Collagen: You don’t realize you have it, until you miss it. If you’re over the age of 30, you probably understand.
We have all the collagen we could ask for in our 20s, and then our body’s natural production levels decrease. After the age of 20, we produce about 1% less collagen each year. Can you do anything about it, or should you just close your eyes and accept the sweet embrace of new wrinkles? Let’s do something about it!
While you can’t stop the aging process altogether, it is possible to rejuvenate the collagen production in your face and minimize future signs of aging and stressed skin. Natural and doctor-prescribed tactics can be combined to encourage the production of more collagen.
What is collagen?
Collagen accounts for one-third of your body’s entire protein composition. It can be found everywhere from your tendons and ligaments to your bones and skin. Collagen is literally a part of the glue that is holding your body together — the root of its name comes from the Greek word “kolla,” which translates to “glue.”
When it comes to skin, collagen works with your elastin (another protein) to give your skin its smooth and youthful look. These two proteins also work together to heal wounds and help your skin snap back in place after an event like weight loss or pregnancy. This is why with something like microneedling, we trick the body into thinking it’s injured, which in turn can get the body to produce and remodel collagen.
As Healthline explains, there are at least 16 types of collagen found in your body. Here are the four main types.
- Type I. Most of the collagen in your body is Type 1. 90%, actually. This type of collagen is dense and provides a lot of structure to your skin and other tissues (and even your teeth!).
- Type II. Your joints are cushioned by this type of collagen, which has loosely packed fibers and is found mostly in cartilage.
- Type III. This type of collagen is found supporting your muscles, organs, and arteries.
- Type IV. Type IV is found in your skin and helps with filtration.
What happens when collagen drops?
Most people think of collagen as beauty related. And, yes, many people try to fix their collagen deficit when the first crow’s feet appear. But there are other side effects to lower levels of collagen in your body.
Some of the most common symptoms of collagen depletion include:
- Wrinkles. On your face, hands, and, well… anywhere. When your body produces less collagen, your skin stops being as taut and smooth as it once was.
- Weaker muscles. Because collagen helps hold the structure of your muscles together, you may notice muscle weakness over time.
- Joint pain. As your cartridge weakens due to less collagen in the body, you may also experience knee discomfort and other joint pain.
- Loss of flexibility. Many people also notice a loss of flexibility as they age, and a lack of collagen may contribute.
- Slow wound healing. Losing collagen doesn’t just mean your wrinkles don’t stay at bay — it could also mean a common paper cut heals more slowly or leaves a scar.
How can you boost collagen naturally?
Dermatologists have plenty of tricks to help you out with the age-old question of “How do I get more collagen?” And not all of them require an in-person treatment. Your doctor can send you home with ideas for how to treat collagen-lacking, stressed skin at home. Here are just a few.
- Change some lifestyle factors. Smoking, being dehydrated, and chronic stress can all affect collagen levels. If you notice a steep decline, consider how you can alter some harmful habits.
- Add new food to your diet. Eating more vitamin C increases your hyaluronic acid and could trigger collagen production. Conversely, eating too many simple sugars and carbohydrates could break down collagen production.
- Start applying aloe vera. Aloe has been used to treat burns and cuts for generations. It stimulates cell growth and could help you produce more collagen — even when applied topically. We recommended reaching for fresh aloe over bottled!
- Stay out of the sun. Experts agree: ultraviolet rays (specifically, UVB rays) don’t do collagen production any favors. Start being generous with the SPF and wear a silly-huge hat when you’re by the pool.
Which medical interventions can boost collagen?
So, your stressed skin is calling out for a doctor? There are many things your dermatologist or other medical professional can do for your skin, including a collagen facial. Treatments vary from the topical to the somewhat invasive, but all are relatively low risk.
- Retinoid creams. This is one of the most popular ways to increase collagen production and reduce the appearance of aging skin. Retinoid creams that are prescribed by a doctor have high concentrations of a vitamin A derived ingredient that quickens skin cell turnover and boosts collagen. Similar products rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants work wonders too!
- Laser resurfacing. A professional can fire a laser to destroy the top layer of your skin. The laser also heats deeper layers of your skin and stimulates the production of more collagen.
- Microneedling. While this might sound painful, microneedling is a very common procedure in which an electric instrument goes over your skin and creates tiny openings in your skin. This alone can encourage collagen, but hyaluronic acid or ascorbic acid may also be applied to create even better results.
- Soft tissue fillers. Getting fillers can fill out your cheeks, smooth your jawline, and produce other noticeable benefits. Some versions contain tiny gel beads. Over time, this gel can be absorbed by your body and give new collagen a place to grab onto.
The final word
Collagen production naturally decreases over time, but you don’t have to help it out. And while at-home treatments may initiate some mild results, going to your dermatologist is your best bet.
A doctor can assess your unique skin situation and recommend the right treatments. Plus, the concentration of retinoids in products is higher when it’s prescribed than anything you’ll buy over the counter. And we don’t need to tell you that you shouldn’t be trying at-home fillers.
Your body will stop producing as much collagen when you’re in your 30s. You can see some improvements by using SPF, staying hydrated, and eating more vitamin C. A dermatologist can bring more dramatic collagen improvements with treatments like retinoids and microneedling.