What is collagen and why do you need it?

Have you heard of collagen? We often talk about collagen in heroic terms – and with good reason. To sum it up briefly, collagen is an essential component of the skin that is responsible for keeping our skin plump, firm, and hydrated. It also helps give our skin its ability to snap back into place.

Collagen is a structural protein often referred to as the “scaffold” of the skin. It is the most abundant protein in the human body, and in the skin, collagen helps form a network of cells called fibroblasts. These fibroblasts are very important because they encourage the growth of new skin cells, which keeps our skin healthy and fresh. They also play a vital role in replacing and restoring dead skin cells, which is essential for wound healing.

The sad truth is that our collagen stores naturally decline as we age, as well as with preventable exposure to harmful environmental stressors. You might be surprised to learn that the rate at which we produce collagen begins to slow down from the age of twenty-five. In particular, women’s collagen reserves decrease considerably after menopause.

Extrinsic factors (aka environmental causes) such as UV rays, smoking, and pollution can break down our collagen and accelerate premature skin aging. In fact, it is believed that UV rays can cause up to 80% of visible signs of skin aging.

Exposure to UV rays can cause the skin to enter a state of oxidative stress, which is when free radicals (read: unpaired electrons) attack our precious collagen.

When collagen breaks down, the structure of the skin can weaken, which can lead to the installation of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as dryness, sagging skin and a “crimped” appearance. In short, our skin can lose its elasticity and its “spring”.

But all is not catastrophic – we promise! Since prevention is easier than cure, one of the best ways to prevent the accelerated breakdown of collagen is to apply broad-spectrum SPF daily.

I prefer to use an SPF like Sheer Physical Protection SPF50 from Neostrata (€ 29.80, theskinnerd.com), as it protects against the harmful effects of UVA and UVB rays, as well as free radical activity thanks to the ingredients rich in antioxidants from green tea, lactobionic acid and vitamin E.

Unfortunately, collagen is too big to permeate the skin and make a difference to skin health, which is why we don’t tend to use skin care products that contain the vital skin component.

Instead, use topical skin care with heroic ingredients that work to increase collagen production in the skin. Vitamin A, present in the concentrated vitamin A serum Zelens Power A (theskinnerd.com, € 125) is a heroic antioxidant that stimulates the production of collagen.

In short, Vitamin A speeds up cell turnover and re-educates the skin, while stimulating the generation of collagen in the skin for a more plump, firmer appearance.

Or you can use a skin care product that contains peptides – short chains of amino acids, which are the key proteins in our skin. Peptides are responsible for sending important messages to our fibroblasts to synthesize key proteins like collagen – the exact components of skin that we look for in bucket loads.

You can find peptides in IMAGE’s Max Stem Cell Wrinkle Smoother (theskinnerd.com, € 98), which helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

I would also recommend that you eat a healthy balanced diet which means lots of fruits, vegetables, and protein. It is true that we are what we eat and I strongly believe in nourishing my skin from the inside out. Our bodies cannot produce collagen without the necessary amino acids that we get from our food to process them.

The cheesy choice

Advanced Nutrition Program Skin Moisture Lock (91 €)

Advanced Nutrition Skin Moisture Lock supplements do exactly what you expect – they help “lock in” and retain moisture in the skin.

The capsules contain hyaluronic acid, a humectant that acts as a magnet to draw water into the skin, and ceramides, a native skin lipid (aka fatty molecule) that helps strengthen the skin barrier and protect the hydration reserves of our skin.

Advanced Nutrition Program Skin Moisture Lock (theskinnerd.com, € 91)

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