Have you ever thought about what gives your skin the tight and youthful look that everyone wants? Collagen has much to do with it. Collagen is a protein found abundantly in the body, it is present in our bones, muscles, skin and even in our tendons. It provides strength and structure to our body by acting like a glue and forming scaffolds.
There are many different types of collagens, the one that our body produces naturally is known as endogenous collagen. On the other hand, the artificially synthesised type is called exogenous collagen. This synthesised collagen is derived from third-party sources such as supplements. Collagen depletion and breakdown is associated with a lot of issues, especially of the skin. Therefore, exogenous collagen is used to combat the effects of collagen breakdown through medicinal and cosmetic applications.
What Is Collagen
Collagen is the most commonly found protein in your body, making up roughly one-third of the body’s total protein content. It is a hard, fibrous and insoluble protein that is an extremely important component for bones, skin, muscle, tendon, and ligaments. Many other essential parts of our body, such as blood vessels, retinas, and teeth, also contain collagen.
It can be thought of as the "glue" that ties everything together. It strengthens the skin and structure of our body, and holds everything together. The word "colla" is derived from the Greek word "kólla," which means "glue.". In the middle layer of the skin, that is, the dermis, collagen forms a fibrous cell network, which acts as a foundation for new cells to grow upon. It also helps in the restoration and replacement of dead skin cells.
As we grow older, our body produces less and less of collagen, which is the major reason for the decreasing elasticity of our skin. It has been found that after the age of 60, there is a considerable decline in the production and quality of this protein. Decreased collagen production also directly affects wrinkle formation and weakening of the joint cartilages.
What Does Collagen Do
There are at least 16 different types of collagen, the major ones are known as Type I, II, III, and IV. Here's a breakdown of the four primary forms of collagen and their functions in the human body:
- Type I is the most commonly found collagen. This form of collagen, made up of densely packed fibres, accounts for 90% of your body's collagen. Our skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth all benefit from it majorly.
- Type II collagen is found in our elastic cartilages. It cushions our joints and comprises more loosely packed fibres. It also promotes immune functioning.
- Type III collagen is found in our muscles, arteries and organs. It is found in the arterial walls and it's important for our heart’s health.
- Type IV is present in the layers of your skin and aids with the filtration.
Collagen is resorbable, which means that it can be broken down, converted and the body can absorb it back. It also takes on various forms like compacted solids or lattice-like gels. The vast range of functions of this naturally-occurring protein make it very versatile and suitable for various medical purposes. Collagen is a very popular ingredient in the cosmetic world as well, with wide-range applications and sources of the protein.
What Does Collagen Do For Your Skin
As we discussed above, collagen has multiple benefits with regard to our body.
- It enhances our skin elasticity - Collagen is a very crucial component for the structure of our skin. It strengthens it, improves the skin’s elasticity and hydrates the skin.
- It reduces wrinkles - With age, wrinkles and fine lines become prominent due to the natural depletion of collagen. If we take care and maintain our skin, we can avoid this problem by harnessing the protein’s anti-wrinkle properties.
- It relieves joint pain - Collagen is present in the cartilage of our joints, and acts as a cushion. It increases elasticity of the cartilage and relieves joint pain.
- Maintains bone structure - The protein gives the bones structure and helps them to stay strong.
- Increases muscle mass - Collagen makes up ten to twenty percent of our bone’s density, increasing the mass of the muscles.
What Harms Collagen Production
Collagen production is naturally affected with older age, but there are many other activities and habits that can affect the production of collagen.
- Aging of the skin cells- Multiple theories, including the reduction in the cell’s DNA repairability, have been used to explain skin aging on a more molecular level. There is a significant loss of the skin’s ability to produce collagen by the age of 60.
- Sugar Intake - The excessive consumption of sugar and carbohydrates also hamper the Collagen's capacity to repair itself.
- Excessive Sun Exposure - Ultraviolet exposure slows down the formation of collagen. It is advisable to limit sun exposure and always use a reliable sunscreen to protect the skin from the sun.
- Tobacco Usage - The various forms of tobacco are extremely harmful for the skin. Exposure to tobacco can harden the collagen, ultimately leading to its death. Tobacco also tightens the blood arteries and restricts blood flow, which interferes with the health of the skin. It has been linked to resulting in poor and almost non-existent collagen repair. If a sufficient amount of collagen is not present in the skin, It can result in dryness, discoloration and wrinkles
How To Stimulate Collagen Production In The Skin
Collagen has a unique domino effect when it is stimulated, the more collagen you have, the more the body produces and stores. There are many ways of increasing the level of collagen in one's body, ranging from supplements to gels and serums.
- Aloe Vera- Aloe vera gel works exceptionally well in healing and soothing wounds. It can be applied on wounds as a gel or taken orally. Aloe vera has special properties that stimulate cell growth and this property proves useful in increasing the production of collagen in the skin. Aloe can be used directly on the skin in its natural form or in the form of its various preparations like gels.
- Foods rich in Vitamin C - Vitamin C is essential for the production of hyaluronic acid, known for speeding up recovery and relieving joint pain. The levels of hyaluronic acid and collagen in the body can be raised by consuming foods high in vitamin C and amino acids. These include oranges, red peppers, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and strawberries. Concentrate of Hyaluronic acid, available in drugstores, can also aid in collagen production.
- Ginseng- Ginseng improves blood circulation and aids the formation of collagen. It also brightens the skin and hydrates it.
- Antioxidants- Antioxidants protect the body against damage by free radicals. They assist the existing collagen to produce more collagen to the best of its abilities.
- Retinol - Retinoids increase collagen formation and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
- A healthy and rich diet- Collagen can also be found in the connective tissues of animals like chicken and pork skins. Bone broth and gelatin are very rich in collagen.
- Collagen peptides- Collagen Peptides are very tiny protein fragments. Whole collagen proteins are broken down into these small bits called peptides. They are taken by mouth and they help to alleviate many skin and joint conditions. They are extremely popular pills that are used to increase the collagen levels of the body and improve skin.
Why Is Vitamin C Required To Build Collagen
Vitamin C is highly concentrated in the skin. This vitamin is very valuable for collagen formation and antioxidant protection.
Vitamin C is a component for the proline and lysine hydroxylation, stabilising the tertiary structure of the collagen molecule and promotes collagen gene expression. The dermis produces most of the collagen, resulting in the creation of a plasma membrane and dermal collagen matrix in the skin.
Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that has the ability to neutralise and eliminate oxidants, produced by pollution and UV activity. The epidermal layer of the skin having the most vitamin C concentration is especially important for eliminating oxidants. They protect the skin against damage, thereby promoting the formation of collagen in the skin.
Collagen is a structural protein that is found in many regions of the body. Our habits, dietary patterns, and skincare routines can all contribute to the increased production of collagen.
Collagen supplements are becoming increasingly popular these days. They have been proven to improve skin quality, and muscle strength and relieve joint discomfort.
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