How to Naturally Boost Collagen

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Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery Aging skin's loss of elasticity and firmness is partly related to the breakdown of collagen. See more pictures of ways to get beautiful skin.
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Time and gravity will eventually leave you with hard evidence that you're growing older by the day -- fine lines, wrinkles and sagging skin. Blame it on genetics; if your parents developed wrinkles at an early age, chances are you will, too. You can also blame it on all the relaxing days you spent in the sun, or on bad luck and stress. No matter what the reason, wrinkles can be unpleasant and unwelcome. The good news is that it's possible to reduce those signs of aging with natural, noninvasive methods.

As you age, your skin loses some of its elasticity and firmness. Some of this is due to the loss and breakdown of collagen in the dermal layer of your skin. Collagen exists naturally in your skin as a structural support. As you lose collagen throughout the aging process, your skin gets thinner, and wrinkles begin to set in [source: New Zealand Dermatological Society]. Furthermore, when collagen breaks down, your skin becomes weaker, and this can lead to sagging.


There are a number of ways to slow down or turn back the hands of time. Modern science has provided plenty of options that attempt to deal with the inevitable signs of aging. Many plastic surgeons and dermatologists, for instance, can give you an injection of soft tissue filler, which is simply a shot of a flexible, tissue-like substance, such as human fat or cattle collagen [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. But if you're not comfortable with needles or plastic surgery, you might find natural solutions to smooth out and tighten up your skin.

If you're ready to take on the effects of time and naturally boost your skin's collagen production, read on to find out about collagen supplements, creams and foods that can help you age a bit more gracefully.


Collagen Supplements

Even though your body may not produce the same levels of collagen as it once did, stimulating your collagen production has the potential to reverse some signs of aging. It might be easy to jump to the conclusion that taking collagen supplements for your skin would help, just as you can take calcium supplements to maintain strong bones.

However, the solution isn't as simple in the case of collagen, because you're trying to affect the way your body produces a protein, not just the way it absorbs a mineral. Collagen supplements come in pill and liquid form, and because collagen is found in your skin, bones and cartilage, you can combine it with other supplements. Collagen supplements may be mixed with glucosamine or chondroitin, two supplements used for joint and arthritis problems.


Since collagen gives cartilage its strength, it can also be helpful for those suffering from osteoarthritis [source: WebMD]. However, if you don't have joint problems, you might want to opt for collagen hydrolysate or collagen peptide supplements instead. Additionally, if you decide to give collagen supplements a try, you should also boost your vitamin C intake, as vitamin C helps the body produce collagen [source: Medline Plus].

As with any treatment, how soon someone see results after taking collagen supplements will vary from person to person. Be aware that dietary supplements are not regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and they do not undergo the same testing as prescription drugs. If you are not sure whether taking a collagen supplement is right for you, ask your doctor.

If taking a pill doesn't sound right for you, perhaps a topical treatment is more acceptable. Read on to find out about collagen boosting creams.


Collagen Creams

If you've watched television or flipped through a magazine lately, you may have seen advertisements for anti-aging moisturizers and anti-wrinkle creams that claim to promote collagen production. The key to choosing the right product is studying what's on the label. If you're looking for an anti-aging moisturizer that will give your daily cleansing and moisturizing routine a collagen boost, look for these key ingredients:

  • Creams that contain retinoid or rentinol can speed up your skin's ability to turn over old skin cells and produce new skin cells [source: Bruno]. These creams work on the layers of skin where new skin cells are formed and where collagen gives your skin the support and firmness it needs to appear young and wrinkle-free. By increasing skin cell turnover, retinoid helps stimulate your body's collagen production.
  • Prescription-strength creams containing tretinoin can also help replenish collagen in your skin cells [source: Mayo Clinic]. Because they are prescription strength, they are stronger than over-the-counter retinoid creams. These types of creams can sometimes provide results where other collagen creams fail, as in the case of deep wrinkles or stretch marks.
  • Anti-aging creams containing copper peptides or other peptides have been known to increase collagen production. These creams help wounds heal faster, as well [source: Mayo Clinic].

Collagen creams can help improve the firmness and texture of your skin in the short term, but the overall goal is to stimulate your body's ability to increase collagen production [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. While creams can give your skin a healthy glow, however, there's no guarantee they will make you look like you're 20 again.


Now that you've explored the possible benefits of supplements and creams, read on learn about how certain foods may increase collagen production.


Amino Acids and Collagen

The building blocks that make up all proteins, including collagen, are called amino acids. If you lack the amino acids that combine to form collagen, your body's cells can't produce enough of it. What are the amino acids necessary for collagen production, then, and how can you make sure you're getting enough for your body?

Threonine is an essential amino acid for collagen production. An essential amino acid is one your body cannot make, so you have to get it from food or dietary supplements. You can get threonine from foods such as lentils, peanuts, eggs, milk, pork, beef and chicken. If you prefer a vegetarian diet, you can also get threonine from soybeans, chickpeas, hummus, snap beans and asparagus [source: Das]. Everything from a chicken dinner to a mid-day peanut snack may provide a benefit to your skin.


Another amino acid that aids in collagen production is proline. Unlike threonine, proline is a nonessential amino acid; nonessential amino acids are ones that either the body or other essential amino acids can produce. You can also help your body by eating foods high in proline, such as gelatin, soy, milk, cheese, beef and cabbage [source: Nutrition Data]. And as we mentioned before, vitamin C works along with proline to promote collagen production. Foods such as oranges, lemons and limes contain vitamin C.

You don't have to wait until the fine lines on your face turn into heavy wrinkles to think about preventing the signs of aging. You don't have to resort to expensive plastic surgery, either. To find out lots more information about collagen and basic skin care, see the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Mature Skin." (Sept. 13, 2009)
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Soft Tissue Fillers." (Sept. 13, 2009)
  • Bruno, K. "Women's Skin Care for Your Face." WebMD. (Sept. 13, 2009)
  • Das, Biplab. "Amino Acid Threonine: Health Benefits, Deficiency and Food Sources." Dietary Fiber Food. (Sept. 13, 2009)
  • Gelatine Manufacturers of Europe. "Gelatine -- Thoroughly Natural and Healthy." (Sept. 13, 2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Stretch Marks." (Sept. 13, 2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Moisturizers 101: Options for Softer Skin." (Sept. 13, 2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Wrinkle Creams: Your Guild to Younger Looking Skin." (Sept. 13, 2009)
  • Medline Plus. "Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)." (Sept. 13, 2009)
  • National Institute on Aging. "Skin Care and Aging." (Sept. 13, 2009)
  • New Zealand Dermatological Society. "Collagen replacement therapy." DermNet NZ. (Sept. 13, 2009)
  • Nutrition Data. "Foods Highest in Proline." (Sept. 13, 2009)
  • WebMD. "Missing Nutrients in Your Food." (Sept. 13, 2009)
  • WebMD. "Nutritional Supplements and Osteoarthritis." (Sept. 13, 2009)