WHAT CAUSES COLLAGEN TO DECREASE?
Aside from the natural ageing process, there are a number of external factors which can further deplete collagen levels in the body including:
- Smoking- smoking decreases the synthesis rates of type I and III collagens in skin and alters the balance of extracellular matrix turnover in skin.
- UV exposure- can cause collagen to break down at a higher rate than normal ageing. It does this by penetrating the middle layer of skin (dermis), causing the abnormal build-up of elastin.
- Dietary choices (e.g. excessive sugar intake, alcohol, lack of nutrients)
- Stress- this can cause wrinkles to form because high amounts of cortisol, the stress hormone, can break down the skin's collagen and elastin.
- Lack of sleep- our skin regenerates and repairs itself whilst we sleep, counteracting the ageing effects of environmental stressors.
WHEN DOES COLLAGEN PRODUCTION START TO DECREASE?
After the age of 20, collagen production naturally begins to decrease by around 1% every year, with a more rapid drop during the first five years of menopause in women.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN SIGNS OF COLLAGEN LOSS IN THE FACE?
As collagen production declines and collagen becomes more loosely distributed, characteristic signs of ageing start to appear such as wrinkles and fine lines, dry skin, sagging jowls and a loss of natural fullness in the cheek and under-eye area causing a hollowed appearance.
THE BEST WAYS TO STIMULATE COLLAGEN PRODUCTION IN THE SKIN
Facial massage, when carried out with the correct technique, can help to improve lymphatic drainage and improve circulation in the face leading to a plumper, glowing appearance, however the results are temporary. Whilst there is research to support the use of facial massage for stimulating collagen production in the skin, more studies are required in this area.
Everything works better when we are adequately hydrated, and the cells in our body are functioning optimally. Water makes up around 60% of collagen’s total weight, and experiments that remove water from collagen have shown that it dramatically impacts the tensile force of the protein, which has serious implications for skin health. This is why hydrated skin usually looks smoother, plumper, and fresher.
Oxidative stress can be caused in the body by free radicals, which damage our cells. Antioxidants are compounds found in nature which can help to limit this damage and protect our healthy cells, boosting collagen. Good sources of antioxidants include fruits such as blueberries, grapes and citrus fruits, vegetables including pumpkins, spinach, onions and garlic, seafood and dairy, plus green tea and red wine.
Retinol is a type antioxidant that is commonly in anti-ageing skin care products as amongst other benefits such as lightening dark spots and improving skin tone, it can boost collagen production in the skin. Retinol works by stimulating fibroblasts which synthesis collagen fibres, improves skin elasticity and is also thought to enhance the production of elastin fibres. It also helps to block certain enzymes that destroy collagen, helping to maintain its levels.
A PROTEIN-RICH DIET
As collagen itself is a protein, it makes sense that a protein-rich diet can help stimulate collagen production as it provides a solid amino acid profile for making new structural proteins. Several high-protein foods are believed to nurture collagen production because they contain the amino acids that make collagen - glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. These foods include fish, poultry, meat, eggs, dairy, legumes and soy. Some protein-rich foods such as bone broth are a great source of collagen itself, in a bioavailable form that the body can use straight away.
GET MORE VITAMIN C
As an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient, vitamin C has a number of benefits for the skin including improving its texture and tone and brightening the skin. Research also shows that this vitamin can help to maintain our collagen levels and also encourage new collagen production. Good food sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons, green leafy vegetables, strawberries, blackberries, papaya and broccoli, as well as high-quality vitamin C supplements.
CUT DOWN ON CAFFEINE AND SUGAR
Caffeine is thought to slow down the rate at which our bodies makes collagen, by inhibiting an enzyme called prolidase, which plays a key role in collagen synthesis. When it comes to sugar, the sweet stuff can damage our skin through a natural process called glycation. The sugar in our bloodstream attaches to proteins and produces harmful free radicals called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). As AGEs accumulate they damage the proteins around them, making collagen dry and reducing its elasticity, resulting in lines and wrinkles.
RED LIGHT THERAPY
Red light therapy has been shown to increase collagen growth and improve wrinkles and skin elasticity. Red and near infrared wavelengths of natural light stimulate the mitochondria in our cells, which enables the mitochondria to take light, oxygen and nutrients from the food we eat and use it as energy. With red light therapy, the mitochondria can produce energy more efficiently allowing fibroblast cells to create more collagen.