Collagen is a hot topic these days, so I wanted to do a blog post to cover some of the basics: what it is, why it’s important, how it’s depleted, and how we can protect the collagen in our skin.
What is Collagen
Collagen is a naturally occurring fibrous protein and is the most abundant protein in the human body. It composes 70 to 80 percent of the skin’s dry weight and helps to provide skin elasticity and strength. It’s considered the glue that holds the body together.
Why Collagen is Important
Collagen is one of the most important building blocks of the skin, helping to maintain its firmness, suppleness and consistent renewal of skin cells. As we age, our collagen production starts diminishing causing a loss of elasticity and strength in the skin. This leads to the telltale signs of aging such as the appearance of sagging skin and wrinkles. It’s important to minimize or slow down this depletion process and ramp up our efforts to provide our skin with additional collagen both topically and internally.
How to Slow Down Collagen Loss
Collagen production naturally depletes as we get older, but there are a few things that can really expedite this process.
- Protect Your Skin: Minimize your time in the sun, wear hats, and ensure you properly protect your skin when you go outside by wearing a good sunblock.
- Avoid smoking and other pollutants: Stop smoking and avoid environments where you might be exposed to secondhand smoke. Air pollution also contributes to oxidative damage (that speeds collagen breakdown), so consider getting an air purifier for your home.
- Minimize sugar consumption: Eating sugar increases blood sugar which leads to glycation issues in the body. That means that glucose will bind to proteins in the body, and, in the case of skin, that means it will bind to collagen. This makes collagen more rigid and less elastic and therefore leads to accelerated aging (wrinkles and sagging skin). So avoid refined sugars and carbs and opt for whole fruits and, veggies, grains, and healthy protein and fats to give yourself the best collagen-producing nutrients. (See my post on the best and worst foods for your skin for more ideas)
How to Boost Collagen Production
Many people buy topical treatments that contain collagen or undergo procedures such as skin filler injections or laser treatments that can drain our bank accounts and come with possible unwanted side effects. While these can affect your skin’s appearance, you can get even longer-lasting benefits by being more cognizant of what you put in your body. Here are 7 all natural ways to increase collagen production or availability in your body.
- Eat clean animal proteins: Consuming grass-fed beef, organic poultry, wild fish, and nuts usually provides a sufficient amount of amino acids such as arginine, glutamine, lysine, and proline—all components that can help support collagen production. We can also obtain collagen from meat when consuming tougher cuts (the tougher the meat, the higher it is in collagen), as well as skin, tendons, and bones.
- Consume homemade bone broth: Bone broth is full of collagen and to get a little additional boost you can add gelatin. As the broth simmers the collagen leeches out of the animal parts and is released into the broth. See the recipe below for details on how to make your own bone broth.
- Collagen Peptides: There are supplements containing collagen peptides that help give your body a boost of collagen. You may want to consider The Spa Dr. Collagen Complete supplement. It is formulated with collagen peptides and other nutrients to supply the body with specific proteins, vitamins, and other substrates to help support healthy connective tissue throughout the body including the skin, hair, nails, and joints.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a natural component in the skin’s dermis and epidermis and is vital for collagen synthesis. If you can’t get enough Vitamin C naturally in your diet you may wish to boost your intake with a supplement.
- Ubiquinone (CoQ10): CoQ10 is a powerful natural active; found in all living cells, it
is essential for cell metabolism. It’s been shown in studies to reduce the depth of wrinkles and accelerate collagen production. It’s important to use a natural, high-purity form of ubiquinone produced by yeast fermentation (synthetic sources have been found to contain impurities), which is identical to what is naturally produced in the body, making it more readily bioavailable to the skin.
- Nicotinamide (Niacinamide) Gel: Increases collagen synthesis and that of other proteins to help moisturize skin and keep it elastic.
- Sodium hyaluronate: Supports collagen and elastin by keeping them nourished and moist and reduces the appearance of wrinkles while keeping skin soft, smooth, and supple.
Collagen-Rich Bone Broth Recipe
Enjoy this bone broth—alone as a snack or drink, or incorporated into other recipes—not only for its taste but also for its skin-enhancing benefits.
2 pounds (905 g) grass-fed beef marrow bones 5 quarts (4.7 L) filtered water
6 carrots, cut into large chunks
5 ribs celery, cut into large chunks
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
1 cup (35 g) shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons (30 ml) apple cider vinegar
1-inch (2.5 cm) piece fresh ginger, skin on, halved
1 teaspoon Himalayan salt or Celtic sea salt (or more to taste)
1⁄2 bunch fresh Italian parsley, chopped
7 sprigs fresh thyme
6 sprigs fresh rosemary
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed or diced
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4). In a large roasting pan, roast the bones for 30 minutes. (You can skip this step, but it adds nice flavor to the broth.) Transfer to a large (6-quart/5.7 L) soup pot or slow cooker.
Add the water, carrots, celery, onion, mushrooms, cider vinegar, ginger, and salt. Bring to boil; reduce the heat to a very low simmer and cover. Cook for 24 to 48 hours. Skim off any foam that forms on top during the first hour of cooking. The longer you simmer the broth, the more bone marrow nutrients will seep into it.
During the last hour of cooking, stir in the parsley, thyme, rosemary, and garlic. Strain, and enjoy warm, or add to one of the recipes as indicated.
Instead of beef bones you can use free-range chicken bones (simmer for 12 to 24 hours) or fish bones (simmer for 8 hours).
You can use only vegetables if you’re vegan or vegetarian; you won’t obtain the collagen-boosting benefits, but you will still obtain nutrients from the vegetables. Skip the bones and add more celery, carrots, broccoli, and other vegetables, such as greens (kale, collard greens, chard), and simmer until the vegetables are tender.