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Botox, injectable fillers, laser treatments, chemical peels, facelifts … In the age-old quest for youth and beauty, more women—and men—are choosing one or more of these invasive procedures. Social media amps up the pressure to look good by setting unrealistic expectations. So it isn’t surprising that even people in their 20s and 30s are jumping on the anti-aging bandwagon.
Yes, we’re a youth-obsessed culture. But what if you prefer to take a more holistic, beauty-from-within approach? Enter collagen, one of today’s most popular beauty supplements.
What Can Collagen Do for My Skin?
Collagen is a protein that gives skin its structure, and that soft, plumped-up look. Our bodies make it—less and less as we get older. In our 20s, we start losing about 1 percent of collagen per year, and in the first 5 years after menopause, women lose about 30 percent, increasing wrinkles and sags. Studies have found that replenishing collagen reduces crow’s feet, fine lines, and wrinkles; boosts hydration; makes skin more elastic; gives it a smoother, more youthful appearance; and reduces cellulite.
Can Collagen Help My Hair and Nails?
Collagen is also a building block for hair and nails. An animal study found that decreasing levels of collagen around hair follicles underneath the skin leads to thinning hair. In nails, decreasing levels of collagen can contribute to brittle and rough nails that are more susceptible to peeling and breakage. Another study found that among most people who took bioactive collagen peptides daily for 24 weeks, nails were less brittle and less likely to peel. In addition, collagen increased nail growth by 12 percent and reduced the frequency of broken nails by 42 percent.
Can I Get Collagen From Food?
Theoretically, yes, but today’s diets don’t contain much. Collagen is concentrated in parts of animals that we don’t usually eat: tendons, ligaments, skin, feet, bones, and marrow. Bone broth, made by cooking these parts for hours, extracts collagen and other nutrients,. Real bone broths made in the traditional, slow-cooked way, and concentrated bone broth in powdered supplements, are food-based sources of collagen.
You can get collagen from food, but modern diets don’t typically contain the best sources, including tendons, ligaments, and feet.
What Types of Collagen Supplements Are There?
Collagen supplements can be made from the skins or cartilage of cows, pigs, chicken, or fish, or from concentrated bone broth. In addition to pills, collagen is available in powders—as a single ingredient or combined with other nutrients for specific benefits for skin, hair, nails, bones, or joints—and in concentrated liquids. It’s also being added to creamers, nutrition bars, teas, and other foods and drinks.
Collagen ingredients that have been tested in studies include BioCell Collagen and Verisol, found in a variety of supplement brands. Collagen in supplements may be described as “hydrolyzed,” “hydrolysate,” “bioactive,” or as “collagen peptides.” These are all forms of collagen designed to be more bioavailable. Other collagen supplements contain concentrated bone broth.
How Should I Use Collagen Supplements?
Collagen is one of the most versatile supplements. It can be taken in pills or in powders, which are tasteless and can be mixed into beverages, sprinkled on foods, or used in virtually any recipe for cold or hot dishes—even in baking.
A key component of connective tissue, collagen also improves joint health. Studies of BioCell Collagen have found that it reduces osteoarthritis pain, protects joints of healthy people during exercise, and enhances exercise recovery.
What Other Nutrients Increase Collagen Levels?
Vitamin C is essential for collagen production. In scurvy, the disease caused by vitamin C deficiency, skin lesions are common because the lack of vitamin C depletes collagen production. The vitamin also protects against skin damage from UV rays, which destroy collagen. Studies have found that consuming more vitamin C reduces wrinkles and improves skin’s appearance, and topical vitamin C helps enhance collagen production and smooth skin.
Silica supplements stimulate cells that make collagen. Silica is also found in hair and helps to protect against hair loss. Silica is also a major component of nails, and silica supplements can enhance nail strength and health.
Many supplements for skin, hair, and nails combine collagen with biotin, which can strengthen hair and nails and may be beneficial for skin. Antioxidants, that help protect against collagen breakdown are other popular ingredients in beauty formulas.