Collagen is the most commonly found protein in the human body and helps to build and rebuild our teeth, bones, muscles, tendons and joints, but its importance in the structure of our skin is what’s most studied in the dermatology and beauty world.
Collagen is the glue that holds together the dermis, the skin’s widest layer, sitting just below the epidermis with hair and sweat glands, nerve endings and capillaries.
It’s also found in the lowest subcutaneous layer, along with fat and fibroblasts.
Our bodies make the most collagen while they are still growing, and production starts to drop by about 1% each year once we reach our 30s. There’s no way to stop this process, but avoiding smoking and sun damage while eating a healthy diet rich in protein and vitamin C can slow it down.
Collagen loss in the dermis thins and dehydrates it, creating folds, or wrinkles, in the epidermis as well as a loss of plumpness and elasticity.
There are several types of treatments that either attempt to add more collagen to the body or stimulate its production within the body:
Creams containing collagen from bovine or other animal sources can be applied to the skin to replenish the body’s supply; they can improve appearance but don’t spur additional collagen production in healthy skin because the molecules are too large to be absorbed by it.
Creams can be more beneficial for skin that is healing, such as after a cut or a microneedling session.
These mostly come in the form of capsules of collagen powder created from animal or human sources. Supplements are the preferred treatment for boosting the body’s collagen content and in some studies have proven to be effective, though other experts believe it may be completely broken down during the digestive process and not absorbed into the bloodstream.
Injections can improve the appearance of wrinkles around the forehead, eyes and nose and also add plumpness to the lips, generally with longer-lasting results than other types of fillers. In some cases they can trigger additional collagen production within the body.
However, many patients have an allergic reaction to bovine collagen, so it is important to be tested for this beforehand.
RADIO FREQUENCY TREATMENTS
Thermalift and other forms of this therapy use low-energy radiation from radiofrequency waves to heat the dermis to 122 to 167 degrees for up to three minutes at a time, which has been shown to trigger release of heat-shock proteins that in turn activate production of new collagen fibers.
This approach tightens skin, reduces wrinkles and can reduce the effects of sun damage, and results can last anywhere from six months to two to four years if you maintain a consistent weight.