Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Taking Collagen?

I want my ☕ to make me look younger!

Don't we all? It's a delightful thought - being able to mix an odorless tasteless and easily dissolved powder into our coffee and have this result in a younger fresher face... But the truth about collagen in the skin is more complicated than the handy new wave of supplements would have us believe.

Collagen is a structural protein that makes up... well... a lot of things. In our bodies, it's particularly abundant in connective tissue, which is as good a reason as any to try to make sure we have enough of it - doesn't everyone also want sexy bouncy young tendons?

Sadly, neither the collagen in our youthful faces nor the collagen in our youthful joints will be directly augmented by ingesting more collagen. Structural proteins are big, huge molecules (another reason that collagen is kind of useless when applied topically, except insofar as it holds moisture against the skin nicely), and like any other finished protein, they're always going to be dismantled into smaller parts by helpful enzymes in our digestive systems once stomach acid has denatured them. Those smaller proteins and amino acids are sent wherever your body needs them, enabling a total rebuild of whatever protein you consume into more you (as long as what you eat contains enough of the essential amino acids it needs to fabricate structural proteins).

The compelling argument, therefore, for consuming collagen (whether in the form of a powdered collagen supplement or bone broth or just chowing down on gristle, I suppose) is not that it provides collagen that will go directly to the spots we're all hoping for it to go, but that it supplies amino acids in a ratio conducive to the construction of new collagen in areas that can produce new collagen.
This sounds pretty great, and it's your body so if you want to chew the bones, be my guest, but the notion misses two points. The first is that if you're getting sufficient protein in your diet, the ratios aren't hugely important because you'll wind up with plenty of all the amino acids anyway and it's not going to be a problem for your body to build those up into collagen where it's needed. The other is that collagen is really only synthesized in the skin as a result of events that trigger the fibroblasts - little collagen factories deep in the skin. It takes special triggering to engage these cells to do their job after, you know, childhood. A handful of in-office treatments are known to do this. These include, from less invasive to more invasive:

  • microdermabrasion
  • coral calcium peels
  • traditional chemical peels
  • microneedling
  • fibroblast plasma lifting 
To a lesser extent, any time you moderately exfoliate the skin - like at home with hydroxy acids or a retinoid serum - you'll also have a bit of activation, and that activation is cumulative if you keep it up. Sunscreen goes a looooong way to protecting the collagen you do have. Vitamin C is also crucial in collagen synthesis, so I would say, even though it's unglamorous, if you're going to explore supplementation for the benefit of your collagen, Vitamin C is the way to go (and topical is great too)!

Did that answer your qustion? Want to know more? Ready to get on the table? Visit SpaAeon.com for all this and more!

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