Collagen is a structural protein comprising amino acids that are bound together. It’s the most abundant protein in the human body. In fact, 30% of the proteins in your body are a type of collagen. The word collagen has Greek roots and can be broken down into two; Kola, which means glue, and gen, which means production. The name is quite telling of what it does in the human body – it holds everything together. It’s found in your body’s connective tissues, including your tendons, ligaments, and of course, your skin. This is why you need collagen to keep your skin from sagging and developing wrinkles and folds. Here’s everything you need to know about this protein.
As of recent times, there have been 28 varieties of discovered collagen; however, variants aside, there are three main types that you need to know about. They are known as type I, type II, and type II, each of which has a different role to perform in the human body. Type I makes up for a whopping 90% of the human body’s collagen. This type is what provides support for the bones, cartilage, teeth, and skin. Type II, however, is considered the main structural block of cartilage found in the ligaments and joints. Lastly, Type III works alongside Type I to form reticular fibers in some parts of the body, namely in your bone marrow.
Although this protein clearly has a number of different roles in your body, it has recently become a buzzword in the beauty community for its positive effects on the skin. Because your skin is primarily made up of protein, collagen plays an essential role in just how taught and thick it is. In fact, collagen makes up the entirety of your skin’s middle layer, also known as the dermis, where your skin needs support to stay youthful. The protein also helps with the elasticity of your skin and its ability to snap back into shape from facial expression, gravity and the like. It’s also believed to help the skin look and feel more soft and supple, which in turn also reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
If collagen is not an essential protein because our bodies already make it, why ingest it? After the age of 25, our bodies begin to break down more collage than they produce, and this is why we start aging from that point on. The researchers at CPOE.org claim that you start losing about one percent of your skin’s collagen content every year, so this naturally takes a toll on your skin’s elasticity, which is why it’s smart to start taking supplements at that age.
Further, smoking, polluted air, sun exposure, as well as bad skincare habits can age your skin. By consistently ingesting supplements, you ensure that your skin can endure these factors that would otherwise damage it permanently. However, dermatologists also recommend that you up your vitamin C intake along with these supplements to better its absorption and to aid with skin repair and regeneration. It’s also encouraged to eat foods that are rich in this protein.
Your body doesn’t need external sources of collagen in order to benefit from it, seeing as it naturally makes it. However, you can still consume collagen-rich foods for the benefits. Because this protein is mostly found in hair, nails, bones, skin, and ligaments, it’s only abundantly found in animal products. These foods include salmon skin, bone broth, eggs, chicken, and ham. Luckily for individuals who follow plant-based diets strictly, there are now ways to synthesize vegan collagen.
In a 2005 study, it was found that the bacteria, P. pastoris, can be used for the production of genetically engineered collagen. When researchers added pepsin, which is a digestive enzyme, to extracted human genes, this helped synthesize the exact structure of human collagen. With the help of this newly discovered process, vegan collagen products can be introduced to the market.
Now that you know why collagen has become a buzzword in the skincare community, you can start stocking up on those collagen-based skin products and perhaps even up your collagen intake either through supplements or by eating collagen-rich foods. Those on a plant-based diet can still benefit from these supplements, seeing as there are now vegan options in the market that are synthesized from bacteria. With that in mind, you should also eat a healthy and balanced diet that is rich in vitamin C to aid in the production and preservation of collagen in your skin and body.