Collagen depletion can cause fine lines, winkles and and a loss skin volume. So what can we do to fight it?

What is collagen?

Think of skin as a house – no matter how swish it looks on the outside, if it’s built on sand, it’s going to sag and crack. “Collagen is the main structural protein present in the skin. It gives body tissues form, strength and firmness,” says cosmetic nurse Natalie Abouchar.

Unfortunately, the reality is that as we age, our bodies are no longer able to produce collagen at the level it once did. On the plus side, there are ways to boost your body’s collagen and inhibit collagen fibre damage.

A 2008 University of Michigan Health System report identified three skin-improving treatments that stimulate new collagen: “topical retinoic acid, carbon dioxide laser resurfacing and injections of cross-linked hyaluronic acid,” said the report’s main author, Dr John Voorhees.

“Fibroblasts are not genetically shot. We have shown that if you make more collagen go in, it provides an environment in which fibroblasts recover and make more collagen.” Staying out of the sun and avoiding smoking and passive smoking are key prevention tactics.

How it happens
Lazy collagen production promotes loss of skin volume and wrinkles according to Christine Clais, skin expert at the French Facialist.

1. Collagen (a fibrous structural protein in our skin’s middle layer) becomes damaged by factors like the sun, cigarette smoke, pollution, free radicals and even hormonal fluctuations. This causes small tears in the collagen fibres, which slowly wear down the integrity of the proteins.

2. Collagen is produced by dermal skin cells called fibroblasts, which are charged with repairing damaged collagen fibres by creating new ones. As we age, this collagen production process slows.

If the collagen fibres are not optimally repaired, spaces and gaps emerge, resulting in wrinkles and ill-supported skin that’s crepey and saggy (think of a tent without poles).

4 ways to fight collagen depletion

1. Get your 5-a-day

Clais says nutrition choices are key contributors to collagen levels. “Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables – they’re essential for good skin functioning as a healthy organ.”

2. Avoid refined sugar

“Sugar creates a chemical reaction known as glycation, damaging proteins including collagen and elastin fibres. These cross-link (where chemical bridges form between our collagen or elastin molecules), resulting in stiffening of tissues and the formation of wrinkles.”

3. Use collagen supplements that are high in antioxidants

Active ingredients vitamin C, A and E – the antioxidants – help reduce free radical damage. Clais also recommends using products containing “peptides and epidermal growth factor to stimulate collagen synthesis”.

4 Consider treatment

Chemical peels or resurfacing lasers are an option to stimulate the body’s natural collagen production, and fillers can smooth out fine lines by plumping the skin.