Our series of “All You Need to Know” about skincare ingredients continues with Collagen. This small but mighty skincare ingredient is a basic building block for all healthy skin because it just happens to be the most abundant and commonly found protein building block in your body. Let’s take a deep dive into all things collagen:
What is Collagen?
When your skin, bones, teeth, tendons, ligaments, etc. all rely on collagen for structure and function, it's no secret that collagen is a key ingredient to maintaining a youthful appearance. Without collagen our faces and bodies would be a shapeless blob.
Are There Different Types of Collagen?
Yes! There are actually 28 different types of collagen found in the body, but we will concentrate on Type 1, as it is the most abundant and also provides support for your skin. In fact, Type 1 accounts for nearly 90% of your body’s collagen! This type is made of densely packed fibers and provides structure to your skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and even teeth.
What Does Collagen Do For Skin?
Collagen gets its name from the Greek word “kolla,” meaning glue. And it certainly lives up to its name because it helps bind our cells and tissues together to give them elasticity and strength. Collagen creates fibers sometimes called “fibroblasts” which can look like a rope. The amino acids link together and the ropes form bundles and these bundles then stick together like a cluster or mesh. These fibers give our skin its suppleness and structure and can stretch considerably without breaking. In fact, an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) study found that collagen fibrils are 5-10 times stronger than steel!
The Korean phrase "쫀쫀하다" (Jjon Jjon Ha Da) meaning supple, plump skin with elasticity, like mochi, comes to mind, because that is our desired skin quality. As we age, the amount of collagen in our bodies begins to drop, leading to loss of elasticity and that springy, mochi skin. In fact, as we get older, our collagen levels drop by 1% every year.
When it comes to collagen as an effective skincare ingredient, collagen’s BFF has to be Hyaluronic Acid (HA) because HA molecules like to bind to two ingredients: water on one side and collage on the other. It is logical that, as we age we lose both collagen and HA together, because they usually go hand-in-hand. It is also then logical that these two ingredients are complementary to each other when used in skincare. In fact, we would advise that you check an ingredient list to see if the two appear together. This combo should keep your skin firm and plump. In fact, recent studies have shown that applying collagen topically (to the skin) can also minimize fine lines.
Besides being an essential component of skin, collagen also plays an important for other parts of our body.
Natural Sources of Collagen in Food
Time for some science! All collagen begins its life as something called “procollagen” which requires two amino acids: glycine and proline. In order for these two amino acids to bind together and form our desired collagen they require Vitamin C. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of where you can find those 3 collagen-making ingredients:
Glycine - Large amounts are found in pork skin, chicken skin, and gelatin, but glycine is also found in various protein-containing foods. You may also find it in bone broth - there’s a reason one of the leading hot pot chains in Singapore is called “Beauty in a Pot.”
Proline - Higher amounts of this amino acid can be found in egg whites, wheat germ, dairy products, cabbage, asparagus, and mushrooms.
Vitamin C - We all know citrus fruits are a great source of Vitamin C but don’t forget bell peppers, strawberries, and kale.
You can help your body preserve and protect your naturally-made collagen by avoiding eating excessive amounts of sugar, smoking, and using UV protection to avoid sunburn.
What about Collagen Supplements?
Collagen supplements have taken the K-beauty market by storm in recent years, because let’s face it - it’s great to eat a balanced nutritious diet to help create collagen in our own bodies, but it may be more convenient and faster to also have a supplement at the ready. A recent 2019 scientific study showed that taking a collagen supplement can help boost skin appearance and elasticity.
Does Collagen Size Matter?
Absolutely. Although collagen supplements can come in powder or a gelatin form, the most important thing you should be looking for is the molecular size. Recent studies show that collagen supplements with a larger molecular structure like those found in beef sources, are not as effectively absorbed and used by the body as those with a lower molecular weight like marine sourced collagen, aka fish. The units of molecular weight for collagen are measured in Daltons, so the smaller the molecular size, the higher the absorption rate. As an example, a marine based collagen supplement would have molecules that measure about 500-600 Daltons and have an 82% absorption rate. Molecules from animals would measure between 2,000-5,000 Daltons and have shockingly low 2% absorption into the body.
Are Collagen Supplements Safe?
As with skincare, we always recommend a patch test or a taste test, but please be sure to check all the ingredients first. For example, if you have a gelatin sensitivity, then you may want to look for an alternative source of collagen. Likewise, if you’re allergic to the source of the supplement e.g. fish, you may have an allergic reaction. Otherwise, because collagen naturally occurs in the body you should not have adverse reactions.
Can I Boost Collagen Production with Procedures?
The best and most effective way to boost your own natural collagen production is with Microneedling, which is sometimes even referred to as “Collagen Induction Therapy.” How does it work? This treatment creates thousands of nano-sized minimal incisions in our skin to induce wound-healing. When these micro-injuries heal up, it triggers the skin’s fibroblasts to synthesize new collagen and elastin. Basically, microneedling gives skin a reminder that it has to keep making fresh collagen, and it's a good way to induce your own skin to help itself. You can read more about Microneedling here as well as the best post-microneedling Do's and Dont’s here.
Eunogo’s Top Collagen Picks:
EunogoShop's newest superstar in the Collagen department, the HighPrime Collagen Film is made with 3 clean ingredients: Collagen & Hydrolyzed Collagen (99.86%) and Hyaluronic Acid (0.14%). Combined with the Ampoule Mist, it will give your skin a quick collagen boost!
Skin Barrier Fluid contains hydrolyzed collagen while Moisture Aqua Serum contains hyaluronic acid - BFFs hand in hand!
6. Bonus (A treatment!): Rejuvenation Skin Booster - NCTF FillMed