We might not have invented the time machine just yet - and let's face it, our skincare routine might not be our top time-travelling priority.
But there are still ways we can stay looking youthful as we age.
Our bodies naturally make collagen when we're young, which keeps our skin smooth.
Taking a daily collagen supplement can help extend these health benefits well into our adult years…
What is collagen?
About a third of our body is made of protein - in fact, each and every cell contains it. The most abundant type of protein in the body is collagen.
Collagen helps to maintain the structure of our skin, muscles, bones, joints, and more. Different types have different functions, but you'll find collagen in everything from your eyelids to your intestines.
It helps keep our skin firm, elastic, and youthful - which is why you've likely seen it exploding in the beauty world.
What is collagen?
The science behind it
Collagen is made of long chains of amino acids. You'll find glycine in every chain and two other types of amino acids (usually proline, lysine, or hydroxyproline).1
The chains form a tightly-wound, stable structure that helps skin cells stick to each other. This way, they stay strong and taut. However, our collagen decreases as we age. We start losing collagen at around age 20, which goes down by about 1% per year after that.2
Other factors - like smoking, UV exposure, or a poor diet - can decrease collagen levels even faster. As the collagen amino acid chains begin to break down, the structure of our skin becomes less secure. As a result, the remaining collagen could also experience some wear and tear.
That's when we might notice our skin sagging and forming wrinkles.
Replenishing the collagen in your body can help your skin stay strong and smooth, even when your natural collagen levels decline. You might choose to take collagen supplements to replace the collagen you lose and help your skin age healthily.
Benefits of collagen for skin
So - if collagen is so good for our skin, what exactly can it do?
Collagen has endless benefits for your skin, from boosting your skin's radiance to helping prevent fine lines.
Here are just a few reasons why it should be on your radar:
- It improves skin elasticity and firmness
Not only does smooth skin make us look youthful, but many of us want our faces to stay firm as we age.
Taking collagen for your skin helps to preserve your skin's elasticity, meaning it's less prone to sagging or loose skin.
One 3-month study found that an oral supplement of collagen peptides, vitamin C, hibiscus extract, and macqui berry extract showed significant improvements in skin elasticity after the 4-week point.3
For firm skin that "bounces back", you'll want to focus on type III collagen (or a mix of type I and type III), as these are most responsible for skin elasticity and firmness.
Bovine collagen peptides are a great, bioavailable source of both type I and type III collagen.
- May cause blood thinning
Helps reduce and prevent visible fine lines & wrinkles
The stronger the connective tissue in your skin, the less likely it is to form wrinkles.
Wrinkles occur when the skin becomes fragile and less flexible. A healthy supply of collagen keeps the dermal layer thick and hydrated, meaning it's less likely to crease as you age.
Look out for type I collagen for wrinkles. Marine (fish) collagen is the most bioavailable source of type I, but you'll also find high levels in bovine (beef) collagen sources.
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- Helps protect thin, fragile skin
It's not only the way your skin looks that changes as you get older - the breakdown of collagen means your skin can become thin and fragile.
It might be dryer than usual, more prone to splitting, and slower to heal. This can lead to a painful vicious cycle…
Collagen supplements could help hold the dermis (base skin layer) together and help maintain skin thickness.
Studies have shown greater density in both the dermis and the epidermis after oral collagen supplementation.4,5
So, you're less likely to experience the discomfort of cracked and splitting skin.
- Gives you a glow
Hydration is the key to a youthful appearance! But - regardless of whether "looking young" is important to you - hydrated skin is healthier skin.
Another advantage of collagen is its hydrating properties. Clinical research has found it to play a part in your skin's moisture levels, meaning it can help you glow from the inside out.
One trial even found that those who took oral collagen peptides had 7 times more moisture in their skin than participants who didn't.6
As well as making you look radiant, hydrated skin is better at flushing away toxins, carrying nutrients to your skin's cells, and keeping away pollutants and germs.
But hydration shouldn't start and end with collagen - be sure to drink 6-8 cups of water per day to keep your body and brain equally as healthy.7
Can I reverse wrinkles with collagen?
As we said before, there's no way to snap your fingers and age your skin back a decade.
But it's never too late to start seeing the effects of collagen on your skin.
You can use collagen preventatively at any (adult) age. While collagen supplementation in your twenties and thirties can help stave off dry, sagging skin, you can still see results later on.
Some more limited research has shown collagen to improve the appearance of existing fine lines, so it's certainly possible. In one 2012 study, women taking a supplement made from chicken collagen and hyaluronic acid (which boosts collagen production) saw a 13.2% reduction in existing wrinkles after 12 weeks of collagen use.8
Collagen supplementation boosts skin cell turnover and helps create thicker, firmer skin - all factors that can help contribute to a smoother appearance.
Glad you asked! Collagen supplements are extremely versatile and, thanks to the range out there, you can choose:
- The type of collagen you take: most people go for type I or a combination of type I and III
- Where it comes from: bovine, marine, and chicken collagen and vegan collagen support are all readily available
- How you take it: you're spoilt for choice here! There are collagen tablets, drinks, powders, gels, and even gummies. There is also a wide range of skincare products, from collagen face oils to collagen face masks and moisturisers.
It's designed to keep you healthy in the easiest way possible for you - whether that means adding it to your daily vitamin or skincare routine or shaking up a smoothie on the go.
However, you want to take your collagen, there are plenty of collagen products out there!
Whether you're looking for the best collagen for wrinkles, or a collagen supplement for preventative concerns, check out our guide to 22 of the best collagen supplements.
How long does it take to see results?
Although collagen absorbs into your body quickly, you'll need to wait a little longer for the benefits to show, particularly when taking collagen for the skin.
You might see changes after about 2 months, but you should expect to wait 3-6 months for collagen's full effects to occur.
Keep at it! Collagen supplements work differently for everyone, so you might see results at slightly different times.
How long does it take to see results?
The final say
We could go on about collagen for days: it's a crucial part of joint health and thick, shiny hair, too.
But it's the skin benefits that make it so popular in the beauty world, particularly when taking collagen for the face.
Natural ageing is to be celebrated, but if you'd like to:
- Have firmer, smoother skin
- Help reduce fine lines
- Help prevent deep wrinkles
- Strengthen thin, cracking skin
- Hydrate your complexion and keep you glowing
Then a collagen supplement might be worth a try.
Got any more questions? Watch videos from our collagen gurus, Libby Matthews and Sophie Rose, for a quick dose of expert advice.
The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments, or remedies.
Before taking any supplements or minerals, it's best to make sure you're getting all the nutrients through your diet first. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Last updated: 22 September 2022