Ingredients Explained: Collagen – what is it and why do you need it?

May 20, 2014

Collagen fibres, SEM

Following my last ingredients explained on keratin, which you can find here, I thought I would move onto the skin and the all-important ‘buzzword’ of collagen. I think collagen is thrown around a lot in regards to skincare and even in plastic surgery with collagen injections (as can be seen in the source here that details different kinds of surgeries that are currently popular), but what actually is collagen? And should you be looking on sites like for products with collagen in them?

What is Collagen?

Collagen is a protein – meaning it is a substance produced by a cell, in this case – the fibroblast. Collagen is everywhere in your body – in your bones, lungs and most importantly for us, your skin. The skin is made up of three layers – I won’t go into the details now but essentially collagen is found in the second layer. Collagen works to fill the spaces in between your cells and is basically a spongy fibrous material which you can see in the picture above. When it plugs the holes in between your skin cells, it plumps it up.

When you’re young, you have lots of fibroblasts in your skin, cranking out collagen, but as we age, these cells start to die off, as they die, collagen decreases and we get lines, wrinkles, sagging and less plumpness to our skin.

collagen 1

How is collagen used in products?

I see collagen a lot on products – but mainly as a draw card, such as pro collagen complex or something similar. Some products, like this hydrolysed bovine collagen powder, make it clear that they are to be used as a supplement. Many other products claim to boost collagen production which if they do work, would make the face appear younger – such as the L’oreal Collagen collection. The collagen used in this is usually hydrolysed collagen – joined to water, similar to keratin so that is able to penetrate the skin, this hydrolysed collagen is also available in supplement form. I think when people see collagen on a product, they may reach for it more, but it’s not adding collagen to products that help the skin – it’s peptides that may increase collagen production.

So does collagen work?

Yes, medical procedures such as collagen injections work to inject collagen and fill wrinkles and make the skin look younger. Speaking of wrinkles, with there being products like a nad+ supplement to help reduce the signs of aging, face masks, cleaners and much more, there shouldn’t be any excuses for anyone not to look after their skin! But you have to remember, if a cream was able to do huge physiological changes then it would be a drug and not a beauty product! Saying this though, it is about being consistent with having a skincare routine. Does adding collagen to products work? There is no current evidence that adding any form of collagen to products, helps boost collagen levels in the skin – this is mainly because a lot of creams are too big to be able to penetrate the layer where collagen lies. There has been one promising study on taking collagen as a supplement on skin smoothness, but until this is verified and peer reviewed, it doesn’t provide much proof!

Should you use it?

If you see a product claiming to do something with collagen or contain collagen, it is usually just going to be a marketing ploy for you to think that it will give huge results to your skin. Different peptides (think of them as little signal flags for the cell) can be put on the skin to convince the cells that it is time to make more collagen – these are what is becoming more popular in skincare at the moment and I will hopefully cover those on a future post!

So there is the low down on collagen – I hope this was useful and assists you in the fight against marketing gimmicks!

JC xx

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