Skin Collagen - What does it do and how can I get more of it?

The ESK blog

Skin Collagen - What does it do and how can I get more of it?

24 March 2022

Collagen - What is it?

It’s the major structural component of skin (in face collagen makes up 75% of the skin!) There are over 28 different types of collagen in the human body. The dermis (2nd outermost layer) of the skin contains 85%-90% type I collagen and 10%-15% type III collagen. 

You lose it as you age, especially if your skin sees a bit too much sun and hey presto! Fine lines! Wrinkles! Big pores! Thinner and more brittle skin!

How is collagen made?

This is VERY complicated. Collagen synthesis begins in a particular cell inside the skin (but also joints, bone, muscle etc) called the fibroblast. The genes required to organize the various proteins and other ingredients into the final product rely on both magnesium and zinc to work. The first step is the creation of a chain of proteins that undergoes several modifications which need both iron and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) to become a triple-helix molecule, known as procollagen. This procollagen is released from the fibroblast. Once free of the confines of the cell, the procollagen goes through a number of steps including creating cross-links that give the final collagen product great tensile strength.

Skin collagen and elastin peak around 30 years of age. From here you go into a holding pattern until age catches up with you. As you get older, the minute blood vessels that make up the blood supply to the skin is less robust. The number of your skin cell’s fibroblasts decreases and those fibroblasts are simply not as good at popping out fresh batches of procollagen. Menopause in women sees women lose 30% of their skin’s collagen within the first 5 years.

On top of not making as much collagen, we lose the stuff we have left!

The sun’s UV radiation induces your skin to make enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) in the skin. These enzymes break down and destroy your collagen. This is specifically a result of UVA rays. (Remember UVB is for burning and skin cancer , UVA is for Aging). While just getting older also stimulates your skin’s MMP, it’s much less intense than the effect of sun damage.

How can I boost my skin’s collagen levels?

1. Wear sunscreen!

You can’t stop yourself from aging, but you can avoid excessive MMP activity in your skin. That means using a broad-spectrum day cream 365 days a year from sunup to sundown. Broad spectrum means it combats both UVA (for aging) as well as UVB (for burning) rays.

Zinc Shade

Zinc Shade

Zinc Shade – UV Protection Skincare Product

Zinc Shade based daily moisturiser providing you with the protection you need from both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays.

  • Protects from the sun's UVA and UVB rays
  • Can be used under make-up
  • Rated SPF15

2. Get your Vitamin C glow on

We have known for ages that Vitamin C is essential for skin health. Scurvy, caused by vitamin C deficiency is characterised by skin fragility and impaired wound healing. Vitamin C is essential for synthesis and crosslinking of the collagen molecule. Vitamin C also inhibits those pesky matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Finally, Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can neutralise free radicals including the ones resulting from exposure to the sun’s UV rays.

C Forte

C Forte

Hydrate and brighten your skin with this 16% L-Ascorbic Acid Serum. Vitamin C's sun damage reversing abilities are boosted when Vitamin E is added. Adding Ferulic Acid boosts it to still further for your best glow.

  • Hydrate dry skin.
  • Repair sun damaged skin.
  • Reduce fine lines, crows feet and pigmentation.

3. Use topical Vitamin A.

Studies repeatedly show that Vitamin A in your skincare reduces matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity in the skin and stimulates collagen synthesis in both naturally aged and photoaged skin.

Ultimate A

Ultimate A

Vitamins A and B. High strength. Effortlessly improves skin texture and tone for skin that is soft smooth and supple. Also effective in managing acne. 

  • Rebuild collagen
  • Increase skin elasticity
  • Reduce hyperpigmentation

4. Go for Hydroxy Acids

Some studies have shown that the application of Hydroxy acids to the face increases the amount of collagen in the dermis. This can be as a peel at a beautician or dermatologist or as a leave on serum.

Smooth Serum

Smooth Serum

An Alpha Hydroxy Acid exfoliating serum for daily night use.

  • Smoother skin
  • Evens out skin texture
  • Promotes skin cell turnover

5. Consider HRT if you’re menopausal

Multiple studies have shown beneficial effects on collagen in the skin from different forms of hormone replacement therapy in post-menopausal women. It’s not THE reason to take HRT but a nice side effect if you’re taking it for control of hot flushes, aches and pains or bone health anyway.

6. A healthy lifestyle

You can see from my little foray into the science of collagen formation that it is COMPLEX and requires a great blood supply and lots of nutrients. That means a great lifestyle - by that I mean great diet, exercise, enough sleep, as well as ditching the cigarettes and the excess booze.

7. Laser and other skin procedures

Some studies have shown that certain laser treatments increase the activation of fibroblasts in the skin with an increase in the production of collagen and elastin fibres in the dermis with the added bonus of a reduction in the activity matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs).

8. Micro-needling

Some studies have shown that micro needling leads to neovascularization (the growth of new blood vessels inside the skin) and the growth of new collagen producing fibroblasts. In one study, scientists looked at the skin of 480 wrinkly German and South African people under a microscope after 4 micro needling sessions each a month apart. The study showed up to 400% more collagen and elastin in the skin.

9. Copper

(As one of the bodies 9 essential minerals) helps stimulate the creation of fibroblasts and is also involved in the production and cross linking of collagen. There is increasing evidence that copper applied to the skin in the form of copper peptide (which occurs naturally in the skin) or copper oxide can help stimulate collagen. We’re not there yet.

10. Collagen

supplements For centuries, Chinese women have seen eating collagen as the fountain of youth, eating foods like pig’s feet, shark fins, and donkey skin to promote younger skin and to prevent aging joints. While some company sponsored studies have found benefits, most scientists are sceptical. Your digestive system is designed to break down complex molecules like collagen into its component parts (think amino acids, fatty acids and glucose molecules). These are delivered to your cells to be turned into the proteins and other molecules as determined by your genes. Eating shark collagen will see you absorb a whole raft of amino acids and sugar molecules but your ability to make collagen in your skin comes down to the number of fibroblasts in your skin and your own genetic profile. While having great nutrition will help this process, it’s doubtful your body can circumvent its own digestive processes to deposit marine collagen straight into your face!

Supplements promising you better “hair skin and nails” Apart from the fact that there is no evidence for any of these products, they continue to be sold by the bucket load. There have been many adverse effects reported and most doctors warn people off them.