The Battle Against Skin Aging: Can Collagen Really Help?
Aging is a natural and beautiful part of life—and although some people readily embrace the external signs of growing older, others may want to maintain a youthful-looking face as long as possible. Whichever side of the coin you’re on, it’s probably true that you’d like to have a healthy and nourished body at every life stage—including our body’s largest organ, the skin.
Whether your aim is to fight wrinkles and fine lines, reduce sagging skin, or bring back lost moisture, one protein is likely behind all of these issues that can commonly occur with age—collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies, contributing to the elasticity of our skin, the strength of our nails, the integrity of our gut lining, and the mobility of our joints—all areas that begin to decline as we reach age 40 and beyond.
In recent years, collagen powders and supplements have become increasingly popular, with claims touting their ability to improve signs of aging—but is there evidence to back it up? Let’s dive into the research to see if supplemental collagen can help in your battle against skin aging.
Collagen is a fibrous and supportive protein that is found mostly in bone, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, and skin. The collagen protein is formed primarily by the amino acids glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, which are not commonly found in high amounts in other dietary proteins.
Briefly, there are five main types of collagen found in the body, although 28 types have been identified.
- Type I: The most prevalent form in the body, this type provides a fibrous structure to our skin, nails, hair, bones, tendons, connective tissues, and ligaments.
- Type II: This type is found mainly in the cartilage, which helps the joints to remain fluid and mobile.
- Type III: Commonly found in the muscles, blood vessels, cartilage, and reticular fibers, like the bone marrow.
- Type V: This type is found naturally in the eye and helps light pass through the cornea. It’s also found in cell surfaces of the bones, muscles, liver, and lungs.
- Type X: This is a lesser-known type that helps with new bone formation in articular cartilage. Type X is essential for repairing and restoring bones and cartilage after an injury.
Despite the abundance of collagen we have in our youth, its production tends to drop rapidly as we age—even as early as our mid-30s. To fight back on this inevitable decline, more and more people are turning to supplemental collagen in the form of powders and pills, many of which only utilize one or two types of collagen. Conversely, ProHealth Longevity’s Collagen Peptides utilizes Types I, II, III, V, and X collagen.
Pro Health Longevity’s Collagen Peptides are well-primed to support skin health, with the formulation of five collagen proteins, plus the addition of pro-collagen compounds like L-glycine and L-proline, biotin, vitamin C, zinc, and hyaluronic acid, a key molecule involved in skin moisture.
Collagen and Skin Aging: The Research
Perhaps the most-studied aspect of collagen is its relation to skin health. Collagen is a major component of the extracellular matrix, which is a structural component of the dermis. With age, collagen becomes fragmented, rather than compact, which reduces the elasticity of the skin. Collagen is also involved with antioxidant and reparative activity in damaged skin, which reduces inflammation and oxidative stress that can accelerate aging.
A recent review looked at data from 12 randomized controlled trials to determine how supplemental collagen affected skin health. They concluded that collagen supplements improved skin moisture, elasticity, and hydration when taken orally, as well as reduced the wrinkling and roughness of the skin.
Specifically, one trial had women aged 40-60 years consume a drink containing 1 gram of type I collagen peptides daily for 12 weeks. Compared to those taking a placebo, the women taking collagen showed improvements in skin hydration and elasticity with reductions in the appearance of wrinkles. The proline and hydroxyproline in collagen improve skin elasticity by stimulating the growth of dermal fibroblasts, which are cells that generate connective tissue and elastic fibers. In addition, wrinkles occur when hyaluronic acid synthesis is reduced. Because hyaluronic acid is bound to water, the amino acids in collagen boost hyaluronic acid production and provide hydration to the skin.
Another study administered a supplement containing collagen peptides alongside several antioxidant compounds to adults with a mean age of 50. After two months of daily supplementation, the participants’ skin had significant improvements in elasticity, sebum production, and ultrasonic markers of dermal and epidermal thickness. Although excess sebum is indicated in cases of acne, sebum is linked to skin smoothness and hydration in older adults, as sebum production declines with age.
Although research on supplemental collagen is relatively new to the scene, the skin-supporting evidence so far is promising—especially when consuming high-quality supplements with multiple sources of collagen and pro-collagen.
Al-Atif H. Collagen Supplements for Aging and Wrinkles: A Paradigm Shift in the Fields of Dermatology and Cosmetics. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2022;12(1):e2022018. Published 2022 Jan 1. doi:10.5826/dpc.1201a18
De Luca C, Mikhal'chik EV, Suprun MV, Papacharalambous M, Truhanov AI, Korkina LG. Skin Antiageing and Systemic Redox Effects of Supplementation with Marine Collagen Peptides and Plant-Derived Antioxidants: A Single-Blind Case-Control Clinical Study. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2016;2016:4389410. doi:10.1155/2016/4389410
Kim DU, Chung HC, Choi J, Sakai Y, Lee BY. Oral Intake of Low-Molecular-Weight Collagen Peptide Improves Hydration, Elasticity, and Wrinkling in Human Skin: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2018;10(7):826. Published 2018 Jun 26. doi:10.3390/nu10070826