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So. Collagen. What’s the deal?
If you feel shocked / aghast / amazed / surprised / (fill-in-the-blank mind blowing kind of emotion) when I say that collagen can help keep your skin clear of blemishes, you’re not alone – so did I!
When I was struggling with acne in my younger years, I thought collagen was a problem only for “old people” that had wrinkles. Whenever collagen was mentioned in the beauty magazines I religiously memorized, it was always related to strong, firm, elastic skin, which would help prevent fine lines and wrinkles.
But then I learned about how much more collagen can do for us, namely keep our skin clear of acne.
Here’s what you need to know.
Some Collagen 101
Before we get into how collagen gives you clear skin, fun beauty tips and very cool Chia-Cran Collagen drink recipe, here are a few little collagen facts to make you even smarter than you already are.
Fist, collagen is a protein. Protein is made up of amino acids (AA’s) and plays many major roles in our health. There are tons of different types throughout our entire body, found in cartilage, ligaments, bones, tendons, muscle, teeth, intestines, the digestive system, blood vessels, eyes, nails, hair, and of course, skin.
Each of us is made up of 16% protein1, which is the second largest substance in our body, next to water. Collagen is the most abundant protein, making up about 30% or one-third of the overall total2. Most importantly, the protein contained within our skin consists of 75% collagen!
As we age, collagen production starts to decline – and this starts to happen as early as our 20’s. Eeek. A little bit of collagen is lost each and every year. And once menopause hits, that annual loss becomes greater and greater, due to decreased levels of estrogen. Mwahhhh!
With numbers like these, it’s obvious that collagen has some serious power over our skins appearance and wellbeing. And the good news is that collagen degeneration is not a sealed fate beyond our control. Collagen is in a constant cycle being created, broken down, then created again, and so on – so it is possible to slow, and even reverse that degeneration process.
How Exactly Collagen Gives You Clear Skin
Collagen’s most popular and well known task of maintaining skin integrity is central to getting rid of that acne. When skin is firm and strong, it is better able to fend off pore clogging toxins. It’s much harder for toxins, chemicals and other nasties to penetrate the skin when its structure is solid.
Acne scars also benefit from collagen, which helps skin cells renew and repair themselves. Our skin is constantly creating new fresh cells, and discarding old dead cells. Collagen aids this turnover process, making sure that those dead cells actually leave the skins surface, allowing for the production of fresh new cells that can replace that old, damaged scar tissue.
Another benefit of this turnover process is that dead skin cells don’t stick around long enough to clog pores. Your skin tone will improve and its texture will be softer, smoother and more supple. Helloooooo beautiful!
Vidaglow has an awesome summary of a bunch of studies that link collagen with positive skin health and appearance, including skin hydration, decreased redness and inflammation, as well as reduction of blemishes.
How To Tell If You’re Low On Collagen
Here are some signs that your collagen might be a bit low:
- Dull, saggy or tired looking skin
- Dry skin
- Dull, dry hair that breaks easily
- Dry, brittle nails
- Scarring on the skins surface that just won’t go away
- Muscle aches
- Joint pain
Wrinkles and fine lines are also a common sign of depleted collagen. Obviously, they are a part of the normal aging process (boo!), but if you feel that you have more than you should for your age, a collagen boost might be what you need.
Why Is All The Collagen Leaving My Face?
Alright, so maybe you now suspect that your collagen is not living up to expectations – but whyyyy? These are some of the main reasons that collagen might be leaving your face:
- Excess Sugar
When we consume too much sugar, it can attach to collagen in the body, disrupting its normal functioning (known as glycosylation)3.
When we’re stressed, cortisol hormone increases, which goes right ahead and degrades collagen.
Low overall hydration in the body can result in more sensitive and inflamed skin, in turn damaging collagen.
- Excessive Sun Exposure
Too much exposure to UVA rays increases a collagen-depleting enzyme called MMP14.
- Pollution & Toxicity
When we take in environmental, food and other toxins that create free radicals, they damage proteins just like collagen.
- Poor Nutrition & Processed Foods
Deficiency in certain nutrients that support and protect collagen can hinder its formation and production (more on which nutrients you need below).
- Trans Fats & Hydrogenated Oils
Oh I’ve got a lot to say about this! These proven-to-be-super-unhealthy-fats are particularly damaging to collagen, since they create free radicals and inflammation. They also deprive skin of essential fatty acids (EFA’s) that help to build collagen, which we could otherwise be eating in their place. And they intensify the negative effects of UVA damage5 (see Excessive Sun Exposure above).
- Lack Of Sleep
Proper sleep helps to increase a hormone known as Growth Hormone, which has been said to stimulate collagen production. Sleep is also a restorative process, during which our body regenerates and repairs any damage that occurs within us each day, collagen included. Bonus tip: exercise helps to increase Growth Hormone too!
How To Get More Skin Clearing Collagen In Your Life
Finally we’re on to the good stuff: how to get more skin clearing collagen into your gorgeous life!
The body can’t produce collagen on its own – it needs a little help from our food and diet. We are what we eat indeed! Collagen is only found in animal tissue and is most readily available in protein-rich foods.
Considering this, it can be difficult, but not impossible, to get enough collagen in a vegetarian diet (eggs and fish are options), but somewhat more difficult to get it on a vegan diet.
These are some super easy ways to naturally boost your body’s ability to stimulate collagen production and protect the collagen you already have. You really want to focus on defending collagen against environmental damage, and also keep it moving through that creation-degradation cycle.
Food & Diet
Food is the best way to give your body the AA’s it needs to build that precious collagen.
Cooking up some chicken, lamb or beef bone broth is probably the most popular way to consume collagen – that sweet collagen just leaches out of the bones as it cooks and simmers….mmmmm. Make your own (it’s not as hard or laborious as it sounds, honestly) or buy some from an organic and sustainable company like Broya. Using pastured and grass-fed animals that are organically raised is super important – you’ll avoid toxins and other harmful substances such as antibiotics, artificial hormones and the like. And, hey, bonus: when it’s from an organic source, it’s going to have more of those collagen-friendly nutrients that help create and support it!
Using gelatin to thicken soups and sauces is sneaky way to get more collagen.
Eating fish (also known as “marine collagen”) is a great option for those cutie-pie pescatarians. And egg whites are perfect for you sexy vegetarians.
If you’re vegan, focus on a variety of protein-rich foods such as beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, organic tofu and tempeh. This is the best way to get all of those AA’s that build collagen.
And there are a ton of foods you can eat to get those handy collagen supporting nutrients:
- Vitamin A: Get it in fish, eggs, green leafy veggies and any foods that are red or orange (think bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, mango). This nutrient helps to increase the life span of collagen, and also blocks the enzymes that destroy it.
- Vitamin C: Helps to support collagen synthesis and some of those AA’s that convert to collagen. It’s found in all kinds of yummy stuff like strawberries, citrus fruit, bell peppers, kiwi, pineapple, papaya and mango.
- Zinc: Aids collagen production. Oysters are by far the highest source, but you can also get it in fish, pumpkin seeds, various nuts and seeds, meat and beans.
- Hyaluronic acid: This is a naturally occurring substance in our skin that helps maintain collagen6, and slow down its loss. It’s rich in soy foods (eat them organic!), root veggies, leafy green veggies, animal foods and ….oh look at that….bone broth! Pssst: red wine has some too.
- Garlic: The lipoic acid and taurine within garlic helps to rebuild damaged collagen, while sulfur compounds help increase collagen production. For more sulfur, try cabbage, onions and fish.
Antioxidants can be added to the list too (is there anything they can’t do?!) Put simply, they protect against collagen degeneration through free radical damage. Most natural and whole foods have got them, but here are some tips to max out your antioxidant intake:
- Eat a wide variety of fruits and veggies
- Consume them raw as much as possible
- Include the peels whenever possible
- Juice them once in awhile as a highly concentrated source (if you can, use a Vitamix or something similar, so the peels aren’t stripped away)
- Eat plenty of the supportive nutrients above – they ALL have antioxidant powers (even the red wine)!
- Use herbs and spices instead of just salt – sprinkle them on everything!
Vital Proteins has a ton of products that are sustainably sourced from pasture-raised cows and beef, and wild caught fish. They’ve got powders, capsules, flavoured water mixes and travel-friendly packets. Their Collagen Beauty Greens and Collagen Veggie Blend are packed with organic greens and other superfoods, giving them those extra nutrients that support collagen synthesis and production.
Vidaglow uses sustainably sourced fish collagen in their powders, that’s free of heavy metals, toxins and pollution. And they’ve added flavours like blueberry, peach, pineapple and mango (just click the images below to buy your own). Yes please! And I’m loving this Vidaglow beauty smoothie recipe that Chalkboard Mag put together.
Collagen powders can be used to spice up water, coffee & lattes, yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal, soup and baked goods (throwing just a little bit in won’t hurt!)
Red Light Therapy
Here’s one alternative to food that can help your collagen out a bit.
This non-invasive procedure uses wavelengths of low-powered red light that shines directly on the skin for several seconds to several minutes. It has the ability to absorb deep within the layers of skin, can’t be felt and is not even hot. More and more people are talking about its ability to clear up acne.7,8
Red light therapy works by stimulating the cells, known as fibroblasts, that produce collagen. It also helps to support tissue recovery (that includes acne scars!) and other forms of rejuvenation in the body through increased blood flow – this means nutrients are taken to cells and tissues more easily and readily, where they can support collagen.
FYI it can take a bunch of visits over several weeks or months before any changes are apparent
Although there are no major reports thus far of any negative side effects resulting from red light therapy, it’s still a bit controversial and may not work for everyone. Use with caution and consult a health care professional experience with this technique before using it yourself.
I’ve come across several sources that declare collagen creams are actually a waste of money, or at the very least, have very little effect. The collagen molecules they contain aren’t able to absorb into the deeper layers of skin (the famous dermis!) because they’re too big.
Chia-Cran Collagen Bevvy
Here’s a tasty drink recipe that serves up some antioxidant power with a bit of collagen. This is for two servings (or one serving for a very thirsty person).
- 1 cup filtered water
- 1 cup pomegranate juice
- 1-3 tablespoons chia seeds
- Pour both the filtered water and pomegranate juice into a jug or jar with a tight fitting lid
- Add the chia seeds and stir everything until completely combined
- Let sit in the fridge for at least 10 minutes, allowing the chia seeds to absorb some of the liquid and swell up
I like to use a jug or jar with a tight fitting lid so I can occasionally give it a shake – the chia seeds will tend to sink to the bottom, and a good shake now and then will ensure they get dispersed evenly.
So are you going to up your collagen game? How are you going to do it? Share with us in comments below so we can all feel motivated and beautiful with collagen!
Disclaimer: The information contained within this document is for educational and informational purposes only. It is meant to empower, inspire and motivate readers to make healthy choices and is intended for general well-being, education and information. This website is not intended to be used or interpreted as medical advice and is not a substitute for professional medical services. I, the author of Date With Your Plate, am not a medical professional and none of the statements on this website are intended to diagnose, treat, cure, heal or prevent any disease. A qualified health care or medical professional should always be consulted before beginning any health related diet, exercise, supplementation or other regimen plan or program.This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn some money if you make a purchase, but I wouldn’t recommend a product that I didn’t already love myself!