12 Ways To Protect & Boost Collagen In Your Skin

By Ashleigh Cometti
Collagen starts to degrade from our mid-twenties. Here’s what you can do to help. Photo / Babiche Martens

The skin’s collagen stores deplete as we age. But is there a way to protect what you have left?

It’s the much-hyped protein responsible for your skin’s structure, bounce and plumpness.

Located in the skin’s dermal layer, collagen is at its peak in our youth — it’s the reason

But as we age, collagen fibres weaken and begin to break down, causing skin to appear loose, wrinkled, saggy.

To explain its importance, collagen has been linked to a handful of inanimate objects — namely scaffolding and mattresses — and maintaining its proper function has seen the anti-ageing skincare market skyrocket.

But instead of a relentless pursuit of the next thing touted to achieve a firmer complexion, what if we worked backwards to inhibit collagen breakdown as time marches on? Below, we chart the next wave of skincare and treatments said to preserve and protect collagen.

What is collagen and why do we need it?

As the main structural protein in the skin, collagen is responsible for giving skin its strength and elasticity.

In our youth, we have collagen in abundance, which is exactly why skin appears plump, healthy and line-free. But as we age, the amount of collagen the body produces decreases, which causes a loss of firmness or elasticity in the skin (also known as laxity). Hence wrinkles, fine lines and sagging can appear.

This process is accelerated by additional lifestyle factors like too much sun exposure or air pollution.

Collagen comes in a few different forms, but the one you’ll want to familiarise yourself with is type one — the most abundant protein in our connective tissues as well as our hair and nails.

Supporting the body’s formation of type one collagen through regular skin treatments and a sustainable at-home skincare regime is your best bet when it comes to maintaining bounce and elasticity in skin.

How can skincare preserve the skin’s collagen?

According to Caroline Parker, head of education at Dermalogica New Zealand, products marketed as “collagen skincare” don’t usually contain collagen itself — rather they’re designed to support the collagen that exists within skin naturally.

“Typically, collagen molecules are really quite large and are not able to be absorbed easily into skin,” she explains.

Instead, expect to find products cropping up on shelves that help stimulate the skin’s own collagen production, like the new Dermalogica Pro-Collagen Banking Serum. Caroline says this skincare newbie contains plant-derived fragments of collagen amino acids, which can penetrate skin and stimulate the regeneration of type one collagen.

It’s an exciting development for the brand, which was inspired by the growing consumer interest in the importance of collagen to skin health, and the lengths to which younger skincare users were going to stimulate or replicate the look of healthy collagen.

This sentiment is reflected in several clinical studies performed overseas, and Caroline adds that a study out of the US found that 27 per cent of people getting Botox are aged 34 or younger.

“There’s a desire to prevent the damage and decline of collagen, which results in the visible signs of premature ageing on the skin,” she says.

That said, collagen skincare is most efficacious when used preventatively, and Caroline recommends people as young as mid-20s will reap the best results. “This demographic is wanting more than just a hydrating serum. They’re savvy. They want to actively protect and preserve their skin. While we don’t like to give hard age definitions — a great time to be using it from their mid to late 20s when there is a little more abundant collagen in the skin to work on preserving and protecting,” she says.

And if you don’t fall within this demographic, don’t fret, with the right in-clinic treatments and topical skincare you can protect the collagen you have left and boost its production in the future.

Treatments to try

In clinic, look to treatments that cause controlled injury to the skin, which in turn stimulates the skin’s wound-healing response, thereby boosting collagen. While these treatments can glean impressive results when performed at intervals every few months or so, give skin a helping hand by incorporating a maintainable, effective skincare routine to support your in-clinic investments.

Consider collagen induction therapy (aka microneedling), a minimally invasive, collagen-stimulating treatment which sees a small device pass over skin, delivering microscopic punctures via tiny needles. It promises an immediate plumping effect, but also stimulates collagen production in the skin ongoing, with best results visible in four to six weeks — or how long it takes for the body to create new, healthy collagen.

Otherwise, injectables like Sculptra promise impressive results — the biostimulator is injected into facial tissues and helps stimulate and revitalise the skin’s natural collagen production, enabling it to regain its structure and volume.

Profhilo is a hyaluronic acid treatment which is injected into skin and spreads under its surface to stimulate collagen and elastin production. Dermal fillers can also help in this way, although to a lesser extent than injectables with the specific purpose of stimulating collagen production and volumising.

The needle-averse among us may like to try something non-invasive instead, like red LED light therapy or sonophoresis skin infusions, both of which are pain-free but look to different modalities to switch on the skin’s healing response and leave skin plump and glowing.

A collagen cocktail

If we’re unlikely to find collagen listed on a topical product’s INCI list, what collagen-boosting ingredients should we be looking out for instead?

The laundry list of ingredients said to preserve and support the skin’s own collagen is lengthy — a number of which work synergistically to kickstart the skin’s collagen production and maximise results. Caroline recommends a cocktail of vitamin A, vitamin C and specialised peptides that are known to stimulate collagen production.

Peptides are a string of amino acids that play a particular role in the skin’s function — for example, tripeptides help to wake up the activity of cells known as fibroblasts, which exist in the different layers of your skin. These fibroblasts work double duty to either synthesise new collagen or break it down via enzymes.

Antioxidants (including vitamin C) help to slow the rate of collagen degradation by protecting skin cells from the damaging effects of free radicals — caused by exposure to UV radiation, smoke or pollution. Vitamin C in its many forms (including L-ascorbic acid) stimulates enzymes responsible for collagen production when used in concentrations from five to 15 per cent.

Retinol (and other vitamin A derivatives) are renowned for their ability to speed up skin cell turnover, helping stimulate collagen production and inhibiting the breakdown of existing collagen. Its different forms vary in strength and efficacy, so remember to tread lightly, especially if your skin is on the sensitive side.

What about ingestibles?

Ingestible collagen options run the gamut from powdered smoothie blends through to gummy supplements, and the category has grown exponentially in the past decade.

Caroline agrees that there is scientific evidence that ingestible collagen can improve the appearance of skin, hair and nails, but adds that it’s important that consumers do their own research.

“The key thing with ingestible collagen is making sure that you’ve got a great high-quality collagen that you’re purchasing. Look for clinical trials and do your research,” she says.

She recommends The Beauty Chef’s Deep Marine Collagen, $79, which contains hydrolysed marine collagen. “It’s bioavailable, which means that your body is able to absorb it and use it really well. It’s one of my favourites.”

Together with collagen-boosting skincare and in-clinic treatments, Caroline says it’s a full 360-degree to preserving and supporting the skin’s collagen. “It’s great to have a common goal that you’re working towards on a few different fronts — on the wellness side and with a skin regime as well,” she says.

“Taking care of yourself with your wellbeing internally and skin confidence externally is a beautiful thing.”

Add to cart

Positioned as a serum to “futureproof” skin, Dermalogica’s newest offering works preventatively to help natural collagen in skin last longer. Clinical trials conducted by the brand found that this serum was 94 per cent more effective in preserving the skin’s existing collagen, leaving it appearing plumper and fuller, while firming and sculpting the jawline within the first week of use. Available from authorised Dermalogica skin centres or online at Dermalogica.co.nz.

This serum contains a blend of plant-based peptides alongside Essano’s hero rosehip oil to tap into the skin’s repair processes, minimising the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, boosting firmness and elasticity of the skin. Plus, it boasts the added benefit of deeply moisturising the skin while it does its thing. Available from selected department stores, supermarkets or online at Essano.co.nz.

A water-based, collagen-boosting serum designed to plump and hydrate skin. Mamaku black fern boosts skin cell turnover, while vinanza grape features antioxidant properties to supercharge skin elasticity and restore firmness. Available from selected department stores and pharmacies, or online at Antipodesnature.com.

The time-poor among us will love how easy this collagen-based serum is to apply — simply spritz onto cleansed skin and reap the benefits of vegan collagen, peptides, plant probiotics and amino acids that promote plump, lifted skin and a healthy skin microbiome. Available from Mecca or online at Meccabeauty.co.nz.

Promising a one-two punch of firming and protecting skin, Jeuneora’s multi-purpose moisturiser harnesses a marine ingredient known as Arctalis to support both the skin’s barrier function and its natural production of collagen. Hailing from Greenland, this unique extract is rich in protein and exopolysaccharides to fend off the effects of blue light, too. Jeuneora.co.nz

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