Skin

13 October 2017

Boost your collagen levels for a younger-looking skin

As we age, the body starts to produce less collagen, which leads to wrinkles, saggy skin and weakened joint cartilage.

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The state of your skin says a lot about your overall health.

Collagen, the soft structure of your skin, is the most abundant protein in your body. Your skin consists of collagen and as you age it starts to decrease, leading to lines around your eyes and mouth. The dermis (second layer of the skin) is made up of about 75% collagen.

Miracle material

Gelatin comes from collagen and is largely made of amino acids and proline, and can be found in bones, fibrous tissues and animal organs. 

As we age, though, the body starts to produce less collagen, which leads to wrinkles, saggy skin and weakened joint cartilage. By the age of 60, a decline of collagen production is normal, but especially women experience a dramatic reduction after menopause.

Collagen can be broken down, converted and absorbed back into the body. You can get it in the form of capsules, liquid, powder and protein-rich foods. Good repairing of collagen can help reduce the appearance of cellulite, strengthen bones to help prevent osteoporosis and promote nail and hair growth.

Collagen enemies

The building blocks that make protein (including collagen) are amino acids. Essential amino acids are the ones the body can’t make; you can, however, get them from dietary or food supplements.

These include: phenylalanine, histidine, leucine, lysine, methionine, isoleucine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. They are known as the “building blocks of life” and are critical for a healthy functioning body.

The skin you have in your 20s is the one you inherited, in your 40s it's what you’ve earned and in your 60s it's what you deserve. So, especially as you grow older, what goes into your body and what you’re exposed to externally will decide the fate of your skin.

  • The sun's UV rays can penetrate your skin and damage it.
  • Excess sugar robs your bones of minerals and weakens your skin’s elasticity.
  • Smoking can cause wrinkling and accelerate ageing, as nicotine in cigarettes can reduce blood flow to organs. This deprives the skin of nutrients and oxygen.

Boost your collagen with food:

  • Fish like tuna and salmon are packed with omega-3 fatty acids. These will create stronger cells that will be able to support your skin structure.
  • Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are rich in Vitamin C that can protect your skin from free radicals that weaken collagen. It can help accelerate your collagen production too.
  • Red vegetables like beetroot, peppers and tomatoes have an antioxidant that can protect your skin from the sun.
  • Berries are high in antioxidants that protect your skin from free radicals.
  • Soy products can promote collagen production and help block enzymes that age your skin.
  • Citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C that helps amino acids convert to collagen. They also help neutralise free radicals that are harmful to your skin.
  • Egg whites are a good source of protein that help support your body’s natural collagen production.
  • Garlic is a source of sulphur which is an abundant and necessary mineral in your body. It also contains properties that help rebuild collagen fibres that have been damaged.

It's better to repair your skin from the inside out. It is therefore better to rely on food sources than metopical creams that claim to restore collagen may not be that effective as collagen molecules are too big to be absorbed by the skin.

Image credit: iStock

 

Ask the Expert

Skin expert

Dr Suretha Kannenberg holds a degree in Medicine and a Masters in Dermatology from the University of Stellenbosch. She is employed as a consultant dermatologist by Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, where she is involved in clinical duties and the training of medical students and dermatology residents. Her areas of interest and research include vitiligo, eczema and acne. She also performs limited private practice work in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town in general and cosmetic dermatology.

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