Skincare product R&D budgets exceed the National Institute on Aging's budget - let's get it focussed on real anti-aging science
Skin-deep anti-ageing with collagen treatments
The appearance of the skin (not just wrinkles, but structure and glow) is the easiest way to gauge someone’s age. Without knowing their medical history or current state of health, it’s possible to take a good educated guess at someone’s age just by looking at them. Conversely then, if we’re really healthy on the inside, with a reduced biological age, is this reflected in the skin’s appearance?
So, it’s no surprise then that skin appearance is more important than lifespan to most people at the moment. And when the first generation of true anti-ageing treatments arrive (almost definitely in the 2020s) those that also improve outward one’s image will no doubt be among the most popular.
Here, we look at today’s skincare options using collagen and whether they really work.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a structural protein that is present in all connective tissue, skin, bones, and cartilage. In the skin, collagen is responsible for skin strength and elasticity. As we age, our body’s ability to synthesize collagen reduces and that leads to wrinkles and other signs of ageing.
The protein forms elongated fibrils (tiny strands) and as well as its structural properties is important in cell regulation and the health of blood vessels. The actions of collagen at a cellular level are particularly important given that it makes up almost a third of the protein in the body.
As of in 2011, there are 28 types of collagen found. The first 5 types are the most common ones. Type I collagen makes up 90% of human body collagen, which are skin, tendon, bones, vasculature. It has many medical uses in treating complications of skin and bones.
Structure of the skin. Image: Adobe Stock
Collagen treatments available for the skin
Signs of ageing can be slowed when total body collagen is increased. There are different types of collagen treatments available in the market such as collagen injections, micro-needling, collagen supplements, and collagen moisturizers/creams. Mostly, oral supplements dominate in the market, while collagen creams are considered a bit old school.
Collagen is synthesized in the dermis, which is the second layer of the skin, below the epidermis. Creams containing pure collagen can’t have the promised effect, because collagen is a very massive and complex molecule and it’s too big to get through the epidermis, let alone the dermis. It’s another story if creams contain hydrolyzed collagen or when used along with some procedures like micro-needling.
Micro-needling is a percutaneous collagen induction. This means a physician punctures the skin and causes physical trauma with multiple tiny, sterile needles. The small wounds created by the needling devices induce the skin to start a wound healing response, which results in the growth of fresh collagen and elastin. It is primarily used for treating wrinkles, though can also improve scarring and help reverse skin damage from the sun. Micro-needling can also help therapeutic products to get through the skin barrier, where they can work more efficiently.
Harvard Health Publishing revealed statistics according to which people noticed 45% to 55% improvement to the skin six to 12 weeks after a micro-needling treatment. Potentially a person can need 6 micro-needling procedures, typically 2-3. The gap between the procedures is four to six weeks for getting the desired result.
Dermal injections use fillers for filling out wrinkles and creases in the skin. Dermal fillers can also be used for increasing the volume and definition of the lips and cheeks. The duration of the effects depends on the type of filler. Collagen fillers effects last three to four months.
Every collagen pill contains up to 1 gram of collagen. It can combine various strains of collagen along with vitamin C. Collagen pills are broken down in the digestive system into amino acids, which became a bioavailable source for further collagen synthesis. Collagen supplement can also prompt your body to produce more collagen. Oral intake of the supplements reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis. Vegetarians and vegans can find suitable collagen supplements, which contain a mix of amino acids, wheat extracts, and vitamins instead of animal by-products. The most common types of collagen supplements contain hydrolyzed collagen.
A meta-study examined eleven pieces of research looking at the effects of collagen supplements, with a total of 805 patients included in the review. Eight studies were done using hydrolyzed collagen, 2.5g/d to 10g/d, for 8 to 24 weeks, for treating pressure ulcer, xerosis, skin ageing, and cellulite. Two studies used collagen tripeptide, 3g/d for 4 to 12 weeks. Lastly, one study used collagen dipeptide. According to the systematic review, oral collagen supplements increase dermal collagen density and skin elasticity, hydration. It doesn't have any side effects and generally is safe. However, collagen supplements need further research for determining an optimal dosage of the pills and explaining medical use in skin barrier diseases. Cons of the collagen supplements are that they aren’t FDA regulated or tested, and the studies were usually done on the small groups, were short-term and they focused only on women over 35.
Other products and procedures that improve skin elasticity
Have you tried collagen and not seen any positive results? Here’s a couple of collagen alternatives.
PRP (platelet-rich plasma) facial
PRP (platelet-rich plasma) facial or otherwise known as vampire facial is one of the most popular procedures now for skin rejuvenation. During the procedure, the doctor takes blood from a patient. The blood gets processed in the centrifuge to extract the plasma, which contains platelets and growth factors. After that, the plasma gets re-injected into the face. The trick of the procedure is that the body thinks there has been a trauma and brings growth factors to aid new collagen formation. Platelets and growth factors initiate a healing response which, over time, rejuvenates the skin.
Retinoids are the most studied and the most used anti-ageing compounds, otherwise known as vitamin A-based drugs. The first retinoid was used for acne treatment in the 1970s and called Tretinoin, under the brand name Retin-A.
Retinoids increase the collagen production, stimulate the creation of new blood vessels in the skin. Usually, after three to six months of regular use, the improvements in wrinkles are seen, but for the best effects, it recommended to use regularly six to twelve months.
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