An effective anti-aging ingredient is the holy grail of skincare, and some experts say collagen could be the key to unlocking a more youthful appearance. But is collagen good for skin, or is it just another trend in beauty and wellness with little evidence to back it up?
One of the essential proteins naturally present in the body, collagen helps to give skin a glowing, youthful and plump appearance. But, sadly, it depletes as we age, causing wrinkles and sagging skin.
As a supplement or a cream, collagen is becoming big business, with experts predicting a $16.7 billion(opens in new tab) boom in the global collagen market over the next five years. The promise that collagen supplements can be an effective tool in the fight against aging is a significant driver. So what if taking a collagen supplement or applying a topical collagen cream could turn back time for your epidermis?
We take a deeper dive into the research and consult a board-certified dermatologist to better understand how collagen can improve the skin, how the research supports collagen supplements, and whether there are other ways of increasing collagen in our diet.
Collagen is essential for giving the skin elasticity. It makes the skin look fuller, plumper and smoother. Unfortunately, according to the journal Plastic and Aesthetic Research(opens in new tab), our collagen levels deplete by an average of 1% to 1.5% from early adulthood. Upping our collagen levels may delay this natural depletion, giving us fuller, plumper skin.
However, how topical creams or supplements do this is still up for debate. According to the National Eczema Association(opens in new tab), there isn’t enough evidence to suggest that collagen supplements improve the skin’s appearance, despite their increasing popularity with celebrities and influencers.
More research is emerging, however. Live Science spoke to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Alison Ehrlich(opens in new tab) to find out more. She pointed us to a 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis(opens in new tab), in which researchers found hydrolyzed collagen supplements increased skin hydration and elasticity in over a thousand participants, with improvements lasting around four weeks after supplementation
“Collagen peptides exert an anti-oxidant effect on the skin,” says Ehrlich. Research backs this up with a 2020 study into collagen and gelatin(opens in new tab) extracted from tuna skin waste. Researchers found that the collagen and gelatin extracted were an “excellent source of antioxidant peptides.” These can help to protect the skin from free radicals, which are responsible for breaking down collagen in the skin.
Collagen also has a powerful effect on wound healing, and as a result, collagen powder is an important treatment in advanced wound healing therapies(opens in new tab). “Collagen seems to exert an effect on the wound by increasing dermal fibroblast activity, leading to increased collagen synthesis,” says Ehrlich. In simpler terms, it becomes an essential building block in the healing process.
However, Ehrlich points out that there are some drawbacks to certain collagen studies that should raise some questions:
Some studies use collagen paired with several other ingredients, each of which has the potential to improve the skin.
Many collagen supplement studies use small sample sizes, or animal subjects, which can affect the strength and reliability of the data.
Improvements are sometimes self-reported, meaning that participants judge how their skin appears rather than accurate measurements being taken.
Small improvements in a study may not reflect visible changes in the skin.
Original article: Is collagen good for skin?
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