Between using retinol anti-aging face serums, receiving routine facials, and diligently staying out of the sun, most people are well aware of the various methods of skincare to reduce the signs of aging. Some of these methods are more obvious than others, such as cutting out bad habits like smoking or making poor dietary decisions that are high in sugar. Other methods such as routine botox treatments and fillers are far more expensive and require return visits to the dermatologist every 4-16 months.
And while in combination and careful practice these methods can be effective, there is one naturally-occurring protein produced by the body that is essential for your skin’s youthfulness. A buzzword we all hear thrown around in advertisements and marketed on creams and cosmetics. A term most people recognize but few people understand – collagen.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein that is naturally produced in the body. It can be found in your connective tissues, muscles, blood, bones, and of course, your skin. While the body produces collagen naturally on a regular basis, these levels of production slow down as we get older. This decrease in production effects the rate at which we age due to the benefits we reap from this protein. These include:
- Acts as a protective layer for your organ tissue
- Increases and sustains the elasticity of the skin
- Allows the joints, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissue to remain flexible
- Helps to hold the muscles and bones together
- Reduces the wear-and-tear on joints and muscles as we use them
Collagen is essential for both our outward-facing youthfulness and the sustained functionality of our internal bodily structure, which is why it is so important to use practices that increase our body’s natural production of this protein.
How to Boost Your Skin’s Collagen
Despite the fact that the body’s natural production of collagen decreases as we age, there are certain practices that we can adopt (and avoid) in order to stimulate collagen in the skin. These include:
1. Choose Foods that Increase Collagen Production
While investing in supplements and expensive serums can prove beneficial for many, diet is often the most sustainable and effective way to improve the elasticity and longevity of youthful skin. More specifically, foods that contain nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and certain antioxidants help the body to synthesize collagen production by stimulating the pre-collagen production phase. For example, vitamin C works alongside certain amino acids such as glycine to secrete hydroxyproline – another amino acid that then acts as a precursor to collagen production (1). Other nutrients and antioxidants protect against the breakdown of collagen in the body by eliminating free radicals (2).
With that in mind, consider choosing some of the following healthy foods and snacks to naturally stimulate collagen production:
- Kiwi: extremely high in vitamin C
- Blueberries: also high in vitamin C and many other antioxidants
- Raw Almonds: high in vitamin D
- Carrots: high in vitamin A (restores collagen in damaged skin)
- Dark Leafy Greens: tons of vitamin A, E, and C. Consider kale or broccoli
2. Increase Your Natural Growth Hormone Production
The body naturally produces a chemical known as the human growth hormone (HGH) which not only helps the body to heal and grow, but research shows that it also stimulates collagen synthesis in the body (3). Not only is it essential for the repair and repeated use of muscles, ligaments, and keeping the skin young, but it also helps the brain create neural connections between cells related to memory and cognition. However, similar to collagen, the body’s natural production of HGH slows with age, which is why it is important to engage in practices that allows the natural secretion of HGH. These include:
Getting at least 8 hours of sleep allows the body time to naturally produce high levels of HGH
Weightlifting and Exercise
Working out stimulates the body’s natural production of HGH, especially heavy weightlifting and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)
Doing regular 14-18-hour fasts (while still drinking water) can lead to major increases in production of HGH
Reduce Food Before Bed
Since your body produces significant amounts while you sleep, eating foods high in protein or carbs reduces your body’s ability to naturally produce HGH
Take a GABA Supplement
3. Try Red Light & Infrared Treatments
Over the last decade new research has emerged that has shown the efficacy of infrared and red light therapy on the skin’s natural production of collagen. In fact, some studies have even shown that participants who used infrared technology treatments not only showed a significant increase in collagen density in the skin, but these individuals also experienced improvements in skin complexion, such as a decrease in acne and blemishes (5).
So how does it work? With red LED light therapy specifically, certain wavelengths emitted by the light produces healing benefits that the skin absorbs, which effectively stimulates fibroblasts. These fibroblasts then synthesize the skin’s natural production of collagen.
While red LED light therapy used to be expensive and require pricey visits to the dermatologist, the same technology is now available for sale on site such as Amazon that can be used in the comfort of your own home. Many of these products also integrate facial massagers and vibrating technology, which is also beneficial for the skin’s natural production of collagen.
Try it here: Rika LED Light Therapy Facial Massager
4. Receive a Facial Massage
Massaging the muscles in both the body and the face can do wonders for increasing collagen production and stimulating blood flow to those regions. In fact, research has shown that combining massaging movements with the application of facial creams and serums increases the skin’s natural production of both collagen and protein precursors to collagen (6). That being said, your facial skin is sensitive and delicate, so it is important to massage gently and in upward motions only in order to reduce sag and prevent damage.
Similar to LED red light therapy, there are many products that are easily accessible to the public to help with facial massaging to stimulate collagen production. Some products even combine the benefits of facial massaging and LED red light therapy into one product, such as the Rika LED Light Therapy Facial Massager mentioned above.
5. Reduce Sugar Intake
Unlike kiwis and blueberries that provide the body with valuable antioxidants and vitamins that help produce collagen, processed sugar actually reduces the effectiveness of collagen in the body. It does so by attaching itself to collagen proteins, making them rigid and inflexible. Research suggests that this binding makes these proteins incapable of easy repair, which then can lead to dull, dry, and aged skin (7).
Sugar is often referred to as the most addictive property humans consume and can be extremely hard to cut out of your diet. While many people experience extreme sugar cravings when trying to reduce sugar intake or cut it out altogether, the benefits on overall health and youthfulness outweigh the costs by far.
6. Stay Out of the Sun
Similar to the effect sugar has on the effectiveness of collagen within the body, sun exposure can be just as dangerous, and can ultimately lead to the premature aging of the skin. In fact, research shows that extended sun exposure significantly reduces both the natural collagen and elastin concentration in the skin (8). Other studies have shown that sun-damaged skin accumulates elastotic materials that replaces the natural collagen in the skin (9).
However, staying out of the sun altogether is not a reasonable resolution or expectation for most people. Fortunately, diligent application of high-SPF sunscreen or zinc-based sunscreen can reduce the negative effects sun exposure has on collagen production. You should also consider wearing a hat while in the sun, if possible.
7. Try a Collagen Supplement
Collagen supplements have become ever more mainstreamed and popular within the skincare community over the past decade or so given the proven health benefits they offer for skin elasticity and youthfulness. The majority of these supplements are hydrolyzed, meaning that the collagen has already been broken down, making it easier for the body to absorb. Research has shown that the consumption of oral collagen peptides improves overall skin moisture, skin collagen density, and the reduction of skin aging (10). In fact, one study in particular showed that participants experienced significant visible wrinkle depth reduction and increased skin hydration in only 12 weeks after starting collagen supplementation (11).
In addition to the benefits collagen supplements provide to skin health, they have also proven effective in relieving joint pain, strengthening the bones, boosting muscle mass, and even promoting heart health. Try adding one into your supplement stack to reap this diverse myriad of health and beauty benefits.
Try it here: Collagen Peptides Powder (non-GMO and Gluten-Free)
8. Use a Collagen-Boosting Cream
While most skin specialists already know that collagen creams and serums only work on the surface of the skin, many products contain substances such as amino acids that helps the serums work their way into deeper levels of the dermis. Although this never is fully absorbed when applied topically, the deeper the delivery of collagen to those lower layers of the skin results in more of the plumping effect people hope to see when using one of these products.
Although some creams and serums contain collagen that can be applied topically, others offer tripeptides that helps to both slow down the aging process while boosting the skin’s natural production of collagen. For example, PURE Biology offers a collagen-boosting nightly face cream that contains a substance called Syn-Coll. This is a synthetic tripeptide penetrates into the deeper levels of the skin, reducing wrinkles and improving the skin’s elasticity while simultaneously helping it to promote collagen production.
Try it here: PURE Enhanced Night Cream