Support the skin you’re in with a collagen boost

Hormonal changes, sunlight, smoking, environmental pollution, alcohol abuse and nutrient...
Hormonal changes, sunlight, smoking, environmental pollution, alcohol abuse and nutrient deficiencies can accelerate the loss of collagen. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Collagen is on-trend. Can supplements really reduce the appearance of wrinkles though?

The skin is the body’s largest organ, accounting for about 15% of total body weight in adults. It is composed of three layers — the epidermis, the dermis and the hypodermis.

Thinning of the dermis and epidermis and the loss of underlying subcutaneous fat results in a decrease in volume and overall effectiveness of all three skin layers.

The result:

 - decrease in skin elasticity

 - increase in skin dryness from impaired barrier function and production of essential oils such as sebum

 - decrease in nerve endings in the skin, so sensation is diminished

 - decrease in sweat glands and blood vessels, reducing the skin’s ability to respond to heat exposure

 - decrease in melanocytes with age meaning less protection against UV radiation

All of these changes make the skin more susceptible to damage and slower to heal.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body — making up 30% of body protein. It is the main structural component of connective tissue i.e. skin, joints, cartilage, hair, nails, bone.

Its levels are linked with oestrogen so during perimenopause (the 2-12 years before the last menstrual period) when hormone levels are fluctuating and then more obviously, post menopause, skin appearance can change. Sunlight, smoking, environmental pollution, alcohol abuse and nutrient deficiencies can all accelerate this loss also.

All this leads to volume reduction, elasticity loss, reduced epidermal thickness, wrinkles and reduced capacity to retain moisture.

Is supplementing with collagen beneficial for skin then?

In March 2021, the effects of hydrolysed collagen were studied to investigate improvements with skin health. There were 19 placebo-controlled, double-blinded randomised trials with 1125 participants aged between 20 and 70 years (95% female) with an average age of 50 years. Researchers tested a range of collagen formulations (mostly commercial) with and without additional ingredients (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, CoQ10, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin).

As for the outcomes: Supplementation with hydrolysed collagen saw a significant effect on skin hydration, skin elasticity, skin density and wrinkles. Benefits were seen within 60 days and maintained for 30 days after the end of the study.

Marine/fish collagen was the most common source of collagen used followed by bovine, porcine and chicken. Doses ranged from 0.6 g/d to 12 g/d for up to 4 months.

Unfortunately, plants do not offer all the essential amino acids required to form collagen.

The answer is yes, collagen may well be worth a try to improve winter dryness and keep you looking youthful.

If considering using a collagen supplement, look for hydrolysed marine or bovine collagen. Types 1 and 3 are most specific for skin health. Type 2 is more supportive to joint health.

 - The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional.