From high-end anti-aging serums to drugstore moisturizers, collagen has been a key skincare ingredient for many years. Here’s everything you need to know about collagen and how it can restore a youthful appearance to aging skin.

What is collagen and why is it important?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, providing structure and strength to the skin, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. It helps the skin maintain its firmness, suppleness and elasticity, and plays an essential role in the renewal of skin cells. Collagen is also a major component of nails and hair.

Endogenous collagen is naturally occurring collagen within the body, while exogenous collagen is synthetic and serves several cosmetic and medical purposes. Synthetic collagen can be used to reverse the signs of ageing, help heal wounds by attracting new skin cells, and improve joint function in people with osteoarthritis.

What damages collagen?

As we age, our collagen production naturally decreases. This causes skin to sag and wrinkle, hair to lose its luster, joints to stiffen, and tendons to lose their elasticity.

Certain lifestyle factors can deplete collagen levels, including a high-sugar diet, smoking and exposure to UV rays. Some autoimmune disorders can reduce collagen as well.

How can you prevent collagen loss?

A healthy diet that contains certain key nutrients can help the body produce collagen. These include proline found in egg whites and meat, anthocyanidins found in berries, copper in shellfish and nuts, vitamin C in oranges and strawberries, and vitamin A in beef liver and carrots. Avoiding smoking and sun exposure will also go a long way in protecting your collagen levels.

To replenish lost collagen, you can try collagen creams and serums, collagen supplements or collagen injections. While collagen creams haven’t been proven to increase collagen levels when used alone because the molecules are too big to be absorbed by the skin, in my studio I combine them with other therapies for increased efficacy. When combined with a cosmetic micro-needling roller or with red LED light therapy, the lotion’s effectiveness is enhanced by creating a way for the product to penetrate deeper into the skin.

Red LED light therapy has been proven particularly effective in stimulating collagen production. A study conducted in Germany in 2014 found that subjects treated with a red LED light experienced significantly improved skin complexion and skin feeling, profilometrically assessed skin roughness, and collagen density when measured by ultrasound.

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