Collagen is an incredibly important compound responsible for your skins structure – the loss of it contributes to wrinkles and sagging; say hello to the early signs of ageing. Here we take a deeper look at skin, collagen, along with the topical ingredients you can incorporate into your skin care routine; to support your skins health. The word collagen is derived from the Greek ‘kolla’, meaning glue.
Ageing is a natural process and in my humble option, to be embraced, so the term anti-ageing does not sit well within my ethos, preferring the term ‘Age-supporting’. We are all ageing with each passing minute, eventually this shows up via the appearance of your skin. I prefer to take a holistic approach, for me its all about health, how can we stay healthy? – this is tied to both what you choose to eat and what you apply topically to your skin. Read “Can Food Naturally Boost Skin Collagen?” and discover which foods and help support your collagen production.
What is skin collagen?
Collagen is one of the most plentiful proteins within your body, it is a polypeptide, which is a mixture of amino acids that are present in all connective tissue. The three most common amino acids involved in the synthesis of collagen are proline, glycine and lysine. Proline can be made from other amino acids, so the two key components for collagen production are vitamin C and lysine. If you have enough Vitamin C and lysine, you can make ample amounts of pro-collagen, which gets converted to the different types of collagen to help enhance your skin and appearance.
Types of Collagen:
- Type I Collagen – Comprises 90% of skin, hair, nails, organs, bone, ligaments. Approximately 80-85% of the dermal mix, contributing significantly to tensile strength and is crucial to the skin ageing process.
- Type II Collagen – Is associated with cartilage
- Type III Collagen – Applies to fibrous protein in bone, cartilage, dentin, tendon, and other connective tissues. Approximately 10-15% helps to ensure skin pliability.
- Type V Collagen – Approximately 5% is evenly distributed throughout the dermis, along with type I and III it facilitates the tensile strength of the dermis, firmness and elasticity of the skin.
YOUR SKIN – Is made up of three layers:
1. EPIDERMIS – Is an elastic outer layer of skin, continually regenerating, it is made up of different cells:
- Keratinocytes // The main cells of the epidermis, these cells are formed by cell division at its base. New cells continually move towards the surface, as they move they die, are flattened and are sloughed off. This cycles lasts
approximately 14 days (this longer as we age).
- Corneocytes // Flattened dead keratinocytes, corneocytes mae a tough protective and virtually waterproof layer, known as the stratum corneum (thorny layer). This layer is continually renewing and is sloughed off (millions of dead skin cells daily).
- Melanocytes // These cells produce the pigment melanin that protects against UV radiation and provides skin with its colour. Increased melanin productions comes with sun exposure resulting in the skin becoming darker. Finally when the skin can no longer absorb the UV rays due to extended exposure the skin is damaged and will burn.
2. DERMIS – Is where the protein collagen is found. Collagen molecules are bundled together throughout the dermis comprising mainly of Type I, III and V. Elastin resides in the dermis, these fibres provide stretch and suppleness to the skin. Specialised cells called fibroblasts make collagen. In this layer we also find:
- Elastin Fibres – Represent approximately 5% of the dry mass of the dermis. Ensuring the skins resilience and elasticity. In deeper parts of the dermis they bind with hyaluronic acid and collagen fibres together forming a three-dimensional structure.
- Hair Follicles – Part of our temperature control system
- Sebaceous Glands – Sebum and sweat make up the surface film on the skin glands.
- Sweat Glands – Playing an important role in temperature control sweat is produced in the glands and released via pores in the epidermis.
3. HYPODERMIS – The deepest and thickest layer of the skin, composed of abundant blood vessels that supply nutrients and waste disposal for the epidermis and dermis. The hypodermis also contains coarse bundles of collagen along with adipocytes (fat cells) ensuring proper skin tension. Subcutaneous tissue functions as a thermoregulator and storage of energy and lipid soluble vitamins (A D E and K).
How to Preserve Skin Collagen
As we each age our ability to produce collagen decreases due to a decline in the amount of fibroblasts – remember those specialised cells are responsible for the production of collagen? at the same time our three-dimensional structure comprising of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid begins to weaken contributing to the formation of wrinkles.
The most important step you can take to preserve your existing collagen and health of your skin is prevention. Here are some steps you can take to help prevent further damage to your skin:
SMOKING // We are all aware of the health risks associated with smoking or being exposed to secondary smoke. Smoking increases the production of an enzyme with breaks down collagen. Smoking also restricts blood flow, greatly reducing the delivery of much needed nutrients to your skin, destroys vitamin A and C, essential for skin health. These are some compelling reasons to motivate a smoker to make a positive health change.
AIR QUALITY // In our homes, places of work, international or even domestic flights can be over heated and air-conditioned both of which extract moisture from your skin. Say hello to dull, dry and wrinkled skin! Your skin is made up from 70% water so it is super important to your health to maintain water levels.
HYDRATION // We continuously loose fluid through sweating, breathing and digestion, so it’s important to rehydrate. We not only require water to survive, but to thrive. Fresh, clean, and in most cases this means filtered water to remove the chlorine, fluoride and heavy metals oven found in tap water. Skin cells just like your skin is made up of 70% water, it is incredibly important to remain hydrated by consuming adequate water. The Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand, provide more specific advice based on the average weight of adult women and men. Their recommended daily water intake is 2.1 litres for and women, 2.6 litres for men.
UV EXPOSURE // UVB rays penetrate as far as the lower epidermis which causes damage to the basal cells causing wrinkles. UVA rays can penetrate deeper into the dermis causing sagging of the skin. Applying sunscreens offer SPF protection to help reduce skin damage. However, exposure is necessary for the body to be able to synthesise Vitamin D. Personally do this by early morning or late afternoon time outside without sunscreen. The UV levels (index) are lower at these times. You can always check the UV index where you are, and make an informed decision about the safest time for some sun exposure.
EXERCISE // Increases blood flow essential for the movement of nutrients throughout your body. Exercise which increases your heat rate, will ultimately be beneficial for your skin.
FOOD // Your skin needs nutrients to be able to function and be healthy, acne has known links to a diet of refined sugar and carbohydrates. Eating a variety of real, whole foods supports a functioning body and can greatly help improve both the appearance and health of your skin.
POLLUTION // It is head to avoid, it is all around us, read “How Pollution Damages Your Skin” Particulate Matter (PM) – These are air pollutants that are made up of different mixtures and sizes of particles resulting from Factories, Automobiles, Power Plants, Waste Incinerators, Fires and natural windblown dust. PM has more skin-damaging effects than any other pollutant, Particles in the nanosize range, below 2.2 microns actually penetrates through the pores and causes cellular damage such as pigmentation, fine lines, inflammation, and sensitivity.
Antioxidants can be used in both topical and oral forms. These include Vitamin A, C, D, B-complex and B3. Vitamins B3 and C to fight oxidative damage, vitamin C to reduce inflammation. A topical antioxidant is best, because the oral absorption of vitamins is limited, leaving the amount available for skin further reduced. For more help read “5 Ways to Protect Your Skin Against Pollution – Now!”
How to Stimulate Skin Collagen
These are ingredients which can boost connective tissue production, also known as cell regulators due to the ability to act directly on collagen metabolism stimulating the production of both collagen and elastic fibres. The stimulation of new collagen production (a connective tissue) can reduce existing wrinkles.
INGREDIENT EXAMPLES // Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Peptides – these can be from naturally derived plant sources as an alternative to synthetically manufactured. This of course is a personal preference. As a formulator of Certified Organic Skincare it has to be from a plant origin i.e it must have grown, not synthetic. This is why I have chosen a plant extract (via the CO2 Method) which offers the same ‘retinoid like functions’ but without the potential to cause skin irritation nor skin flaking. Read about “Pure & Green – Our preferred, Sustainable Plant Extraction Method”.
Inflammation plays a roles in the process of dermal (skin ageing) because it can cause the breakdown of the connective tissue ie collagen and elastin remember, these give our skin both strength and stretch. Preventing skin inflammation can ward off further deterioration of the connective tissue.
Anti-inflammatory Ingredients // Calm down an inflammation in the skin by either reducing free radicals or suppressing the development of inflammatory agents.
INGREDIENT EXAMPLES // Chamomile, Turmeric, Calendula.
Provide Protection against the damaging effects of UV radiation exposure. This is not the same a sunscreen however, SPF protection can only be offered by the incorporation as a UV blocker for example Zinc Oxide. Photo-protectors offer a preventative action against the signs of skin ageing associated with UV radiation by maintaining the skins antioxidant levels, retaining connective tissue health and preventing hyperpigmentation.
INGREDIENT EXAMPLES // Tamanu, Vitamin E, Calendula, Red Raspberry.
Until next time
be human, be kind, be you.
- Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand
- Formular Botanica
Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation, Holistic Care of the skin
- BOOK: Modern Cosmetics – Ingredients of natural Origin A scientific Review Volume 1 – Dr D Janes & Dr N K Glavac