Ever since she entered the public eye when she started dating Prince William in 2001, Kate Middleton has been center stage. We’ve all admired the 41-year-old’s timeless beauty, and perhaps wondered how she manages to continue to look so fresh-faced. Now, the word is out on the Duchess of Cambridge’s secret weapon for youthful, glowing skin: Collagen serum. Reportedly, Her Royal Highness uses a collagen-infused serum twice a day to keep her skin radiant. Naturally, we wanted to learn more about collagen serum and exactly how it works, so we turned to skin pros for everything to know about this type of serum.
What is a collagen serum?
“Collagen serums are topical serums applied to the skin surface to increase collagen production,” says Emily Wood, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in Austin, Texas. “These serums contain ingredients like growth factors or peptides, which are molecules that signal to our cells to increase collagen production.” Why this is important, especially for those of us over 40? As we get older, studies show that our bodies produce less and less collagen, leading to wrinkles, fine lines and sagging skin. So amping up collagen production with a serum helps to fill in those fine lines, plump up skin and restore firmness and elasticity to take years off your look.
The benefits of using a collagen serum
“Collagen serums have become quite the buzz in skincare, and rightfully so,” says Ethan Sanchez, MD, a dermatologist based in Augusta, Georgia and head of research at Gya Labs. “Especially since collagen plays such a pivotal role in maintaining skin elasticity and firmness.” As previously mentioned, collagen production depletes with age and can start to decline as early as our 20s — thanks to the aging process as well as exposure to sun, free radicals and pollutants.
So adding a collagen serum to your skin care routine delivers a high concentration of collagen-boosting ingredients directly to the skin. “These serums aim to improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles,” says Randall Higgins, pharmacist, skincare specialist, and head of the medical review team at GoodGlow.co. “They can help skin regenerate and maintain collagen for a more radiant complexion.”
When and how to use a collagen serum in your skin care routine
“Absolutely women in their 30s and above should make collagen serums part of their daily skin care routine,” says Dr. Wood. “I recommend applying one after cleansing the face, morning and night.” The reason: Skin is more absorbent to topically applied ingredients when it’s slightly damp — so after washing your face, gently pat excess water with a towel, then apply to the face.
Additionally, “applying the serum after a bath or shower is an even better idea,” adds Valerie Aparovich, biochemist and certified esthetician at OnSkin.ai, an app that checks skin product ingredients. “Your pores will be open, which makes it even easier for ingredient molecules to penetrate the skin.” Here, some other key factors to get the most out of using collagen serum, according to Dr. Sanchez.
Tips for using a collagen serum
1. Consistency is key
Using collagen serum regularly, preferably both morning and night, will help maintain a steady supply of collagen-boosting ingredients to your skin, so you’ll see results sooner, says Dr. Sanchez.
2. Layer in this order
Generally, you want to apply products from thinnest to thickest consistency, recommends Dr. Sanchez. Therefore, apply your collagen serum before heavier creams or lotions. Dr. Sanchez also advises layering a moisturizer over your collagen serum also helps seal in the serum’s benefits and provides an extra layer of hydration so skin appears plumper and more youthful.
3. Target these areas
Focus on areas where collagen loss is more apparent, such as around the eyes, mouth and forehead, says Dr. Sanchez. These areas often show signs of aging sooner, so giving them a bit of extra attention can be beneficial.
4. Apply gently
When applying the serum, use gentle upward motions. Dr. Sanchez says it’s best to avoid pulling or tugging on the skin, especially around the delicate eye area. This minimizes the risk of irritation and supports the absorption of the serum, he adds. Plus, Dr. Sanchez says that lightly massaging the serum into your skin increases blood and lymph circulation, which further aids in absorption.
5. Follow up with sunscreen
Always follow up with a good sunscreen, especially during the day, cautions Dr. Sanchez. Collagen production can be affected by UV damage, he says, so protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays helps maintain collagen levels.
What to look for when choosing a collagen serum
When choosing a collagen serum, the experts agree that first and foremost you want to keep an eye out for key active ingredients. “You want to look for things like peptides from marine collagen or other sources, antioxidants like vitamin C or gentle retinol derivatives like vitamin A,” says Higgins. “These ingredients nourish skin from the outside-in and stimulate collagen production.”
Higgins also stresses that it’s important to look for products that contain hydrolyzed collagen, which has been broken down into smaller peptides for better skin absorption. Below is a breakdown of some of the most important ingredients to look for in a collagen serum, and how they help rejuvenate skin.
Collagen serum extra: Peptides
These powerful anti-aging agents help to increase skin thickness, firmness and elasticity since they are the protein building blocks within our skin, says Dr. Sanchez. They also act as humectants, which he adds help the skin retain moisture.
Collagen serum extra: Vitamin C
An antioxidant proven to help slow the aging skin process, as it neutralizes free radical damage and prevent the breakdown of collagen fibers. It’s also been shown to stimulate new collagen protein synthesis within the skin, to increase elasticity, resilience and firmness.
Collagen serum extra: Vitamin A
A form of retinol that speeds cell turnover and regeneration processes within the skin to boost collagen production and support elastin fibers, says Dr. Sanchez. This then improves skin texture and smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles.
Collagen serum extra: Hyaluronic acid
This humectant absorbs water from surrounding deeper layers of skin and draws water molecules to the epidermis to help plump up skin and prevent sagging, says Dr. Sanchez.
The best collagen serums
With so many collagen serums on the market, it can be tough to zero in on the right one for you. Check out the picks below to find the one that will best one for your needs — plus, Kate Middelton’s go-serum is below too.
The INKEY List Collagen Peptide Serum (Buy from The INKEY List, $12.99)
The two different peptides found in this collagen serum along with hyaluronic acid help spur collagen output to tighten skin. Plus, it’s a lightweight formula that deeply penetrates skin without clogging pores or feeling greasy.
QRX Labs Peptide Complex Serum/Collagen Booster (Buy from Amazon, $14.95)
Made with peptides, chamomile extract and hyaluronic acid, this serum helps increase collagen production, reduce irritation and keep skin moisturized. One reviewer even said: “This serum is very easy to use and it makes my skin feel brand new! “
Olay Collagen Peptide 24 MAX Serum Fragrance-Free (Buy from Walmart, $17.99)
This serum from Olay boasts a high concentration of collagen peptides and niacinamide (vitamin B3), that helps firm up lax skin. And since it’s fragrance-free, it’s an ideal choice for those with sensitive skin types.
Joieuse Rejuvenating Multi-Peptide Serum (Buy from Joieuse, $30)
Applying a serum like this one, which contains a blend of peptides and seaweed extracts will keep skin looking taut. And it’s also infused with hyaluronic acid to efficiently lock hydration into the skin and make it smooth and supple.
Truly Vegan Collagen Boost Anti-Aging Face Serum (Buy from Ulta, $36.90)
Packed with a blend of plant-based collagen, retinol and vitamin C, which help to plump and brighten skin, this serum has earned hundreds of five-star ratings. One Ulta reviewer raved that it “plumps my face to fill in lines and makes my face so soft!”
The collagen serum Kate Middleton uses
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