and other healthy lifestyle habits are beneficial for more than just external beauty as they influence the health and wellbeing of all of the body’s systems. But collagen supplements can make a difference, especially as we age and the body doesn’t produce as much or absorb as efficiently.
Seth Garland - Content Writer, Physician's Choice