Collagen is not only the most abundant protein in your body, it also makes up 75-80% of your skin.
But your body produces less and less of it as you age—and the results are visible. It starts in your mid-30s and seemingly never stops decreasing. Thin, dried out looking skin, and fine lines and wrinkles become the norm. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Getting collagen in your diet is key because collagen helps provide structural support for your skin which helps promote firmer skin and smoothness.
To understand how collagen works with your skin, here’s a breakdown of all 3 layers.
Your outer layer of skin that’s responsible for protecting you from the environment. It ranges from 0.5mm (eyelids) to 1.5mm thick (palms and feet). Collagen supports its durability.
Much thicker than the epidermis, this layer is responsible for how your skin looks and feels, so it’s the first area changes in collagen are noticed. It’s especially affected by excessive sun exposure and aging.
In addition to collagen, the dermis contains another protein, elastin, which is responsible for your skin’s elasticity.
This layer is a combination of collagen and fat cells that help insulate your skin. It’s responsible for your skin’s structural integrity.
Digging into the science of collagen
Since collagen is a major component of your skin, there have been many studies seeking to substantiate the effects of collagen when taken orally. The two types that make up the majority of your skin are Type I and Type III collagen, so many studies have focused on them.
In 2014, 69 women between the ages of 35 and 55 participated in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study where they took a placebo or collagen hydrolysate each day. After 12 weeks, collagen was shown to have a positive impact on skin health compared to placebo. What’s more, there was still a statistically significant difference 4 weeks after stopping collagen supplementation.
Similar results were seen in another study when taking bovine collagen peptides (collagen peptides and hydrolysate are synonyms) for 8 weeks and again, 4 weeks after the study’s completion.
These studies show that supplementing with collagen can impact your skin health. Knowing that, what are the best ways to get collagen?
The collagen you choose is everything
So before you jump in and buy the nearest collagen supplement to support your skin’s health, you could try making bone broth.
Bone broth is valuable for many reasons outside of collagen. It’s rich in nutrients including hard-to-find ones like sulfur and magnesium, a good source of electrolytes, and much more.
Again, Types I and III collagen are commonly associated with healthy, glowing skin. These types are typically obtained from cows. But before you go and just toss any beef bones in a pot of water, these are absolute musts:
- Despite its name, the main source of collagen from bone broth is cartilage and marrow. Neck bones are the easiest to find and have a decent amount of connective tissue. Oxtail and beef ribs also work, but are more expensive.
- If you get your hands on bones with marrow, you need to split them in half so the marrow is exposed otherwise you’ll miss out on most of the collagen. For larger bones like a portion of a femur, this will probably already be done for you. If not, it’s better to ask a butcher than to try breaking it or cutting it at home (raw bones don’t break easily because cows need to stand).
Gelatin comes in tiny packets (and gelled desserts, but they’re not the best source). You can usually find a box of gelatin on a shelf above the colored and flavored ones.
The benefit of gelatin is it’s easy to add to anything. If you’re looking to easily get a few grams of collagen, this is a good option.
It readily dissolves in soups, coffee, and other hot liquids. Drinking it immediately is best, though it won’t gel unless it’s cold. Gelatin is tasteless, so you probably won’t even notice it.
The trouble with bone broth is the amount of time it takes to make. In some cases, it’s a day or more before you really extract the collagen you’re looking for—and your stove or crockpot has to be on the entire time!
Collagen peptides are a convenient and versatile way to help maintain your skin’s elasticity and help reduce the appearance of fine lines. But there is one key to reaping its benefits: low molecular weight collagen peptides. That’s a really long name that lets you know the collagen peptides are really small. This smaller version of collagen lets your body put it to use easier.
Collagen peptides are also commonly called hydrolyzed collagen, so keep your eye out for that name as well.
Collagen from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows is an absolute must for a high quality supplement.
Collagen can be a great add-on to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. But it shouldn’t be the only way you’re looking out for your skin.
Healthy skin goes far beyond collagen
While collagen accounts for the majority of your skin, there’s a lot more that goes into healthy skin. Smoking can have negatively affect your skin health, as can not getting enough water, alcohol, and even a lack of sleep. These 15 tips are the best ways to keep your skin looking healthy, strong, and smooth. The good news is you can easily implement all of them.