What Is Collagen?
Collagen is one of the structural proteins of the skin, actually the most abundant protein in mammals. Imagine the springs inside the mattress – this is how the collagen skin matrix looks like, built together with another protein, elastin. Lots of three-dimensional spirals are braided into reliable and strong fibers. With age the tight collagen matrix is weakened and degenerates, become rigid and brittle. Skin loses its tone and elasticity, and capacity to maintain hydration. How this can be avoided?
Cosmetologists determine lack of collagen by pinching the skin of the upper eyelid: if it is not immediately smoothed out, it’s time to take action. Decrease in collagen production is associated with aging processes: metabolism slows down, collagen decay processes begin to predominate over its synthesis that results in reducing skin elasticity and changing facial shape. But aging is not the only reason. The following bad habits can significantly inhibit collagen production:
- Excess ultraviolet
- Insufficient skin hydration
Female and male sex hormones – estrogen and testosterone – play a very important role in collagen production. In men, testosterone level decreases gradually. It helps them to maintain bones density, muscle strength for longer time and look significantly younger than women of the same age. In women during premenopause and menopause, estrogen production drops dramatically, which means collagen production is reduced and immediately reflects on the appearance. Substitution hormone therapy (HRT) may help, which should be discussed with a gynecologist-endocrinologist, after complete medical examination.
Diet for elastic skin
To build a full-fledged collagen molecule, our body needs amino acids, which are formed as a result of the breakdown of proteins from food. If at least one indispensable amino acid is missing, process of protein production is suspended, and affects the condition of skin, hair and nails. Collagen production can be boosted by diet that includes the following nutrients:
- Copper – cereals, legumes, snails, oysters, mollusks.
- Vitamin C – kiwi, citrus, blueberry, black currant and other berries.
- Sulfur – egg yolk.
- Zinc – wheat germ, brewer’s yeast.
- Silicon – beetroots and other red vegetables.
- Fatty acids Omega-3, -6 and -9 – salmon or any other fatty fish.
- Lutein – spinach, cabbage, lettuce and other greens.
- Iron – lean meat, tongue, liver, green apples, whole grain products.
In addition, collagen production is boosted by pumpkin seeds, buckwheat, red pepper, oat flakes, soybeans, cherries, carrots, peaches, bananas.
Boosting collagen production and prolonging skin youthfulness is the holy grail of cosmetic medicine. Scientists have learned to break up the collagen molecules and enclose them in special delivery systems – nanosomes and enhancers, which, due to tiny size, can pass through the epidermis and carry useful substances.
Three kinds of collagen are used in cosmetology. The manufacturer must indicate a precise type of protein on the label of a cream.
- Animal – obtained from cattle skins. The most inefficient and even dangerous. Often causes allergies.
- Vegetable – obtained biotechnologically, for example, from wheat proteins. Safe, does not cause allergies. It is very expensive and is used mainly in luxury cosmetics.
- Marine origin – obtained from shellfish and fish skin. Its molecules are the smallest, with human-like structure. Effectively moisturizes and restores, but often causes allergies.
Today, collagen is a popular component of many vitamin complexes and nutritional supplements. But many nutritionists are rather skeptical about it, as these supplements include the same proteins as meat, fish, and legumes. They are split into amino acids in the digestive tract, and then sent to produce proteins in other parts of the body. The skin will get these amino acids on leftovers as our body works in the way that all the necessary substances are first directed to the internal organs, bones and joints.
Still there is a health benefit from such collagen supplements: they are good to prevent and treat diseases of the locomotor system, especially joints and spine.