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In War on Wrinkles, Collagen Is Key — But What Is Collagen, Exactly? (And How Can You Get More of It)

The powerhouse protein helps your skin, hair, bones, and more.


Are you familiar with collagen? It’s prolific in the beauty industry — but what exactly is it? In simple terms, collagen is a protein that’s naturally present in our skin, bones, and muscles. It’s responsible for maintaining skin elasticity. As we age, our bodies produce less collagen, leading to wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging skin. There are, however, ways to counteract collagen loss — specifically, adding collagen to your diet and skincare routine. Read on for the scoop on this abundant protein to determine if it’s right for you. 

What is collagen?

Collagen occurs naturally in the body. In fact, it’s the most abundant protein in the human body, comprising roughly 30 percent of its total protein content. It’s concentrated primarily in the skin, bones, ligaments, and muscles — and it’s responsible for providing structural support. In short, collagen acts as a “glue” that helps to hold your body together. Without this building block, our bodies wouldn’t be able to function properly. 

What are some signs of collagen deficiency?

Below are some of the most common signs of collagen deficiency. If you experience any of these symptoms, adding collagen to your diet or skincare routine could be helpful — just be sure to consult your doctor first.

  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Brittle nails
  • Dry skin
  • Bone, joint, and muscle pain
  • Thinning hair
  • Cellulite
  • Weak ligaments
  • Osteoporosis

Why do we lose collagen as we age?

Collagen production slows as we age. Factors like hormonal changes and lifestyle choices like smoking or excessive sun exposure can hasten the impact of this decline, and lead to sagging skin and wrinkles. Decreased collagen production can also lead to weaker bones, thinner hair, and decreased muscle mass. Needless to say, taking steps to prevent collagen loss is an important part of aging gracefully. 

How does collagen work?

Our body produces collagen through an intricate process of breaking down proteins and amino acids found in food. Vitamin C also plays an important role in collagen production and helps convert the amino acids into collagen molecules. Once the molecules have been formed, they can be used by the body to create new collagen. This new collagen is then used to replenish and repair tissues — including skin and muscle growth. 

What benefits does collagen offer women?

Collagen has numerous potential benefits for women. Here are ten of the most noteworthy: 

1. Boosts Skin Health

Our skin is the largest organ in the body, so taking care of it is crucial. Collagen plays a critical role in maintaining the elasticity of our skin. Unfortunately, our bodies produce less collagen as we age, which can lead to wrinkles and fine lines. Incorporating collagen into your diet or skincare routine can help stimulate collagen production, leading to a brighter complexion and reduced signs of aging.

2. Strengthens Hair and Nails

Collagen is essential for maintaining the strength and integrity of our hair and nails. Adding collagen supplements or foods rich in collagen will fortify these, making them less prone to breakage and brittleness (although more studies are needed to confirm the efficacy of oral collagen supplementations). 

3. Promotes Joint Health

As we age, our joints may become stiffer or lose flexibility. Collagen is a crucial component of cartilage — the connective tissue that cushions your joints. By incorporating collagen into your diet, you can promote the health of your joints and reduce the risk of joint pain and stiffness. It’s important to note that collagen is not a miracle solution for joint issues, but it can be a complementary therapy to support joint health.

4. Helps Digestion

Another wonderful benefit of collagen is that it can promote gut health. Collagen is a source of glycine, an amino acid that can help support the digestive system. Incorporating collagen into your diet may soothe the lining of your stomach and improve digestion.

5. Reduces Cellulite

Cellulite is a common concern, and while many creams and treatments claim to reduce it, the best way to combat cellulite is from the inside out. By adding collagen supplements to your routine, you’re repairing bands in the skin and boosting dermal cell metabolism, thus reducing the appearance of cellulite. Do note, however, that collagen oral supplementation isn’t monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). To find out the best collagen supplement, speak to a healthcare professional. 

6. Aids Heart Health

Believe it or not, collagen has also been linked to promoting healthy heart function. Collagen strengthens the walls of your arteries and blood vessels, which helps reduce the risk of plaque buildup and keeps your blood pressure in check. 

7. Enhances Sleep Quality

Getting sufficient restful sleep is essential for our well-being, and it turns out that collagen can actually help you get your Zzzs. Collagen has been shown to help improve sleep quality and reduce symptoms of insomnia. So, if you’re having trouble sleeping, consider adding collagen-rich foods to your diet — it could be the key to getting a good night’s rest.

8. Boosts Metabolism

Collagen may help support a healthy metabolism by increasing the amount of energy your body produces, thus spurring increased weight loss and improved daily energy levels.

9. Improves Bone Health

If you’re looking to keep your bones strong and healthy, collagen is your friend. It ensures that our bones receive the right amount of minerals and vitamins, which helps prevent bone loss as we age. This can lead to improved bone mineral density and a decreased risk of fractures or breaks.

10. Supports Cognitive Function

Collagen might be good for more than just skincare — it can also help keep your mind sharp. Collagen has been found to play an important role in supporting cognitive function and helping protect against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Incorporating collagen into your routine can help support healthy brain function and reduce the risk of memory-related issues.

What’s the best way to get collagen?

The best way to get collagen is through your diet, namely foods rich in proline and glycine. These foods include bone broth (also rich in calcium), fish, and eggs, all of which encourage healthy collagen production in your body. Other snacks include citrus fruits like grapefruit, oranges, and limes — all parts of which add zing to your daily smoothie. A dietitian can help you find the right meal plan for incorporating collagen-rich foods. 

Additionally, you can take collagen supplements to ensure you’re getting an adequate amount of the nutrient. Look for a high-quality supplement that contains bioavailable forms of collagen, such as hydrolyzed collagen. 

Related: Collagen for Women: Adding a Little To Your Smoothie May Make Skin Look Younger

Is it possible to get too much collagen?

No, it’s not possible to get too much collagen. Collagen is a naturally-occurring protein in the body that helps support healthy skin, bones, joints, and more. Taking too much collagen has no known side effects, so you can feel safe taking a supplement without worrying about overdoing it. That said, if you have questions or concerns, speak with your healthcare provider before adding collagen to your routine. 

Any tips to boost collagen production?

In addition to filling up on collagen-rich food sources or taking a collagen supplement, there are a few ways to help boost collagen production.

1. Take vitamin C.

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for collagen production, and it can help reduce oxidative stress in the body. Try adding foods like oranges, strawberries, and bell peppers to your diet or taking a vitamin C supplement to ensure you’re getting enough of this nutrient.

2. Reduce your sugar intake.

High sugar levels can damage collagen proteins, so reducing your intake of high-fructose foods and drinks is important for keeping your collagen production up.

3. Protect your skin from the sun.

The sun’s UV rays damage our skin, leading to wrinkles and other signs of aging. Wearing sunscreen when you’re outside can help protect the collagen in your skin and prevent damage caused by the sun.

4. Manage stress levels.

Stress can negatively impact our overall health, including our collagen production. Taking time for yourself and practicing stress-relieving activities can help reduce the effects of stress on your body, allowing you to maintain healthy collagen levels.

5. Get enough sleep.

Getting enough restful sleep is essential for keeping our bodies healthy and functioning properly. Aim to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night to give your body the rest it needs for optimal collagen production.

Collagen Is a Girl’s Best Friend

Collagen plays an essential role in keeping skin healthy and youthful, and there are several ways to boost its production. Taking oral collagen supplements is a great way to get a concentrated boost of collagen and other essential nutrients. Eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of sleep, and avoiding lifestyle habits that can damage collagen can also help maintain its production. With a few simple steps, you can unlock the beauty benefits of collagen and keep your skin health in tip-top shape.

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