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Collagen for face and skin care: How to use it the right way?

Collagen is a term that seems to pop up whenever you’re researching or shopping for skincare – especially if you’re looking at anti-aging solutions.

From collagen face creams to supplements, the shelves are bursting with products that claim to boost your collagen production and make you look younger. 

But what does collagen actually do? And do any of these products really work?

When it comes to skincare, certain things can help boost and stimulate collagen production in your skin, creating a fuller, fresher (and often younger) appearance.

Here, we get into the science behind collagen and explain the role it plays in skincare products, to help you decide whether integrating collagen into your routine is a good option for you.

What is collagen and what does it do?

Collagen is a structural protein that exists naturally in your skin, and pretty much everywhere else in your body. It actually makes up about 30% of your body’s total protein content.

There are different types of collagen, which each contribute to your bodily structure throughout your organs, bones, cartilage, fibres, cell structure and beyond. 

Type 1 collagen is the most prevalent. This is the kind that exists in your skin and works to make up its shape, strength, and elasticity – in other words, it’s what makes your skin appear plump, bright, and firm, (aka more youthful). It also works to refresh and replace dead skin cells. 

How does collagen help with anti-aging?

You produce less and less collagen as you get older – after age 21, it’s estimated that collagen production decreases by about 1% each year. Less collagen means your skin loses its firmness and elasticity. As collagen depletes, lines and wrinkles become more prominent.

Lifestyle factors such as sun exposure, smoking, and sugar consumption can also contribute to an increase in collagen depletion.

How does collagen work in skincare?

When we talk about collagen and skincare, there are two main aspects that come into play – collagen replenishment and collagen production.

Collagen replenishment 

Collagen is a great ingredient for moisturizing, which is why you’ll often see it in creams and serums. Using a cream with collagen can help to minimize the appearance of lines and wrinkles, to create a fuller and brighter effect.

The collagen molecules in these products tend to be to be too big to move past the top layer of your skin, and therefore the bulk of the work happens at surface level – again, moisturizing and topping up collagen levels on the surface of your skin.

It’s a great way to replenish and restore the overall fullness of your complexion and can be used both as a morning and nighttime moisturizer.

Our favorite collagen replenishment products:

Colorescience Pep Up Collagen Renewal Face & Neck Treatment

Epicuren Discovery Pro Collagen + Serum Amplifier

Shea Terra Rose Hips Damask Rose Ester-C Collagen Regeneration Facial Mist

PCA Skin Collagen Hydrator

Collagen production

If you’re aiming to incorporate collagen into your anti-aging skincare routine, look for ways to encourage collagen production. This will help to create fuller, firmer, and plumper skin and improve the appearance of lines and wrinkles. 

  • Retinol: Retinol products work hard to exfoliate your skin, remove dead skin cells, and stimulate new collagen production.
  • Facial peels:  Facial peels are strong exfoliators – they will tackle and eliminate dead cells on the top layer of your skin, while stimulating collagen production in the middle layer, encouraging a fuller and smoother complexion. 

Our favorite collagen production products:

SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

SENTE Exfoliating Cleanser

SkinCeuticals Retinol 

How to use collagen for your skin

The way you incorporate collagen into your routine will depend on your skincare goals.

If you’re looking to use it for its amazing moisturizing properties, choose a cream or serum that contains collagen and add it to your morning or nighttime regime.

If you want to harness the anti-aging potential of collagen, look for products that stimulate collagen production – like retinoids, facial peels, and other exfoliants.

As with any skincare products, it’s important to test your collagen solutions out before you commit, to make sure they agree with your skin. Apply to a small area and use sparingly at first, to ensure they don’t cause irritation or an allergic reaction.

What about collagen supplements? 

The jury is still out on the effectiveness of taking collagen in the form of supplements – some claim they can be life-changing, while others say they don’t do much at all. We’ve seen people on both sides of the fence, with many arguing that they are beneficial for anti-aging and skincare.

One thing is for sure: if you’re planning on taking collagen in the form of pills or another ingestible product, be sure to check with doctor beforehand – these substances aren’t currently regulated by the FDA, so it’s important to be rigorous with your own research. 

Lifestyle habits for healthy collagen production

Collagen is a protein that exists naturally in our bodies, as well as in plants and animals. Adopting healthy lifestyle habits can encourage and sustain collagen production naturally. 

Eat a balanced diet made up of whole foods, with natural sources of protein, such as beans, fish, and eggs. Foods containing Vitamin C, such as grapefruit and oranges, can also help collagen production.

Avoid refined sugar and simple carbohydrates as much as possible, as they can take a negative toll on your body’s collagen retention and production.

 UV rays can speed up collagen loss. Protecting your skin can combat this effect (yes, yet another reason to wear sunscreen).

NEW EltaMD UV Restore Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 Untinted & Tinted

FAQs about using collagen

Collagen can be a great product to incorporate into your skincare routine, to help moisturize your skin and combat the effects of aging. Here, we run through some of the most common questions we get about using collagen.

 It’s worth noting that, as with all health and beauty regimes, it’s important to start using new products slowly to ensure they agree with your body. If you have any doubts or concerns about collagen, talk to your doctor or dermatologist.

How can I restore collagen in my face?

Use exfoliants to encourage collagen production in your face – retinoids and face peels work to remove dead skin cells and stimulate collagen production, to create firmer and fuller looking skin.

Can collagen be harmful?

Collagen is a substance that your body naturally produces, so it’s typically not harmful to apply or ingest it – your body will flush out the excess.

However, collagen supplements aren’t regulated and new products may not work well with your skin type – when possible, it’s always best to talk to doctor or dermatologist to determine whether collagen products are a good option for you.

Will collagen make your skin look younger?

It depends on which product you use and how you use it.

Collagen-stimulating products (like retinol and other anti-aging exfoliants) work to remove dead skin cells, which improves the appearance of lines and wrinkles.

They also encourage production of new skin cells, which can result in fresher, fuller skin that has a brighter and more youthful appearance. 

When should I use collagen – morning or night?

If you’re using collagen in the form of moisturizer, you can use it in the morning, evening, or both, depending on how it fits into your wider skincare routine.

If you are using retinol or another type of exfoliant to stimulate collagen production, use it every few days or weeks. Strong exfoliants can be more intense on your skin and should be used more sparingly. 

Which foods are high in collagen?

When you’re tailoring your diet for collagen production, look for foods that:

  • Are high in protein: Such as fish, shellfish, beans, chicken, and eggs
  • Contain Vitamin C: Such as berries, lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit
  • Are full of antioxidants: Such as leafy green vegetables

Does collagen cause weight gain?

There is no conclusive evidence that connects collagen with weight gain, or weight loss, for that matter.

Some argue that taking collagen supplements can cause your body to retain water and trigger temporary bloating, which may feel like weight gain. Others say that the increase in protein helps to curb your appetite, which may help with weight loss.

If you’re taking collagen supplements, monitor your body’s response closely and consult a doctor if you notice drastic changes or discomfort.

Collagen can be a gamechanger for skincare and anti-aging, as long as you choose the right products and use them in a way that suits your beauty goals. Check out our complete range of anti-aging solutions to find a fit that works for you.