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How You Can Increase Your Collagen
Health and beauty
February 2024
Reading time 6 Minutes

Collagen is beauty's biggest buzz word, but how can you increase your collagen levels?

Collagen is one of of the most common proteins that exists in our bodies, providing structure, strength and stretchiness to skin and connective tissue - but how can you get more?
mature model resting chin in hand lying on bed

Collagen is found in skin, hair, nails, bones, muscles, and even teeth and eyes, and provides a framework for almost everything. It can also help with joint pain and digestion. Our bodies naturally produce collagen using the amino acids from collagen- and protein-rich foods but sadly, as we age, our collagen levels decline which can mean everything from more wrinkled, saggy skin, to brittle nails, thinner hair and slower muscle recovery.

Research tell us that although collagen levels naturally start to fall from our 20s, they decline even more steeply as women hit the menopause. No wonder then that replacing or promoting collagen levels is seen as the holy grail of beauty. But be aware, our bodies can’t absorb collagen in its whole form. To enter the bloodstream it needs to be broken down into peptides so it can be more easily absorbed through the gut. The jury is still out on just how effective collagen drinks and supplements really are, and dietary collagen for anti-ageing is still a relatively new area of research yet to find definitive answers, but with so many of us prepared to go to great lengths for firmer skin there is a booming market in such supplements. But are there better ways to boost your collagen?

Read More: Should We All Be Taking Vitamin D this Winter?

Luton Town’s footballer Andros Townsend made headlines recently as he admitted to an intake of five or six chicken feet every day, steamed for 20 minutes in the microwave, to help maintain his collagen levels. But again, whilst many will agree that there is no downside to increasing protein levels from eating chicken’s feet, nutritionists are still uncertain as to whether this can be effectively converted to collagen in the body.

What they do agree on is that a good, balanced diet will help protect collagen levels, and a diet high in protein will contribute to collagen production. But in order to noticeably boost your collagen levels your diet must also be rich in antioxidants, in particular vitamins A and C, as well as a good range of fruit and vegetables.

Experts also agree that if you are really concerned about preserving collagen levels and improving skin elasticity and minimising wrinkles, then you might well be better off concentrating on other aspects of your lifestyle such as always using good sun protection, reducing your alcohol and refined sugar intake, stopping smoking, and adding a topical retinol and vitamin C serum into your beauty routine too.

What to Eat

Vitamin C

One natural way to boost collagen is to up your daily intake of vitamin C, which is essential for replenishing collagen. The best sources include citrus fruits, peppers, potatoes, sprouts, broccoli and blackcurrants so ensure they appear regularly in your diet.

Bone Broth

Long hailed as a natural source of all things good as it contains a bioavailable form of collagen, bone broth is naturally high in collagen and better still there are now plenty of good ones available to buy off the shelf, so you don’t have to go to the trouble of making your own.

Vitamin A

It’s essential in helping your body’s natural defence against illness and infection. It also helps promote healthy skin, vision and growth. Found in cheese, eggs, oily fish and often in fortified milk, spreads and yoghurt, your body can convert betacarotene into vitamin A, which is found in red, yellow and green vegetables and yellow fruit such as mango and apricots.

Up Your Lean Protein

Increasing your protein intake post menopause is advice that you may well have heard but experts also suggest that several high protein foods are believed to help promote collagen production, including fish, chicken, egg whites, meat and leafy greens.

What to Avoid

Too Much Refined Sugar

Refined sugar can degrade collagen, reducing its elasticity, making the collagen more brittle and speeding up the ageing process. The same does not apply for fructose, the natural sugars found in fruit and vegetables.

Reduce Your Alcohol Intake

Studies have shown that alcohol consumption reduces collagen synthesis, and the higher the alcohol content in the blood, the greater the reduction in collagen synthesis. You have been warned.

Reduce Stress

High cortisol levels from stress are also bad news for collagen production, but reducing stress levels is easier said than done. Mindfullness, yoga and wild swimming are all meant to be great ways of lowering stress levels but only you will know what works for you.

‘Retinol is a vitamin A derivative which helps
cell turnover, helping new cells make their way
onto the skin’s surface faster’

What to Apply

Always Wear an SPF

You know, you have been told a multitude of times, but it’s worth repeating. To protect your skin and help preserve collagen you need to apply an SPF every day, even when it’s cloudy, because UVA rays which come through even on a cloudy day will still help speed up the decline in collagen production. Reapply throughout the day – and don’t forget your neck and chest too.

Use Topical Vitamin C

Use a vitamin C serum each morning. An anti-oxidant, it will help protect collagen against UV damage, stabilise collage proteins and can even help trigger collagen formation. You can use both topical vitamin C and retinol in the same beauty routine, but not at the same time. So if you use retinol at night, use your vitamin C serum in the morning only for maximum benefit and so the ingredients don’t interfere with each other, and apply a moisturiser on top of your serum.

Add Retinol to Your Skincare

Retinol is a vitamin A derivative which helps cell turnover, helping new cells make their way onto the skin’s surface faster, and at a deeper level stimulates collagen production so skin appears smoother and more flexible. We can’t make vitamin A ourselves so it needs to be supplied through diet or in topical skincare which is now available in many over-the-counter formulas. There are rules to how to use it for most effectiveness but if you are new to retinol, start slowly (once a week) and build frequency once your skin has adapted (although most advanced formulas contain slow-release, encapsulated retinol delivery which help avoids any irritation). Many brands also offer higher strength formulas so be careful when you start out, and work up to higher strength only when your skin needs it. Always use a good moisturiser post your retinol and an SPF is an essential in the daytime.

Sensitive skin? You can still benefit from using retinol but experts suggest you apply it on top of your moisturiser, and then wait 10 minutes before applying a second layer of moisturiser over the top of that.

Read More: Meet the Founder of Whitley Bay-based Brand Merwave

Best Topical Retinol
Crystal Retinol

Crystal Retinol, £45 Medik8
Packed with soothing hyaluronic acid and vitamin E, this award-winning formula with next-gen retinAL (not retinol) is an insider’s choice as it works up to 11 times faster than many other products. Start with Crystal Retinol 1 and work your way up to level 20.

Super 16 Advanced Nutri Active Collagen Serum

Super 16 Advanced Nutri Active Collagen Serum, £94 Oskia
This advanced fusion contains 16 super nutrients and clinical bio-actives designed to increase collagen synthesis, lift and firm the skin and reduce fine lines. Bakuchiol, hailed as the natural equivalent of the age-defying retinol, helps achieve healthier, younger-looking skin.

A-Gloei Maretinol Oil

A-Gloei Maretinol Oil, £65 Drunk Elephant
Good for drier skins, this oil with 0.5 percent retinol contains Drunk Elephant’s omega-rich virgin marula oil and ceramides to even out skin tone, clear skin and boost your natural glow.

Pro Collagen Banking Serum

Pro Collagen Banking Serum, £89 Dermalogica
This powerful serum helps promote, protect and preserve collagen. By ‘banking’ it, it works to ease the early signs of ageing, plump the skin and improve skin resilience, smoothness, and luminosity.

Pro Collagen + Serum

Pro Collagen + Serum, £74 Institut Esthederm
This revolutionary product includes five types of collagen that reach all three layers of the skin. Designed with Pro Coll+ technology, and formulated with muti-peptides and a biomimetic sugar, it smoothes lines, firms skin and prevents collagen degradation.

Flawless Nightly Pro5% Retinol

Flawless Nightly Pro5% Retinol, £60 Dr Sam’s
A powerful, award-winning serum to tackle the signs of ageing, breakouts, pigmentation and uneven texture. It contains maximum potency niacin amide and bakuchiol, and is more than double retinol strength.

The Retinol Serum

The Retinol Serum, £270 Augustinus Bader
Containing pure retinol, this lightweight serum works on promoting collagen production to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, but is also good for enlarged pores, acne and hyperpigmentation, leaving skin clear and smooth.

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