Over the past few years, collagen-boosting products have popped up in the form of powders, supplements, lotions, serums, gummy bears and even beer.
More and more people are spending money on collagen, seeking out fillers or buying special creams in the hopes of minimizing wrinkles and achieving more supple skin. But what’s actually the best way to make sure you’re getting all of the added collagen you want?
To figure out the best way to boost your collagen ― and which methods to avoid to save your money ― HuffPost spoke with three skincare professionals. They told us what exactly collagen is, the best ways to boost collagen production and which methods to avoid.
First of all, what exactly is collagen?
“Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. It is formed by the linking and winding together of amino acids to form collagen fibers,” Alyssa R. Golas, MD, plastic surgeon at NYU Langone Health, told HuffPost. ”There are many different types of collagen, and they are found in varying ratios in skin, tendons, cartilage, blood vessels, bone, and scar tissue, to name a few.”
She added, “Collagen synthesis, or the formation of new collagen, is an essential part of wound healing. Collagen also gives structure and strength to our skin.”
But as we enter our mid-30s, Anne Chapas, MD, a dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Union Square Dermatology in New York, told HuffPost that our bodies begin to produce less collagen. That’s why so many of us are on a quest to replace it.
The jury is out as to whether or not ingesting collagen helps skin.
As of now, there isn’t a lot of good, conclusive data on ingesting collagen via pills and powders and what it does to your skin, according to Mary Stevenson, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Health.
“A lot of patients ask me about taking collagen orally. We do not have good data to suggest that ingesting collagen will result in it reaching your skin,” Stevenson said. “When you ingest a protein it is broken down into amino acids and your body absorbs the nutrients you need. Generally speaking, unless you are deficient in protein, your body is remarkably efficient at absorbing what you need and discarding what you do not need.”
She added that you can instead make some beneficial changes to your diet to slow down your loss of collagen. “Fish that you eat, such as tuna, salmon, or fish oil supplements, are high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties and vitamin A also helps to scavenge free radicals, both of which can prevent loss or degradation of collagen.”
But you’ll likely see results with collagen-boosting creams.
“Many products have peptides and antioxidants that can help boost collagen,” Stevenson said. “A few of my favorites at the moment include TNS Essential Serum, which contains both antioxidants and peptides, and Alastin Skincare Restorative Skin Complex which also contains peptides to help restore elastin and collagen.”
Collagen production CAN be boosted with certain procedures.
In order to repair damaged collagen and stimulate the body to make new collagen, Chapas said dermatologists typically use laser treatments and fillers.
“Resurfacing lasers for decades have been used to apply heat to the skin which removes the damaged collagen and makes our collagen-producing cells more active,” she said, adding that newer lasers can create collagen with little recovery time.
“The new hyaluronic acid fillers stimulate collagen production by stretching the collagen-producing cells known as fibroblasts. These fillers not only make your skin look better immediately, they also create thicker skin due to increased collagen production.”
Just make sure to protect the collagen you already have.
Since there’s still not enough data to show whether or not certain collagen supplements actually work, focus on prevention and ask your dermatologist about what procedures or creams might work for you.
“The most important thing to know about collagen is to protect the collagen you have with sunscreen and stimulate as much as you can with topical retinol, growth factors (proteins that stimulate the growth of specific tissues) and peptides,” Chapas said. Done and done.