What is collagen and how can we get more?
You often see collagen on the labels of high-end beauty products, but can it really make us look younger? We take a look at what it can do for us from the inside out.
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. We find it everywhere — from our skin to our bones, cartilage and tendons. It’s the ‘scaffolding’ that holds our tissue together and is essential for skin elasticity, healthy hair and nails, and even our digestion.
These multiple benefits mean it’s not uncommon to see collagen on the labels of some beauty products. But be aware! Molecules are measured using daltons. The size limit for even surface skin absorption is 500 daltons. Collagen molecules weigh in at 10000 daltons and cannot be absorbed by the epidermis, though collagen in our skincare can help to hydrate our skin and protect against moisture loss. Smaller dalton weights are used in food supplements and 2000or smaller seems to be the ideal size for maximum absorption in the body.
What happens as we get older?
We can make collagen ourselves from the protein in our diet. Foods such as eggs, meat, fish and beans contain the building blocks called amino acids, which our bodies can convert into skin-boosting collagen.
We become less and less efficient at making collagen from amino acids over time, however. From the age of 25 onwards, this production line begins to slow down. We start to lose collagen at a rate of about 1.5% per year. By the time we’re in our forties, we may have lost around a quarter of our collagen, which is one of the reasons why our skin starts to lose its elasticity and tone.
How can we get more collagen?
Exercise can help stimulate collagen production by giving the metabolism of our skin cells a boost.
Getting plenty of protein in our diet from meat, fish, eggs and beans can help too. Our gummies are convenient, tasty (small!) sources of these supportive proteins, although it’s worth noting, however, that our diet can only get us so far later in life as our body becomes less efficient at converting amino acids into collagen. From the age of 25 onwards, we may wish to take a supplement to help support our collagen stores.
Adding powdered collagen to hot drinks such as coffee may not be the best option as the high temperature have been proven to break down the proteins making them less effective. Collagen fibres break at 72 degrees centigrade or higher — this is why it’s best to serve bone broth at lukewarm temperatures. It’s worth noting that coffee is also mildly acidic, which may also degrade the collagen.
Look out for supplements that contain hydrolysed collagen as this means the collagen molecules have been broken down into smaller pieces (peptides) that can be absorbed by the body. The ideal molecular weight is 2000 daltons or less which we can look out for on packaging and websites. The amount of collagen is also important. Anything less than 10g won’t have much effect unless it is protected by a capsule to survive the acids in the stomach.
Liz particularly likes the science and independent, double-blind placebo controlled trialled encapsulated supplements from Ingenious Beauty. Use the affiliate code LIZLOVES for 15% off your order.
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- Collagen contributes to smoother, younger-looking skin, and is also thought to help with joint mobility and digestion
- One of the best – and cheapest – ways to get more collagen in our diet is by eating bone broth