You may have heard of the word "collagen" floating around on your go-to beauty blogs, or being spoken about by your wellness-obsessed friend; but, like with many health trends, people don't always know exactly what they are talking about.
Collagen isn't just a health trend, though; it is a type of protein essential to the human body — one that everyone needs to keep their body working.
However, you may not know what collagen is, exactly, and why it is so fundamentally important to your health and wellness. Have you ever wondered how it is related to the appearance of your skin? And from where can you naturally source it?
Maybe you have already considered taking a collagen protein supplement but aren't exactly sure which one is right for you. If this is the case, then read on to know the essential facts about collagen — the magic ingredient that helps to keep your skin young.
What is Collagen?
First and foremost, it is essential to understand what collagen is exactly.
Collagen is a group of fibrous proteins that are the most abundant proteins found in animals. The main ingredients of proteins are amino acids which assist in creating your muscles, cartilage, connective tissue, bone, hair and skin.
While the human body has a wide array of these, the amino acids located in collagen are recognized as the most significant as they are responsible for skin production and the composition of connective tissues.
The body naturally produces collagen throughout one’s life with the goal of sustaining bodily tissues and ensuring they remain elastic and resist stretching. However, as people age, the production of collagen slows down which is why taking collagen supplements is recommended. Generally, collagen comes as a white powder, comprising collagen peptides — a type of hydrolyzed collagen.
Moreover, it isn't just the aging process that affects collagen production. Toxins, environmental pollutants, frequent sun exposure, smoking, and consuming a diet high in refined sugar also damages the body’s natural ability to produce collagen.
What Are The Three Main Types of Collagen?
There are at least 16 different varieties of collagen in the human body with each one supporting the formation of the skin, bone, cartilage, and muscle. In fact, 30 percent of the body's protein is made of collagen. Of that percentage, 90 percent of it is either type I, II, or III. These are the three main types of collagen, and here is a look at their different functions:
- Type I - The most common kind of collagen in the body; this type of collagen is accountable for maintaining the structure of the skin, bones, organs, and tendons and ensuring they stay healthy.
- Type II - Whereas type I has a wide array of uses, type II is specialized and focused on managing the cartilage. For healthy, strong, and flexible joints, this is the type of collagen that is responsible.
- Type III - Think of type III as playing a supportive role for type I. This kind is found in the bone marrow.
To sum up, collagen types I and III are stored in the skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments, whereas type II is observed principally in the joints.
What Are The Benefits of Collagen?
Collagen is essential to the body which is why there are so many benefits related to it. Here are seven of the main ones:
Collagen is critical for maintaining firm and hydrated skin. It is collagen that helps to keep your skin smooth and fresh-looking.
There is a reason why so many athletes swear by collagen supplements. Collagen aids the joints in getting stronger and more resilient. It also reduces joint pain and inflammation you may experience after exercising.
As collagen is the building block for almost everything in the human body, it is essential for tissues to be able to move and to repair themselves.
Collagen strengthens the stomach’s protective lining which helps relieve symptoms of acid reflux, leaky gut syndrome, IBS, and other gut and digestive problems.
5. Nails and Hair
The essential amino acids that you find in collagen are vital for producing keratin which makes nails and hair strong, as well as helping them grow.
If you want strong bones, you need collagen to produce a substantial amount to form bone structures and improve bone density.
Collagen supports many of the body's hormones and its amino acids decrease stress and improve brain function.
Acknowledging everything that collagen does for you, it is imperative that you recognize the importance of having a regular supply.
How Does Collagen Relate to Skin?
While the overall benefits of collagen are apparent, many people are specifically interested in the relationship between collagen and the skin.
Your skin is made up of two main layers (epidermis and dermis), and the dermis comprises fibroblasts, which are cells that naturally generate elastin and collagen. Over time, these fibroblasts contribute less collagen which, in turn, hurts the structure of your skin. This results in obvious manifestations of aging such as wrinkles and droopy skin.
The only way to stop this process from happening is to supplement the fibroblasts with more collagen. By taking a collagen supplement, you are helping to offset your skin's aging process, promote your skin's hydration, lessen facial lines and wrinkles, and enhance skin elasticity.
Where is Collagen Naturally Found?
Collagen is naturally found in many of the proteins that you are already familiar with: bovine, chicken, fish, and pork. If you are looking to up your collagen intake (as everyone should be) some foods are high in this protein. Bone broth contains a kind of collagen that your body can utilize immediately, making it the top recommendation for boosting your collagen intake.
Additionally, wild salmon, chlorella (single-celled algae), leafy greens, citrus fruits, eggs, berries, tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, avocados, garlic and chia seeds are all natural sources that include the nutrients necessary to produce collagen. Therefore, if you want to reduce or arrest the formation of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging, then taking a look at your diet is the best place to start.
Strive to obtain your collagen from a variety of sources to ensure that you are getting enough types I, II, and III. Plenty of type I and III can be found in beef, while fish has a significant amount of type I. For type II, you want to be eating chicken.
How to Increase Your Collagen Intake
That being said, the best way to know you are giving your body enough collagen is to take a collagen supplement and use skincare products that contain collagen. Here are some ways that you can start increasing your collagen intake today:
As topical creams and serums are often used to promote skin elasticity and to fight wrinkles, a central ingredient in them is (or at least should be) collagen. However, topically applied collagen is fundamentally used for cosmetic gains like enhancing the texture of your skin and tentatively reducing fine lines and wrinkles.
Additional steps you can take in your skincare routine to boost collagen production are using a Vitamin C serum, doing micro-needling (a skin procedure that utilizes small needles to pierce tiny holes in the first layer of skin), and light therapy such as LED and laser which penetrate the skin, making it smoother and plumper.
Unfortunately, skincare alone isn't going to give you all the additional benefits, and it is not going to be a long-term solution.
The best way to increase your collagen intake is through collagen powder or collagen protein.
Consuming collagen peptides orally, through either pills or powder, is also an efficient way to improve your collagen reserves. There is already plenty of research proving that collagen supplements enhance skin elasticity, decrease wrinkles, encourage skin hydration, and raise the density of fibroblasts. Generally, after eight weeks of taking collagen supplements, you can expect to see an improvement in your skin.
Recently, more and more people are realizing the benefits of adding collagen directly into their smoothies with collagen powder. If you are interested in doing this, make sure you are choosing a powder that is made from pasture-raised, hormone-free cows or wild-caught fish. Then, all you have to do is mix one to two scoops of powder into your morning smoothie, Bulletproof Coffee, soup, or water, and then repeat daily.
For those who are always on-the-go, collagen protein bars are a perfect snack to have in your bag at all times. By consuming a high quality collagen protein bar in a delicious flavor, you can get all the benefits of collagen while also keeping yourself full and focused.
Again, make sure that you are purchasing collagen protein bars that contain collagen protein sourced from grass-fed cows and that have 13g of protein in each bar.
Did you know about collagen before? Is it something that you are trying to include in your daily nutrient intake? If so, do you have any tips and tricks to share with the community? Have you seen any benefits? If not, has this article made you rethink your collagen consumption?
Let us know your thoughts concerning this topic in the comments below!
Dave Asprey is the creator of the widely popular Bulletproof Coffee, host of the #1 health podcast, Bulletproof Radio, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, "The Bulletproof Diet." Through his work, the Silicon Valley investor and technology entrepreneur provides information, techniques and keys to taking control of and improving your biochemistry, your body and your mind so they work in unison, helping you execute at levels far beyond what you'd expect, without burning out, getting sick, or allowing stress to control your decisions.