Collagen is key to a youthful complexion
There are many factors that are essential to maintaining a youthful complexion, but collagen production is the key element!
The problem is that as we age, the amount of collagen in our skin decreases, leading to fine lines, wrinkles and sagging skin. The solution is to increase the production of collagen in our skin and maintain this increase for as long as possible.
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies and it’s found in our skin, tendons, bones and muscles. Collagen is important for a youthful complexion, because it provides strength, elasticity and structure to our cells and it does this by forming long thin fibrils of collagen molecules that anchor our cells together.
Most of the collagen in our bodies is either type 1, 2 or 3, but there are up to 16 different types of collagen, all with different structures and functions. Types 1 and 3 are found mainly in our skin, ligaments, tendons and bones, whilst type 2 is a major component in joint cartilage.
Collagen is considered a complex protein, because it contains 19 different amino acids in three chains that are wound together in a triple helix formation.
In the dermis of our skin, collagen acts like a scaffold where new cells can grow, so it plays a significant role in replacing dead skin cells, as well as a supportive structural role. However, as the amount of collagen in our skin reduces, so does the scaffold that supports our skin, leading to more and more wrinkles and sagging skin.
Causes of reduced collagen production
Exposure to UV rays, smoking and apparently, sugar can all cause the production of collagen to slow down. UV rays cause collagen and elastin to break down, whilst smoking reduces the production of type 1 and 3 in our skin.
Sugar takes a bit more of an explanation, because as we all know, a hit of sugar makes our insulin levels shoot up. This sudden rise in insulin results in an associated spike of inflammation throughout the body, and it’s this inflammation that produces enzymes that breakdown elastin and collagen. A good enough reason to lay off sugar!
Other causes of reduced collagen production include a lack of vitamin C, which can actually cause the production of collagen to stop, not just slow down, resulting in a condition known as scurvy.
Finally, the production of collagen simply slows down as we become older, but the age at which this starts and the speed at which it slows, we can only assume is heavily influenced by our genetics. For example, if your mother has always looked younger than other people of her age, with few fine lines or wrinkles, hopefully you will have inherited this same trait.
Although, it pays to remember that even genetics can be circumvented by UV rays, sugar, smoking and a lack of vitamin C.
Boosting collagen production
Your age doesn’t matter, in fact, the younger you can boost the production of collagen in your body, the better your skin will look and for longer. Below you will find seven tips for boosting the amount of collagen in your skin and once they become habit, you should enjoy a youthful complexion for as long as possible!
1. Review your vitamin C consumption
Since low levels of vitamin C can lead to lowered levels of collagen production, it makes sense to look at how much vitamin C is in your diet. Suitable levels run from a minimum of 65 mg to a maximum of 2000 mg per day, but you might want to check these levels with your medical professional, just to make sure.
Citrus fruits, especially oranges are good sources of vitamin C, as are blackcurrants, berries, kiwifruit, tomatoes, broccoli and capsicums (red, yellow and green peppers). Also, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and most leafy greens.
2. Reduce UV exposure
You must have seen people who have spent decades working in the sun or sunbathing, and their skin is dry and wrinkled? The best way to reduce your exposure to UV rays is to wear a broad spectrum sun block whenever you are in the sun and don’t sunbathe.
3. Stop smoking & keep you skin younger
There are many good reasons not to smoke, but one of them is to keep a youthful complexion! Smoking results in specific enzymes that damage the collagen in your skin, causing your skin to prematurely dry out and wrinkle.
4. Reduce sugar
Since sugar results in a decreased production of collagen, it’s a good idea to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. Keep an eye open for sugar in processed foods, some of which you might never have thought would contain sugar (for example yogurts, bottled pasta sauces, breakfast cereals, energy drinks and salad dressings).
If you want something sweet however, you could substitute a fruit that is high in vitamin C (increasing collagen production) instead of a slice of cake or chocolate.
5. Exfoliate for a youthful complexion
Exfoliating your skin (removing the top layer of dead skin cells) prompts your body to boost the production of collagen and new skin cells. Glycolic acid serums are one of the simplest ways to exfoliate your skin and promote a more youthful complexion.
6. Boost antioxidants
Antioxidants attack free radicals preventing them from damaging and prematurely aging your skin. Free radicals are molecules that are missing an electron (electrons come in pairs and free radicals have at least one unpaired electron), so they go looking for a ‘spare’ electron.
Unfortunately, they steal these electrons from healthy cells, giving themselves a full compliment of electrons and transforming the healthy cell into a free radical. This process also breaks down collagen, so it’s a double whammy.
Antioxidants work because they freely donate an electron to these free radicals, neutralising their effect, but not turning themselves into free radicals at the same time. Foods high in antioxidants include green tea, leeks, onions, garlic, grapes, berries, pumpkin, carrots, spinach and the list goes on.
7. Retinol in skincare products
Retinol increases the production of collagen in your skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Its one of the main ingredients in many anti-aging skincare products, because it promotes a more youthful complexion.
The retinol moisturizer that I use is by Radha Beauty and I have been using it for years!