Collagen has been and still is one of the hottest ingredients in skin care. It has made its way to hair care, nail care and even health care. They are ubiquitous and can be found not only in moisturisers and serums but also from make-up, body scrubs to protein bars, and even coffee mix.
Yes, it’s been known to moisturise dry skin and firm up sagging skin but have you ever wondered what collagen really is and why is it in virtually every beauty product? Are there other benefits to collagen other than for beauty? And how do you get collagen naturally in your body? Let’s find the answers to these collagen-centric questions.
What is Collagen?
Like Monica is to her group of FRIENDS, collagen protein is the glue that literally holds our bodies together, providing our bodies’ structure and support. This triple-helix structure (think of DNA with three legs) collagen consists of amino acids which functions as connective tissue for virtually every structure in our bodies, from bones, tendons, ligaments, and of course, the skin.
The most abundant protein in mammals, collagen accounts for at least 25% of the entire body’s protein. But over time, the body produces collagen at a slower rate with lower-quality.
Types of Collagen
As of 2011, there have been 30 types of collagen identified and categorised into groups depending on the structure, the collagen form. Above 90% of the collagen in the body is recognised as type 1 collagen.
Below is a list of the 4 major collagen types and their corresponding functions.
Type I: 90% of the collagen in the body is type 1 collagen. This supports and provides structure to skin, organs, bones, teeth, tendons.
Type II: cartilage, the connective tissues found in many areas of the body like elbows and knees.
Type III: reticulate, skin, muscle, blood vessels, organs
Type V: cell surfaces, hair, placenta, liver and lungs
Beauty Benefits of Collagen
At least 75% of our skin protein is made of collagen. As babies, we came into the world with an abundance of collagen. Time, repetitive movements (smile and furrows), environmental damage and bad habits like smoking and lack of sleep contributes to the breaking down of collagen in the skin – that means loss of plumpness and elasticity of the skin.
It’s an uphill battle for our skin and our bodies. Around the age of 25, our bodies start of break down collagen more that we churn out new ones. Some of our lifelong habits don’t help in the preservation of youthful skin either, and we begin to notice lines and wrinkles and loss of elasticity and firmness.
The right diet, collagen supplementation and collagen-rich products can help improve our skin’s health and appearance.
Reduces Nail Brittleness
When the body needs more collagen for nail support, nails become brittle. Collagen peptides contain arginine. Arginine delivers nitric oxide to the nail beds. In short, collagen supports healthy nails. One study discovered that when participants took collagen for 24 weeks, it improved their nail health; resulting in lesser breakage and improve growth rate.
May Support Scalp and Hair
In addition to keratin, collagen, to a lesser extent, helps maintain healthy hair. Collagen can not only support your hair but may also do the same for our scalps. Scalp is skin and what is helpful to your skin’s health is helpful for your scalp as well. Poor health of the scalp results in thinning hair or hair loss.
Other than improving the appearance and health of skin, hair and nails, collagen is essential for the entire body’s health. As collagen contributes to at least 25% of the body’s protein, having a healthy level of collagen in the body is important. Collagen also supports a healthy gut and digestion, may improve muscle mass, and support joint health.
Collagen may play an important part in gut health. Collagen’s amino acid combination can help leaky gut and poor digestion in more ways than one. Collagen helps repair the stomach and intestinal lining, and limits inflammation and oxidative stress in the connective tissue of the intestinal lining.
The hydrophilic nature of collagen makes it attracts water and acidic molecules to itself, and allows for easier breakdown of other proteins and carbs in the digestive tract. With water in the intestine, collagen smoothly move food to the GI tract for better digestion.
With collagen type 2 primarily found in the joints, elbows, knees and ankles, that are prone to wear and tear, it makes sense to have a collagen-rich diet to support the joints’ comfort and flexibility. Depleted collagen in the joints make them swollen, stiff and painful. And just like a car lacking in oil, in some case joints become inflexible or immobile. Amino acids in collagen like glycine and proline support joint mobility.
Food That Boost Collagen Production
As mentioned above, while the body creates collagen on its own, age and other factors cause the collagen production to slow down. Supplementing collagen through food is a wise choice. And this is the reason why bone broth has become the latest trend in food-based beauty and health elixirs. Ultra-rich in collagen aside, bone broth ‘super powers’ are believed to be stopping inflammation, protecting the joints, healing leaky guts, improving sleep and increase bone strength.
Still, some object to consuming bone broths; they require hours of simmering, they’re not a vegetarian dish, or simply, ‘I don’t like the taste.” If you can’t have bone broth for whatever reason, there are other ways of pumping up collagen through food. Bone broth alternatives are leafy greens such as kale, broccoli and spinach, reds like tomatoes and beets, fish and oyster and meat.
There are also collagen powder and supplements available. Although, how much supplements to take to be effective is still being debated and hopefully, tested. Topical collagen products, such as moisturisers, lotion and even joint creams with collagen is another way to replenish collagen.