|December 7, 2023

Why Your Skin Needs Collagen to Stay Young

By Alison Moodie
Reviewed by Emily Gonzalez, ND for Scientific Accuracy

Why Your Skin Needs Collagen to Stay Young

  • Your body produces less collagen as you get older, which results in fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Taking collagen supplements can improve skin elasticity, reduce wrinkles and increase skin moisture.
  • To boost your collagen stores, eat foods like bone broth and stir collagen peptides powder into your smoothie or Bulletproof Coffee. Skin procedures like LED light therapy and micro-needling also stimulate collagen.

If you’ve been following the Bulletproof Diet for a while, you know that sipping bone broth and drinking collagen peptides powder can help you look and feel great. Collagen supports glowing and hydrated skin, so it’s no wonder collagen is now the drink du jour among Hollywood stars (Jennifer Aniston credits collagen supplements for her youthful glow). Find out how collagen keeps your skin looking young and all the ways to boost your body’s collagen production. Here’s how to support your own youthful glow in no time.

How collagen benefits your skin

up close collagen peptide molecule

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, tasked with holding your entire body together, much like glue. You find it in the connective tissue in your skin, hair, joints, bones, muscles and more. Learn more about what collagen is.

Collagen is one of those rare things that really can help you age backwards. All those pricey anti-aging treatments at your dermatologist’s office, like lasers and ultrasounds, work by stimulating collagen. It makes up nearly 80% of your skin, found in the middle layer called the dermis. Collagen works together with another protein called elastin to strengthen the skin and help it snap back into place when stretched.

Collagen production starts to slow down as you get older, and it happens sooner than you’d think.

“After the age of 25, we break down more collagen than we make so that’s why we start to see fine lines and wrinkles,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, author of “Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist.”

From there, you start losing about one percent of your collagen each year.[1] “Under a microscope you see fragmentation of the collagen network in the dermis—this is the hallmark of skin aging.”

Other factors working against you? Sun exposure and smoking. Ultraviolet (UV) light and tobacco smoke activate enzymes that degrade collagen fibers.[2][3][4]

“These chew up the collagen and the elastic tissue, and as a result that can cause some sagging and some age-related damage,” says Allan Dattner, MD, holistic dermatologist and author of “Radiant Skin From The Inside Out.”

The good news is, you can help your body make more collagen.

How to boost your collagen stores for youthful skin

Take a collagen supplement

a hand holds a scoop of unflavored collagen peptides

Taking hydrolyzed collagen (also known as collagen peptides) orally, either in pill or powder form, is an easy way to boost your collagen stores. Research shows that collagen supplements improve skin elasticity, reduce wrinkles, boost skin hydration and increase the density of fibroblasts—cells in connective tissue that produce collagen.[5] [6]

“Collagen peptides are used as an ingredient in products and have been shown in studies to improve skin barrier function and to help the production of collagen after eight weeks of intake,” says Jaliman. “The collagen density in the dermis significantly increased so the skin became thicker and the lines were diminished.”

Related: How Do Collagen Supplements Work? What the Science Says

Eat more foods with collagen

13 Collagen Protein Recipes to Make Your Skin Glow_header

“Nutrition is a key factor influencing skin health and consequently its appearance,” says Jaliman.

Eat more collagen-rich foods like bone broth, egg yolks and organ meats. Learn more about the best foods to eat for radiant skin.

Use a vitamin C serum

Applying vitamin C to the skin can also boost collagen. One study found that applying a cream with a 5% concentration of the vitamin made the skin thicker and reduced the appearance of deep wrinkles.[7] In another study, vitamin C combined with retinol created more collagen in the skin and partly reversed sun damage in postmenopausal women.[8]

Try: Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum, $34

Try micro-needling (aka dermarolling)

Micro-needling is a skin procedure that uses tiny needles to prick small holes in the top layer of skin.

“Micro-needling disrupts the collagen and stimulates the body to form new, more youthful collagen fibers,” says Jeanette Jacknin, MD, holistic dermatologist and author of “Smart Medicine For Your Skin.” “The micro-injuries you create stimulates the body’s natural wound-healing processes, resulting in cell turnover as well as preventing signs of aging.”

One study found that nearly 100% of patients with deep facial scars showed significant improvement after just three micro-needling sessions.[9]

Expect a small amount of bleeding at the pinprick points and some redness immediately after the procedure.

Some people combine micro-needling with platelet rich plasma (PRP)—a treatment, also known as the vampire facial, that injects your own blood into the skin to stimulate growth. A doctor takes your blood, then separates out the plasma, which is rich in growth factors. The plasma is applied to your face before and after micro-needling to further stimulate the growth factors caused by the punctures. A 2014 study found that micro-needling and PRP improved acne scars more than just micro-needling alone. [10] Kim Kardashian made it mainstream when she in all its gory detail.

You can also try a more gentle approach at home with the help of a dermaroller—a small roller with fine needles that you roll all over your face. Keep in mind that over-the-counter dermarollers don’t penetrate as deeply as professional ones — meaning you won’t get the same results. Use a sterilized roller on clean skin, and follow with a vitamin C serum or plant stem cell serum, such as Annmarie Citrus Stem Cell Serum, $63

When shopping for an at-home dermaroller, make sure the company treats their tools with gamma radiation, a sterilization process that ensures they’re contaminant-free.

Use light therapy

How to Get More Collagen, and Why Your Skin Needs It to Stay Young_Skin procedures

Light therapy—LED and lasers—uses light to penetrate the skin at varying degrees. LED (light-emitting diode) uses different colored lights depending on the condition. Red is used to smooth and plump the skin.

“LED light therapy is one of my favorite treatments to increase collagen production,” says Shani Darden, celebrity facialist and Garnier ambassador. “It builds collagen and elastin to help reduce wrinkles and tighten the skin.”

Laser treatments, meanwhile, direct short beams of light onto target areas, like a brown spot or a scar. Doctors use different wavelengths of light depending on the skin complaint. Choose a resurfacing laser, like the Fraxel Dual—it stimulates the fibroblasts in the dermis, causing them to create more collagen and elastin.

Start incorporating collagen into your skin routine and diet today, and you’ll soon look—and feel—younger. Get started with this roundup of collagen peptide recipes to make your skin glow.

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