By Caitlin Brown
Collagen, we’ve all heard about it — the latest buzzword in the wellness industry promising nothing short of the fountain of youth. Whether it’s touted as the active ingredient in the newest moisturizer or in a powder to scoop in your green juice or smoothie, it’s being marketed in the aisles of Whole Foods, high-end beauty boutiques, and more with claims of improving the health of your skin: improving skin elasticity, reducing visible wrinkles, and increasing blood flow to the skin. Those are big claims. Are they too good to be true?
First, let’s refresh on what collagen is. It’s a protein that serves as one of the main building blocks for your bones, skin, hair muscles, tendons and ligaments. Collagen is essentially what keeps our skin from sagging —think of it as the skin’s scaffolding — and what gives us that youthful plump look. Our bodies naturally make it, but production decreases as we age. This process of collagen loss starts generally in our mid-20s. Women experiencing the early stages of menopause can lose up to 30 percent of production. That’s a lot.
Since collagen loss is what is the main culprit of losing skin elasticity — the most visible sign of aging —companies have come up with millions of collagen-touting products for consumers to incorporate into their beauty regimen to slow down the aging process, both topical and ingestible.
Collagen is often sold as a supplement in peptide powders, capsules, or liquid. But do they work?
I, for one, am one of those suckers who has generously spooned the powder into my beverage and slathered collagen creams onto my face and body.
It makes sense. Ingesting something that is dwindling in the body’s reserves may serve to supply the deficit. Topical collagen, hmmm that seems a stretch (no pun intended), but I’ll try it. It all just sounds too easy. As my wise grandmother once said, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
It seems in this case, Grandma Kitty was right. There’s no real science to prove they work. Most things we ingest are broken down by stomach acids and are not absorbed into the bloodstream. It’s unclear if we absorb ingested collagen or if it’s totally broken down in the stomach. So far, there is no large objective study done focused on collagen to determine the long-term effects of the supplement.
So, while ingesting collagen won’t necessarily hurt you, it’s unlikely it will help you either.
As far as topical products claiming to have collagen as an active ingredient, they might moisturize as they claim, but there is absolutely no truth to boosting collagen in the skin.
So, what to do, besides maybe re-thinking purchasing collagen products? The best way to delay the aging process (which will come no matter what) is to wear sunblock, eat right, exercise, and appreciate the natural collagen you’ve got. There is no turning back the clock, so enjoy the present.