Collagen is one of the biggest names in skin care and for good reason. It’s the most abundant protein in the human body. Collagen is a building block for healthy skin and a powerful moisturizing agent.
Collagen loss usually begins in a person’s 20s. After that, the body becomes increasingly unable to produce enough high quality collagen to sustain a youthful appearance. This is when our skin begins to show signs of age, like wrinkles.
Many products claim that supplementing with collagen can delay these effects, but is that true? Is collagen really capable of turning back the clock?
How Does Collagen Work?
Collagen plays an extremely important role in the body. While mainly known for its benefits to skin and hair, collagen is also a fundamental building block of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Collagen also contributes to healing and even our ability to see.
Different Types of Collagen
Although science has identified as many as 28 types of collagen, there are only four that you really need to concern yourself with.
- Type I
Collagen type 1 makes up almost 90% of the collagen in your skin and is an absolute must if you’re using collagen to reduce wrinkles or hydrate your skin.
- Type II
Collagen type II is present in cartilage. Cartilage is a type of connective tissue which is present in your joints where it serves as a cushion between your bones. Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, occurs when cartilage in the joints wears down over time.
- Type III
Collagen type 3 is found in your skin, muscles, and blood vessels. Next to collagen type I, it is the most common type of collagen in your body.
- Type IV
Collage type IV is found in the skin and helps with filtration.
Benefits of Collagen
Promotes Skin Elasticity
Everybody wants youthful skin. When we are young, our bodies generally produce plenty of collagen. This changes as we age. Our bodies gradually lose the ability to produce enough, high quality collagen to keep our skin looking young. Our skin loses its elasticity and we start to wrinkle.
A major contributor to skin elasticity is skin hydration. Supplementing with collagen has been shown to increase hydration and stimulate the production of new collagen in the skin, resulting in smoother, softer skin.
A pair of studies performed with women between the ages of 35 and 65 showed that 3 months of collagen supplementation showed “significant improvement in skin hydration, wrinkling, and elasticity” after treatment.
May Help Protect Against Arthritis
Collagen type 2 is an important component of cartilage. When cartilage begins to wear down, our bones rub together and create the pain and swelling associated with arthritis. Studies suggest that supplementing with collagen may protect the cartilage in our joints and slow the wear and tear which leads to arthritis.
Improves Amino Acid Absorption
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and proteins are the building blocks for just about everything else in our bodies. Collagen supplementation may increase our bodies’ ability to absorb amino acids and create new proteins.
What to Look For in a Collagen Supplement
Not all collagen supplements are created equal, and comparing different products can be difficult, especially because there are so many different types of collagen.
Here are a few tips you can use to know the good from the not-so-good.
Types I And III Are Essential
Earlier, we talked about the different types of collagen. While types II and IV can be helpful depending on your unique needs, types I and III are the most important. These two types make up most of the collagen in your body. Type I is especially important for maintaining healthy skin.
Check your collagen supplement to make sure that it is high in types I and III. To save money, some manufacturers will dilute their collagen with other, less beneficial types of collagen, so you should always keep your eyes open.
Different Collagen Sources
Collagen comes from three primary sources. These are bovine, porcine, and marine. These collagens are named for the animals that they are extracted from. Bovine comes from cows, porcine from pigs, and marine from fish.
Bovine and porcine are the most common sources for collagen and contain all four major collagen types.
Marine, on the other hand, only contains types I, II, and IV. For pescatarians, it can be a good option, but it may require additional supplementation. The research surrounding marine collagen is also much less robust than bovine and porcine collagens.
Amino Acid Profile May Be Overrated
Collagen is a protein which is made up of a combination of three amino acids. The primary amino acid sequence of collagen is glycine + proline + X or glycine + X + hydroxyproline. X can be any other amino acid.
Collagen supplements often boast of having a diverse amino acid profile, and that’s definitely a good thing. Your body needs amino acids. However, a collagen supplement with a less diverse amino acid profile will still have all it needs to construct collagen so long as it contains glycine and proline/hydroxyproline and at least one other amino acid.
How to Supplement With Collagen
Collagen can be taken orally or applied topically (directly to the skin). Both of these methods have been shown to yield comparable results.
Hydrolyzed collagen and Gelatin are two forms of collagen which are gaining popularity.
Gelatin is a cooked form of collagen. Gelatin is created by boiling or cooking animal skin or bones and is easier to use when cooking. Both gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen have essentially the same benefits, and the difference comes down to which one do you enjoy more.
There are several other nutrients which, if taken with collagen, can further stimulate collagen production in your body. These include vitamin C, glycine, proline, and copper.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, and an essential component of your skin and hair. Studies suggest that collagen may be effective in delaying or reducing common signs of aging such as wrinkles.
Looking for the right collagen supplement can be daunting, but with the right information, you can make the decision that’s right for you!