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Replenishing Your Skin With Collagen

by Steven Spriensma June 19, 2017

Replenishing Your Skin With Collagen

Collagen is one of the most important proteins in your body, because it’s quite literally in just about every part of your body. Making up one-third of your proteins, the collagen produced naturally by your body give it its structural integrity, providing the support for minerals like calcium to attach to bones, muscles, joints, and tendons, forming and repairing them. If the production of it breaks down, so will you!

But we’re here to talk about skin. Collagen is incredibly important for strong, healthy skin, as wrinkles and sagging skin are the by-products of decreasing collagen production. But it doesn’t matter what the march of time will eventually do to you, it matters what you do for your skin now. Taking collagen supplements and getting the right amino acids can slow the effects of aging on skin, restore plumpness, and diminish wrinkles and scars. 

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is made of three protein strains wound together, giving it a tensile strength that’s greater than steel. It’s created by special cells called fibroblasts, which use protein and vitamin C to make subunits called procollagen, which then come together to form a complete collagen molecule. These molecules come together to create fibrils, which form the fibrous anchors of skin. Collagen is so integral it makes up 75% of the dry-weight of skin.

Collagen is necessary to repair and replace damaged tissue and create cellular structures; it helps to heal wounds, repair damaged cells, and keep your joints and muscles in good health. It’s these properties that make it crucial for healthy, glowing skin, too!

Collagen Helps Heal Your Damaged Skin

On the strong fibers created by collagen, new skin cells are given the base upon which to replace dead ones. As we age, though, our skin’s ability to create collagen diminishes, weakening this base and causing wrinkles, sagging, and thinning skin.

This natural decline in collagen is combined with environmental damage to wreak even more havoc. Exterior skin damage can speed up the aging process, weaken the epidermis, and cause the rapid development of lines, wrinkles, and other effects. The main culprit for this external damage? The sun! The ultraviolet radiation from the sun damages the skin, and in sun-degraded skin, collagen structure is deformed, replaced in many areas with abnormal clumps of elastin.[i] While elastin is important for the connective tissue of joints and for skin elasticity, sun damage can create an irregular collagen “architecture” for your skin, causing it to age much faster.

If you live in a major city, though, your skin has an additional obstacle in air pollution.[ii] Particles from traffic exhaust and poisonous city air can cause or exacerbate hives, eczema, and premature aging. Premature age spots and wrinkles have even been seen among “relatively young people” in urban populations.[iii] Other forms of air pollution, like smoking, can also damage your skin, and combined with the sun, that’s a lot of harm that’s tough to control.

Types of Collagen

To improve your skin, it’s important to know the collagen in your body and what might be in your supplements. There are at least 28 types of collagen in your body, made by different processes to do different things. The first three types are the most common, and will probably be the ones you see on any supplement labels. They are:

  • Type I: The most abundant collagen in the body, Type I mostly makes up skin, tendons, organs, and bones.
  • Type II: This type makes up cartilage, and supplements with it are mostly for joint pain and health.
  • Type III: This is a fibrillar collagen found in connective tissues such as skin, lung, uterus, intestine and the vascular system, and is usually paired with Type I.

Types I and III are the ones you’re going to see in supplements for skin, hair, and nails, and they make up 90% of the collagen in your body.

The Importance of Vitamin C for Collagen Production

In order to counterbalance skin damage, it’s very important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin C (or ascorbic acid) in your diet. It’s an essential nutrient found plentifully in both the dermis (the tissue that contains blood capillaries, nerve endings, and other structures; collagen is one of the main structural components) and the epidermis (the outer layer of skin).[iv] This is for good reason: vitamin C is important for turning glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, three essential amino acids, into collagen.[v]

The most effective way to get vitamin C is through fruits and vegetables. Dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens are some of the best vegetables to include in your diet, but other excellent choices are broccoli, berries like strawberries and blueberries, tomatoes, and cabbage (making sauerkraut an excellent source of vitamin C!).

There is, of course, orange juice, but the classic glass of OJ with breakfast can have a lot of drawbacks. Juice is usually incredibly high in sugar, so high as to make it the equivalent of drinking soda, and takes away the part of fruit that makes it healthy, i.e. the natural fibers. If you’re having trouble getting vitamin C in your diet, there are many supplements that provide the vitamin C you’ll need for healthy skin, without the high dosages of sugar.

Without vitamin C, the creation of collagen is disrupted, and the support structures of the body begin to fall apart – essentially, what scurvy is. Certainly you’ve heard the horror stories from history of sailors who, on long journeys, didn’t have access to well-rounded diets, and lost their teeth, hair, and nails while developing skin lesions. While it’s all-but-unheard of today, the terrible descriptions stress the importance of getting vitamin C in one’s diet.

Food Sources for Collagen

Yes, foods rich in vitamin C are incredibly important for collagen development, but there are other foods that can help build and maintain your body’s “scaffolding”. Foods rich in glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, the three amino acids that are combined to make procollagen, are essential as they cannot be synthesized naturally in the body – they have to come from your diet. Here’s what to include in your diet to ensure you get enough:

  • Meat and Eggs: Traditional, organic protein sources are some of the best ways to get the amino acids that make up collagen. If it’s chicken, make sure to eat the skin! An interesting choice is ham hock or “pig knuckles” – they’re rich in collagen and have been touted as a skin “superfood.”[vi]
  • Gelatin: This is great for hair, nails, and joint health, but there isn’t much to prove that it helps with skin. Bovine hydrolyzed collagen does have scientific backing, though, and they are very similar.
  • Bone Broth: Bone broth does have the proteins necessary to help collagen development, but don’t consume it expecting a miracle; it doesn’t have any more than other forms of protein, but it’s very versatile and makes a great meal.

Collagen Supplements

For an easier way to get the nutrients needed for proper collagen development and healthy skin, supplements can be effective.

Organika Enhanced Collagen

  • Bovine Collagen: This is collagen isolated and often hydrolyzed (broken down into smaller, more soluble proteins) from the bones, skin, and connective tissue of cows. It has a different chemical makeup than gelatin, though it does have the same amino acids. Taking these collagen supplements has been proven to enhance the formation of fibrils and fibroblast density,[vii] stimulating the production of collagen and improving the condition of skin.

Naka Pro Marine Collagen

 

  • Marine Collagen: If bovine collagen doesn’t sound appealing, marine collagen might be the supplement for you. It doesn’t have all the effects of bovine collagen in regards to joint health, but it’s still a great skincare supplement. It has been shown to do pretty much what bovine collagen does: enhance fibroblasts and fibrils, stimulating the synthesis of collagen to make skin healthier. It might even have a better bioavailability, and taken with plant-based antioxidants, you’re looking at a very healthy, very safe skin enhancer.[viii]

 

 Sources:

[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8642084

[ii] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/15/air-pollution-causes-wrinkles-and-premature-ageing-new-research-shows

[iii] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jul/15/air-pollution-causes-wrinkles-and-premature-ageing-new-research-shows

[iv] http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/vitamin-C

[v] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/

[vi] http://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/beauty/anti-aging/eating-collagen1.htm

[vii] https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jnsv/52/3/52_3_211/_article

[viii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4745978/




Steven Spriensma
Steven Spriensma

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