You’re bound to have heard all about collagen, especially when it comes to beauty. Collagen is essential for youthful looking skin and when we are young it comes to us naturally as our skin is around 80% collagen. However, once we hit 25 we start to loose this at around one percent per year meaning that by the time most women hit 50 they are left with around 55% of natural collagen in their skin which is what causes wrinkles and the dreaded sag.
So what is collagen?
Excuse us a moment whilst we get all scientific. Whilst all the cosmetic branding you may have seen for collagen hails it as an essential weapon against ageing, it’s actually way more useful than just being a protector against wrinkles.
Collagen makes up around 30% of protein in the human body and is one of the most common proteins found in mammals (we’ll get to this later – trust us, it has EVERYTHING to do with beauty). Simply put, collagen is what holds our tissues together, it supports our skin, muscles, tendons, teeth and more.
Benefits for health AND beauty – and how to get a natural injection
We mentioned how collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals and we told you that we’d bring this back to the all important issue of beauty. Basically, when you see collagen and elastin named as an ingredient on many skin care products, it’s not by any means human. This collagen is harvested from cows or birds.
When it comes to collagen in the skin our natural reserve can be restored or at least slowed down by our lifestyle. Collagen is what helps keep our skin supple and wrinkle free. It works in partnership with elastin (which is another protein found in human tissue) to make sure that the skin stays flexible and returns to it’s regular shape when we do things like talk, eat, pull faces etc.
As with any beauty regime, if you smoke, use sun beds or over indulge in a high sugar diet then you’re going to find that you age a lot faster than your abstaining counterparts.
So our first piece of advice would be to try to do everything in your power to keep your natural levels topped up.
If you smoke, think about quitting so that your skin absorbs nutrients such as Vitamin C which is key to constructing collagen. Smoking also interrupts the enzyme matrix metalloproteinase which regulates collagen and will leave your skin full of wrinkles.
When it comes to sunbeds or spending a large amount of time in the sun without protecting your skin, it’s obvious that this is going to age you and do so fast. The intense heat and burning UV rays will zap your collagen levels and leave your skin looking not only brown but like a bit of billatong. Trust us when we tell you that no tan in the world is worth ruining your looks (or your health) for.
And then there’s your diet, if you eat a high sugar diet then you need to put that chocolate bar down and start to embark on a sugar free lifestyle. What happens to collagen when sugar is introduced in to the mix can easily be described as bringing those collagen proteins floating around your system to an almighty halt. Sugar will stiffen the molecules up and stop them from doing their job – which is to keep your skin juicy and flexible.
Now, one of the benefits of trying to boost your collagen the natural way is that by default your health also improves – or at least your diet.
Here are some foods to add in to your diet for that natural collagen boost…
Dark leafy green vegetables: It’s obvious that increasing your vegetable intake is going to make your look and feel better. But dark leafy greens such as spinach, cabbage and kale are higher in antioxidants, packed full of Vitamin C and include a vital element to collagen production: lutein.
Anything red: I know you know this but just to make it clear, I’m not talking about red wine or red velvet cake here. Instead I’m talking about tomatoes, peppers, beetroot and berries. These foods increase the production of collagen because they are stuffed full of yet more antioxidants and lycopenes.
Lentils and Beans: Not only will beans and lentils save you money on your weekly shop but they are packed to the rafters with anti-ageing properties. The are high in protein and contain hyaluronic acid which retains water and in turn keeps your skin hydrated.
Soy: There’s some debate as to whether soy is actually good for you. However, as long as you steer away from processed soy you will see the benefits. Soy helps lower cholesterol and has inbuilt collagen forming effects.
Olives: Help promote collagen formation because of the sulphur. They also go extremely well with a vodka martini which you should be able to get away with on your sugar free diet (don’t ever tell us we don’t give you the best tips!).
Carrots: Rich with Vitamin A these bad boys will also help you see in the dark AND will build up your natural collagen levels.
Don’t forget the bones – of an animal that is…
But it’s not just fruit and vegetables that will give you a boost. Another popular way to get a fix of collagen is through cooking with bones. You may think that bones are just for the dog but you’re missing out on a brilliant beauty tip.
Eating bone marrow has become rather popular thanks to many celebrity chefs serving them up at their fancy restaurants, but whilst the marrow is extremely healthy – what about the bones? Well, these are where you’ll find the most collagen fibres and cooking them up can help heal a leaky gut and work wonders for your skin, hair, teeth and bones.
Try a miracle bone broth…
You’re going to need:
Around 5lbs of bone – I’d recommend beef but you can go with whatever you prefer.
Apple cider vinegar
The method is pretty simple and you’ll ideally need a slow cooker for this. Just add a glug of apple cider vinegar to your bones (the acids from the vinegar will release more nutrients from the bones) and fill with water. Leave for around 24 hours on a low heat setting. Once the 24 hours has passed chop up your veg and add to the liquid. Leave it simmer away for a further 8 hours.
You’ll then need to make sure the marrow has left the bone, use a pair of tongs to lift the bones out to check. If it’s still in, just use a fork to push them out.
Let the broth cool down and drain through a colander.
The broth lasts around 7 days and can be stored in glass jars (plastic is never a good idea). Excess broth can also be frozen.
Drink a bit of this broth each day to really reap the benefits.
Going under the knife
Well, not quite under the knife but you can get your collagen fix via plastic surgery. By opting to receive facial injections people who are serious about boosting their collagen can target the areas which are visibly starting to age them. The solution used most commonly is made up of polylactic acid which, when injected in to the skin will stimulate the fibroblast cells triggering the collagen production. Whilst the injections are precise and can last up to two years, they’re also a pretty costly option with the price ranging from £500 – £1,500 for a course.
Over the counter collagen…
But getting more collagen doesn’t have to just be via the natural route. There are also many cosmetic alternatives. For a start you can go down the over the counter route. Supplements containing collagen are extremely popular at the moment. A lot of these products are designed to help trigger an increase in collagen production.
For example, take Proto-Col collagen skin supplement capsules which have gained huge recognition from beauty editors and celebrities alike. They use type 1 and 2 collagen and work to release amino acids and proteins to help stimulate the bodies natural collagen production.
Creams are also another source of collagen. Whilst there have been some criticism of creams due to scientists claiming that the collagen molecules find it hard to break through the skin when applied topically there are creams that do work and that’s all down to the chemical matrixyl. Matronly helps skin look youthful by doubling the production of collagen. So top tip: always check the ingredients list before purchasing.
More health benefits
Taking supplements and getting injections isn’t just about how you look it can also have a huge benefit to those who suffer from medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and brittle bone disease. Collagen can help stimulate the growth of new cartilage in joints. This means that daily collagen supplements can give people relief for the agony they’re enduring every day.
Taking collagen capsules can also help circulation because they strengthen the blood vessels and improve the elasticity, allowing the blood to flow freer. And we all know what happens when your circulation is good – your skin looks healthier and more radiant.
So when it comes to health and beauty collagen is an important aspect. By combining healthy living and carefully selected collagen products you can hold back the effects of ageing as well as boosting your overall health.
Rachael Phillips – Editor