There are many benefits of collagen, including improving skin elasticity and signs of aging, increasing bone density and improving joint function. For our purposes in this article, we’re assuming you already know the benefits and want to experience those. Maybe you were hoping a good collagen cream would do the trick for you. So this article is focused on producing more collagen in your body, especially where skin and anti-aging are concerned.
There is a very simple reason why collagen cream doesn’t work. (This goes for any or kind of topical application of collagen, such as skin and facial care that uses the claim of collagen in their advertising.) The solution is slightly more comprehensive than the problem, which we’ll explain later in this article.
It’s important to understand the role of collagen – so that we can best select the products or home remedies that will most effectively slow or even reverse the signs of aging in our skin. Because we believe it is possible…
The Role of Collagen in our Bodies
Everything in our bodies is made up of proteins. Collagen is the most abundant protein. This is true for pretty much every animal on the planet. In our bodies, collagen’s role is to provide both a strong structure and flexibility – in our bones, our joints, our skin, everywhere.
As for our skin, collagen accounts for eighty percent of it. Here, it works with another protein called elastin, which keeps our skin elastic. This is what determines our wrinkles, among other things. Healthy collagen production will help our skin bounce back to normal after experiences like pregnancy, weight-gain, skin issues like acne, and of course, aging.
The problem is that, as we age, our collagen gets used up faster than we can produce it and the end result is less collagen in our bodies. Basically, our production starts its downward spiral in our twenties. In fact, age, diet, and environment each play a major role in the depletion of our collagen levels, especially in the most collagen-rich areas of our bodies – such as our skin.
So, when our bodies struggle to keep up with the collagen demand, we’re more susceptible to skin ailments like scarring, wrinkles, and cellulite. If you have trouble getting rid of scars for example, it could be because of a collagen deficiency.
How Does Collagen Work and How Do Our Bodies Use it?
In a nutshell, as described by Madison Dohnt (below), proteins in our bodies look rather like a beaded necklace made up of different “beads”. Here’s the breakdown:
When we consume proteins (the beads), they come in as a jumbled mess. The acidity in our stomach untangles the pile of “beads”. Then the digestive enzymes the “necklace” break up into smaller strands. After that, the strands move into the smaller intestine where it gets cut up into the individual “beads”. These are the amino-acids, or building blocks, that our bodies use to rebuild the proteins we need, based on what our DNA tells us.
“Everything that is coded for by our DNA is made up of proteins,” as Dohnt explains. DNA tells us which combination of proteins to use. We use those amino-acids to rebuild our own proteins, all based on the combination needed for the protein we’re making. There are billions of possible combinations of proteins. And collagen is mostly three of those amino-acids.
In other words –
Essentially, what our bodies need to produce collagen are those three proteins that make up collagen.
Why Collagen and Collagen Peptide Skin Creams do Not Work
This is for any facial or body cream that claims the ingredient collagen, or so-called “plant-based collagen”. These don’t usually even have the proclaimed ingredient. And those that do, well…
Now that we understand the role of collagen, and how our bodies break it down and use it, we can better understand why most collagen and collagen peptide skin creams will never work. There are two general reasons for this:
- Our skin is designed to protect us from our environment. Although it might not seem like it, our skin is very thick. Many layers, in fact. The layer of our skin that produces collagen, the layer called the dermis, is buried underneath other layers. The protein molecules simply can’t fit through the layers of our skin. They’re too big.
- Further, even if the protein could get through the skin, our skin does not carry the digestive enzymes needed to break down the individual proteins. Topical application of collagen skips this whole digestive process, rendering the cream useless, or a general moisturizer at best, assuming they got the rest of the ingredients right.
To get collagen to work, the first thing we must do is consume and digest it.
Why do the cream-makers advertise collagen in their products? It could be number of reasons. Maybe they don’t know what they’re doing. Or they’re intentionally exploiting the trend and targeting those uneducated on the matter. It makes me wonder, though, how they sleep at night.
How to Consume Collagen Protein Supplements Correctly
Collagen supplements provide the necessary ingredients your body needs to produce more collagen. Well, the right collagen supplements have these. They need to provide the complete package – all three collagen proteins.
Collagen peptides, also known as hydrolyzed collagen, are smaller “necklaces” of collagen, and therefore easier for us to digest and therefore absorb into the bloodstream. This is the first thing you want to look for in a supplement.
As mentioned above, of the many proteins there are, collagen is made up of three specifically. If your body is depleted in one of these three, it won’t be able to make the protein. That is what collagen supplement will do – provide your body with all three proteins that make up collagen.
You can get these proteins from bone broth (preferably home made from the bones and cartilage of grass/pasture raised meat), and/or taking collagen peptide supplements.
Madison Dohnt Explains the Whole Process
So, now that we’ve got all three collagen proteins, and we’ve got them small enough to absorb (peptides), there’s one other thing we must do to “activate” the proteins, or to render them effective within our bodies.
How to get Collagen to Work
One more thing is needed to make collagen effective in our bodies, or rather three things:
The process needs vitamin c, zinc, and copper. Foods rich in these minerals help collagen production in our bodies. You can get these by the foods you eat.
Vitamin C is critical for the synthesis of hyaluronic acid. It is used to grow and repair tissues in all parts of our bodies. It heals scars and repairs cartilage, bones, and teeth. It helps our bodies absorb nutrients like iron. It’s an antioxidant protecting against free radicals (which are responsible for the aging process).
Some foods rich in vitamin C:
- American Persimmons
- Acerola cherries
- Brussels sprouts
- Chili peppers
- Citrus fruits – oranges, grapefruit, etc
- Kakuda Plums
- Kiwi fruit
- Mustard Spinach
- Rose Hips
- Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries
- Sweet Yellow Peppers
Zinc acivates proteins essential for collagen synthesis. It is in our cells. It helps the immune system fight off bacteria and viruses. It makes proteins and DNA. It plays a role in our senses of taste and smell. And it helps in the healing process.
Some foods rich in Zinc:
- Dairy products
- Dark chocolate
- Red meat
- Seafood – especially shellfish like crab, lobster, oysters, etc
- Whole grains
Copper activates the enzyme, lysyl oxidase, that is required for collagen maturation. It is used to make energy, connective tissues, and blood vessels. It helps the nervous and immune systems, activates genes, and helps with brain development.
Some foods rich in copper:
- Dark chocolate
- Leafy greens
- Mushrooms – shiitake
- Nuts – cashews, almonds, etc
- Seeds – sesame, sunflower, etc
- Shellfish – oysters, lobster, crab, etc
- Spirulina – which is made from algae
To Sum Up How to Use Collagen Supplements Correctly:
Look for collagen supplement with the following:
- All three collagen proteins: glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline
- Collagen peptides (or hydrolyzed collagen)
- Here is a list of collagen supplements that work
If you haven’t already, add foods rich in vitamin c, zinc, and copper to your diet and/or look for collagen protein supplements that include these.
Are there any Wrinkle and Anti-Aging Facial Creams that DO Work?
There are a few topical treatments that can contribute to your collagen production. But it’s not because they contain collagen. These supplements will likely contain elements that encourage collagen production – like vitamin c.
However, there is only one kind of vitamin c that can do this: ascorbic acid. It’s basically vitamin c in its purest form, also known as L-ascorbic and L-ascorbate. When you’re looking for a cream to help boost collagen production in the skin, make sure it includes this specific vitamin c.
How Long does it Take for Collagen Supplements to Work?
One study done this year (2020) shows a “significant improvement of the collagen structure of facial skin” after 12 weeks of taking a supplement containing “special collagen peptides together with acerola extract, vitamin C, vitamin E, biotin, and zinc.” See the full study.
Also after the twelve weeks, the study found a positive effect on “elasticity, crinkliness/wrinkliness, and evenness in different body areas such as face, hands, décolleté, neck, backside, legs, and belly, all serving as secondary endpoints.”
Another study measuring the effects of collagen supplement found it “significantly improved skin hydration, elasticity, roughness, and density” after 12 weeks. See full study.
A third study found “combinations of BCAA and glutamine or proline are important for restoring dermal collagen protein synthesis impaired by UV irradiation.” See full study.
To succinctly recap, the best way to reverse or slow the signs of aging in your skin is to boost collagen production in your body. The more you can produce the better. The only way we know of that works is to consume and digest the proteins. You can do this by drinking homemade bone broth and/or taking collagen supplements that work.
Include foods rich in vitamin c, zinc, and copper in your diets.
If you want to add a collagen producing cream to your regimen, make sure it contains the purest form of vitamin c, also called L-ascorbic and L-ascorbate.