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Collagen Should You Eat it or Apply it?

Is your skin starting to lose its youthful glow?

Or maybe it’s starting to look thin, a bit craggier, in a way that an extra layer of moisturiser can’t reasonably address?

As we reach our 30s, collagen – the structural protein responsible for giving us that squishy, plump skin – begins to break down.

Skin adopts a lack of tone, and signs of ageing become more apparent.

So, if you feel that replenishing collagen might help to caulk out your emerging lines, or you want more of that squishiness, join us as we travel under your skin to examine one of the most lauded proteins available.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is often referred to in the industry as our “internal scaffolding” because it’s the most important structural protein in your skin. It accounts for about one-third of your body’s protein composition.

Collagen is found deep within the dermis and is more concentrated in connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments; it is one of the primary building blocks of bones, skin, muscles, and ligaments.

HealthLine noted that one could think of collagen as the “glue” that holds everything together due to its abundance.

As we age, our body produces less collagen. According to dermatologist Whitney Bowe, starting in our 20s, we begin to lose one per cent of our collagen each year — making our skin drier with age. Aside from the natural decline in collagen production your body undergoes, excessive sun exposure, smoking, and environmental pollutants can also contribute to collagen breakdown.

There are Four Main Types.

Collagen comes in 16 different types, but the main ones are types I, II, III and IV:

  1. Type I makes up 90% of your body’s collagen, providing structure to your skin, connective tissues, teeth, tendons, bones, and fibrous cartilage
  2. Compared to type I, type II is more loosely packed and is, therefore, more plentiful in the cushions of your joints
  3. Type III, like type I, also provides some structure and support to your muscles, organs, and arteries
  4. Type IV aids with filtration and can be found in the layers of your skin

Can you boost Your Collagen by Applying it Topically?

A big question we are asked in the clinic is what are the collagen benefits?

Clever marketing terms suggest that by applying collagen topically, you can replenish it.

Sadly, this doesn’t work: simply put, collagen molecules are too large to penetrate your dermis, which is where it is required.

A school of thought suggests that hydrolysed collagen that has been enzymatically broken down into fragments can reach your dermis; however, until more clinical testing has been done to support this idea, the jury is still out for us.

When collagen peptides are applied topically, it isn’t going to stimulate other collagen.

Results-wise, however, you may feel like some regions of your face are plumper. This is due to collagen’s excellent moisturising benefits.

Let’s face it: if your skin is well-moisturised, it will be healthier and look younger — but it’s not because your skin absorbs the collagen.

Collagen Supplements

One of the most well-researched benefits of taking collagen is improving skin health.

A recent study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found that collagen can significantly boost your skin’s health and promote a youthful appearance in three different ways.

First, it enhances skin elasticity by thickening the dermis.

Second, it enables your skin to hold onto moisture, keeping your skin plump and youthful, preventing signs of premature ageing. Third, it increases the density of collagen fibres within your skin.

This is why taking collagen supplements is incredibly appealing from a dermatological standpoint.

Usually, such products are made with collagen peptides or hydrolysed collagen, easily absorbed by your body.

In addition to providing the benefits mentioned above, studies also noted that collagen supplements could help slow down skin ageing and plump skin and reduce fine lines’ appearance by stimulating the body’s natural production of collagen, elastin, and fibrillin.

Vitamin C

One of the highly effective ingredients in encouraging your body to produce more collagen is Vitamin C.

PrettyMe’s review of frozen collagen supplements mentioned that this is why collagen supplements are usually accompanied by components that are packed with this vitamin, such as strawberry, grape, and raspberry.

Ascorbic acid is an excellent antioxidant that fights sun damage and, at the same time, inhibits the production of melanin to lighten dark spots.

In one of our previous posts, ‘Vitamin C for Skin Health: Your Complete Guide‘, we also emphasised how this vitamin can rebuild your skin’s DNA at a cellular level and encourage the formation of barriers that protect your skin.

We recommend C+ Ascorbic Acid Complex, which is highly beneficial for those concerned with photos again, and those who want to improve their skin’s resilience and restore it to a youthful, healthy glow.

Vitamin A derivatives (retinol and retinoid) and AHAs

You can also boost your body’s collagen production by investing in topicals with retinol and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid. A study cited by Everyday Health found that Vitamin A derivatives can stimulate collagen synthesis in the skin.

Similarly, products containing AHAs can trigger collagen formation. Vitamin A is one of the most researched ingredients for warding off signs of ageing — the topically-applied A+ Retinoid Complex is a complete multitasker that brings many benefits to dull, prematurely aged skin.


Copper was one of the first cosmetics used of all the minerals now incorporated into skincare products. Ancient Egyptian women often mixed copper with lead ore to bring colour and definition to their faces.

Today, copper is being used to aid in collagen production. SFGate explained that copper activates the lysyl enzyme oxidase, essential for collagen maturation.

Daily, people should consume 900 micrograms of copper. To ensure that you can do this, try to include cashews, oysters, crab, sunflower, and beef liver into your diet.

Naked Truth

Despite the claims, which range from glowing skin to improved wrinkles and skin elasticity, the studies to back up topically-applied products are limited; however, we believe the oral version would be the most beneficial between collagen creams and collagen supplements for your skin.

With that said, there are things to keep in mind when selecting your collagen products.

As with all supplements, oral collagen has not been FDA-regulated, so be sure to consult with your physician before using such supplements.


So, what’s, is collagen food for?

Topically, collagen will bring much-needed moisturisation to your skin.

Still, the molecular structure is far too large to penetrate the dermis, which is where it needs to reach to make a visible difference.

Whilst studies suggest that some collagen supplements do get results, there is the question of whether you need to take a collagen supplement, especially if they have not been FDA approved.

If you eat a regular, balanced diet that includes protein-rich foods, is it necessary to be taking an oral supplement?

If your diet is lacking, the research indicates that they could potentially benefit your skin and your joints — and the great thing is, if you don’t need it, your body won’t absorb it and will excrete any over-supplementation.

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