How to Get More Collagen, and Why Your Skin Needs It to Stay Young

Collagen firms your skin and strengthens your bones. Find out how collagen keeps your skin looking young and all the ways to boost your collagen production.

Collagen is a structural protein that acts as the building block for your bones, teeth, muscles, skin, and all other connective tissues. The most abundant protein in the body, collagen makes up more than one-third of your total protein. It’s rich in glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline — the amino acids that help your body make new collagen.

At least 28 different types of collagen exist, but types I, II, and III form the bulk — between 80 and 90 percent — of the collagen in your body. Types I and III provide structure to the skin, muscles, and ligaments, while type II is found in cartilage and the eye.

Collagen protein powder is collagen that’s been hydrolyzed. The process of hydrolysis breaks down the amino acids in collagen into smaller molecules, making it easier for your body to absorb.

How Collagen Keeps Your Skin Young

Collagen makes up nearly 80 percent of your skin, and it’s found in the middle layer called the dermis. It works together with another protein called elastin to strengthen the skin and help it snap back into place when stretched.

Collagen production starts to slow down as you get older — and it happens sooner than you’d think. “After the age of 25, we break down more collagen than we make so that’s why we start to see fine lines and wrinkles,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, author of “Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist.” From there, you start losing about one percent of your collagen each year. “Under a microscope you see fragmentation of the collagen network in the dermis — this is the hallmark of skin aging.”

Other factors working against you? Sun exposure and smoking. Ultraviolet (UV) light and tobacco smoke activate enzymes that degrade collagen fibers.

“These chew up the collagen and the elastic tissue, and as a result that can cause some sagging and some age-related damage,” says Allan Dattner, MD, holistic dermatologist and author of “Radiant Skin From The Inside Out.”

Taking collagen peptides orally, either in pill or powder form, is an easy way to boost your collagen stores. Research shows that collagen supplements improve skin elasticity, reduce wrinkles, boost skin hydration, and increase the density of fibroblasts — cells in connective tissue that produce the protein.

“Collagen peptides are used as an ingredient in products and have been shown in studies to improve skin barrier function and to help the production of collagen after 8 weeks of intake,” says Jaliman. “The collagen density in the dermis significantly increased so the skin became thicker and the lines were diminished.”

The Other Benefits of Collagen Peptides

#1-Stronger joints and bone formation

Collagen peptides strengthen your joints, making them more resilient to injury. Research shows that taking hydrolyzed collagen reduces joint pain and boosts the density of your cartilage, making joints more flexible. A 2008 study found that athletes who took hydrolyzed collagen for six months saw an improvement in joint pain. Other studies have shown that it assists with back and knee pain. Collagen also increases the amount of minerals — namely calcium — in your bones, and helps form new bones.

#2. Improves sleep 

Glycine — an amino acid in collagen — helps you sleep better and more deeply. Glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it calms the nervous system. One study found that people with sleep troubles fell asleep quicker, slept deeper, and experienced less daytime drowsiness when given glycine before bed. In another study, people reported feeling less fatigued and more clear-headed the morning after taking glycine.

#3. Collagen and weight loss

Collagen can help control your weight. Glycine forms muscle by converting glucose into energy. Lean muscle tissue boosts your metabolism, since muscle burns more calories than fat. “Collagen helps to turn your body into a fat-burning machine, even when you’re at rest,” says Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD.

#4. Boosts gut health

Collagen repairs and strengthens your intestinal and stomach lining, easing leaky gut syndrome and making it easier for your body to absorb nutrients. When you have a leaky gut, toxins, food particles, and bacteria pass through holes in the intestine and enter the bloodstream. This creates inflammation in the body and over time leads to autoimmune disease. Collagen can also reduce acid reflux and GERD thanks to glycine, which helps your body produce more stomach acid, aiding digestion. Since the gut microbiome is connected to a range of health issues including heart disease, depression, and diabetes, a burst of collagen could help heal your gut, and improve your overall health in the process.