Collagen is one of the hottest topics in the beauty and wellness world. Its rumble has resulted in a flood of new products infused with buzzy ingredients promising to boost levels - everything from powders and pills to gummy bears and beers.
The obsession isn’t without reason, however. After all, collagen is the essence of healthy skin and the key to keeping it firm, plump, and youthful. Since our body starts producing less and less collagen as we age, that means that our skin starts to lose its firmness and gradually may begin to wrinkle and sag (gasp!). While we can look to expensive treatments or serums and lotions to regain some of the elasticity lost, the best approach to increase collagen for our skin and body is a more holistic one.
That’s why we’ve rounded up this guide on how to increase collagen naturally and preserve your reserves. Plus, we’ve included information on the best way to take collagen and key sources for boosting production.
First, what is collagen exactly and is it just for skin?
While collagen is best known for its role in keeping pores tight and supple, it actually does a whole lot more! Collagen is a protein (the most abundant in the body, in fact) that pretty much holds it all together for us. “It is formed by the linking and winding together of amino acids to form collagen fibers,” explains Alyssa R. Golas, MD, a plastic surgeon in New York.
Aside from collagen for our skin, it’s also found in our tendons, ligaments, bones, and even our teeth! Think of it as “glue-like”, if you will, supporting us from within and making sure the body stays bendy and bouncy.
Although collagen does occur naturally, as already mentioned, our production starts to dip with age. But there is hope! Rather than just sitting back to watch time take its toll, there are several ways in which you can protect your supply, feed your body the right sources of collagen to make more, and stay looking young and fresh.
How to protect and increase your natural collagen production
When our bodies make their own collagen, the process requires amino acids, vitamin C, zinc, and copper. As we age, however, we may not be able to absorb these nutrients as well or synthesize them as efficiently as once before. Hence the dip in production after we leave our 20s.
In addition to a decrease caused by aging, there are various environmental and lifestyle factors that can affect our natural supply. For this reason, it may be necessary to make a few simple adjustments to combat what’s already been lost and prevent further loss. Everything from diet and exercise to skincare and collagen supplements can rev up production, while certain sneaky things can do the opposite (namely stuff like sugar, sunlight, and salty margaritas).
Yes, collagen is a sensitive entity. An unhealthy diet, smoking, alcohol, too much caffeine, sun exposure, and pollution can all cause it to break down. On the same token, however, more of the good stuff can act as sources of collagen to increase production and keep it flowing. Simply put, collagen for the skin and the rest of your body loves clean living.
Aside from a well-balanced diet, regular exercise can greatly help to protect reserves and is a key component in how to increase collagen naturally. This is because of the growth hormone and fibroblast activity that a sweat session promotes. "Anything that increases oxygenation and blood supply to collagen will make skin healthier," says Ronald Moy, MD of California. Finally, a little R&R can go a long way, too. Get as close as you can to 8 quality hours of rest each night and keep stress levels down as much as possible. Finally, wear your sunscreen!
Your diet can be one of the best ways to take collagen
Of course, diet is the number one factor to be considered here when considering how to increase collagen. Be conscious about what you’re putting into your body and the source it’s coming from. Eat organic whenever possible and incorporate lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins into your daily regimen.
Foods that increase collagen production
Since what you put into your body has the biggest impact on natural collagen production, we thought we’d expand on that a bit more. “Aside from aging, the top reason people don’t have enough collagen is poor diet. Your body can’t make collagen if it doesn’t have the necessary elements,” says Elizabeth Bradley, MD a dermatologist in Cleveland.
Wondering how to increase collagen naturally with the foods you eat? Consider adding a few of the following to your next grocery list:
Bone broth is a fantastic source of bioavailable collagen. It’s also been linked to improved gut health and immunity. This flavorful liquid comes in many forms (beef, chicken, turkey) and can be bought in stores or easily made at home!
Fish and shellfish are full of zinc, copper and essential fatty acids, which are proven sources of collagen stimulation. Sushi, anyone?
Wild salmon contains a solid amount of zinc, which has been shown to activate the proteins needed for collagen production. It’s also a great source of omega 3 essential fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and naturally moisturize skin from the inside out.
We know green vegetables are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, so it’s no surprise that they can help to prevent collagen breakdown. This is mostly thanks to the chlorophyll they contain. Look to ones like kale, bok choy, green algae, and arugula.
Avocados are loaded with antioxidants and vitamin E, which may help prevent collagen breakdown and support overall skin health.
Vitamin C helps to “link” the amino acids together that are needed to form collagen. Consider starting your day with a glass of orange juice or ending it with a warm glass of lemon water!
Berries contain a nutrient called ellagic acid, which has been shown to prevent collagen breakdown. Like citrus fruits, berries also contain a solid amount of vitamin C, which helps link specific amino acids together for collagen formation.
Collagen supplements that boost production
In combination with healthy diet and exercise, collagen supplements are easy additions to a daily routine and, yes, they work. In fact, one study found that women who drank a collagen supplement daily for 12 weeks experienced a significant reduction in wrinkle depth and a boost in skin hydration. Here are some powerful natural ingredients that are excellent sources of collagen that you should look for in a supplement:
Centella Asiatica, also commonly known as “Pennywort” or “Wild Violet”, is a botanical herb that grows in temperate and tropical swampy areas. It’s commonly used in skincare products, as it helps to boost natural collagen production, improve blood circulation, and speed up skin cell regeneration.
Aloe vera is a cactus-like plant known for its many medicinal properties. Specifically, when it comes to skin, it improves hydration and elasticity. “Aloe stimulates fibroblast activity, which creates an uptick in collagen production and elastin fibers that make the skin less wrinkled and more elastic,” says Kenneth Mark, MD of New York.
Sea Buckthorn Berry
Sea Buckthorn is a thorny shrub (shocker) that produces little orange berries that have been known for their beauty benefits for centuries. This is because sea buckthorn has extremely high levels of vitamin C and all four omega fatty acids (omega 3,6,7 and 9), which we’ve already discussed as being key players in how to increase collagen production.
Amla is an Indian herb, also commonly known as the “Indian Gooseberry”, that’s rich in vitamin C and has the ability to enhance food absorption. Amla also helps to reduce oxidative stress in the body, which is responsible for the process of ageing.
Find all of these complexion-loving, collagen-boosting ingredients and more in our new Dose for your skin shots. These delicious blends are one of the best ways to take collagen as part of a daily routine to keep your skin looking and feeling strong and healthy.