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What Is Collagen and Why Is It so Important?

The collagen market, which includes both medical and non-medical collagen-related products, is expected to be worth more than $6 million by 2025

And with collagen’s important role in the aging process, it’s no wonder these numbers are staggering. 

Collagen is a little protein that has a big impact on the way your skin looks and feels. How so? We’re exploring that question and more.

Skin 101: What You Need to Know About Your Skin’s Structure

Did you know that your skin is considered an organ? How about that not only is your skin an organ, it is the largest organ in your body? From protecting your insides from harm to diverting toxins from getting into your system, your skin serves some critical functions.

As such, you can understand why we think taking care of your body’s largest organ is vital. 

Even without its role in protecting you from the world outside, your skin is one of the first things people notice about you. First impressions matter.

3 Layers of the Skin

The skin is made up of 3 different layers. Each of these layers serves a different role in protecting your insides. They’re also each affected by the aging processes in different ways. 

The epidermis is the outer layer of your skin. It’s your body’s first line of defense against the outside world. And the epidermis itself is made up of 5 different layers, consisting of 3 different types of cells.

Below the epidermis is the dermis. This layer is what offers fullness and plumpness to your skin, made up of cells called fibroblasts. The dermis is also where you’ll find proteins like collagen and elastin, which are both essential for supporting your skin.

Beneath the epidermis and the dermis, you’ll find the hypodermis. Also known as the subcutis or the fatty layer, this bottom layer keeps in body heat and is where your sweat glands are located. Fats and more collagen proteins also live in the hypodermis. 

Daily Skin Necessities

To keep the skin layers healthy and thriving, there are a few things it needs. Luckily, the majority of the things we’re about to mention are things you probably already do. They are:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Twice-daily cleansings
  • A nutritious diet
  • Moisturizer
  • Sun protection

Additionally, make sure you’re taking preventative measures, especially as you age. Get any moles or suspicious-looking sun spots checked by a physician. 

Vital Proteins for Skin Health

As we touched on above, proteins (collagen, elastin, and keratin) are essential to healthy skin. Here’s why.

Collagen makes up about 75% to 80% of your skin. This protein helps prevent wrinkles. And as you’ll see next, it’s one of the first proteins whose production declines as you get older. 

Another protein involved in wrinkling, elastin may be less abundant than collagen in your skin, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Indeed, elastin production also declines during the aging process. And this decline is associated with an uptick in fine lines and sagging.

While collagen is the main component of skin, keratin is actually the most abundant protein found in the skin. That’s because keratin is also found in your hair and your nails. It should be no wonder, then, that keratin contributes hardness and rigidity to your hair, skin, and nails. 

Collagen: A Deep Dive

Here’s the thing about proteins in your skin: when their volumes change throughout your lifetime, your skin reacts accordingly. Never is this more obvious than when looking at the effect of aging on collagen production and your skin. 

What is Collagen?

As we mentioned above, collagen is a protein found in your skin. Collagen helps hold skin cells together, offering both structure and flexibility. While your body makes collagen naturally, scientists also synthesize collagen from other natural sources (i.e., cows). 

Benefits of Collagen: Not Just for Skin

While collagen’s use in skin repair and anti-aging therapies is well-known, you may not know that supplementing this protein has other benefits. 

Collagen is also found in the bones. It should be no surprise, then, that doctors are using this protein to treat arthritis. 

For the skin, physicians use collagen treatments to fill-in indentations and lighten dark spots. Dermatologists prescribe serums and creams to help replenish collagen in aging skin. And some surgeons are using collagen dressings to boost post-surgical wound healing.

Collagen has some serious benefits for your skin, not to mention the rest of your body. But what happens when you lose collagen? And how do you even lose collagen in the first place?

How You Lose Collagen

The #1 cause of collagen loss is aging. While aging can’t be prevented altogether, there are other factors that contribute to losing collagen. And the good news is these things are avoidable. 

Too much sugar, sunlight, or smoking can all lead to the loss of collagen. 

Sugar affects collagen because it increases the rate of a process called glycation. All you need to know about glycation is that the process’s end product is an AGE. And AGEs love to damage proteins, including collagen.

UV rays from the sun affect your skin just like old age does: it causes a breakdown of collagen in your skin. What’s more, UV rays cause elastin build-up in the dermis of your skin. Both of these issues lead to damage and mutation of skin cells to the point that skin repair is abnormal, leading to wrinkles.

Last but certainly not least, smoking exposes you to chemicals that may damage both collagen and elastin amounts in your skin. There’s also some evidence that nicotine alone negatively affects the blood vessels of your skin, which impacts the skin’s ability to transport nutrients and water. 

Signs Your Skin Doesn’t Produce Enough Collagen

Now that you know what might be causing a lack of collagen, you’re probably wondering: how can I know if my skin doesn’t produce enough collagen? Here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Lack of fullness of plumpness to your skin
  • Joint pain or popping
  • Sore muscles
  • Inability to move around
  • Lack of blood flow as seen by chest pain, dizziness, lack of energy, and/or headaches
  • An increase in cellulite
  • Wrinkles and fine lines

What Happens to Your Skin as Your Age?

We’ve talked a lot about collagen. But now, let’s switch our focus to the aging process

The older you get, the more often the compounds you eat and absorb in your body undergo metabolism. Metabolism is a wonderful thing, providing you the energy you need to go through your life. But it can also be detrimental since metabolism produces damaging products called free radicals, which are unstable atoms that cause damage to other cells. 

In women, the aging process affects levels of hormones like estrogen. Since estrogen has a significant impact on the production of proteins in your skin, loss of estrogen is highly correlated with increased wrinkling and damage. 

These two factors, in combination with aging cells and an increasingly harsher environment, take a toll on your skin. 

The Aging Process and Its Effect on Collagen Production

So, here’s the thing about the aging process: one of its most noticeable effects is on your skin. From wrinkles to dark spots, your skin tends to be worse off the older you get. But if you can replenish your natural collagen levels, you can prevent or even reverse signs of aging in skin.

How is that possible? Collagen loss is a normal part of growing older. Everyone– even those who take excellent care of their skin– experiences this natural phase of the aging process. So, if you can’t prevent aging, how can you avoid the loss of collagen associated with it?

How to Reverse the Aging Process and Increase Collagen Production in Skin

The best thing you can do yourself to prevent the loss of collagen and possibly reverse it as you age is to eat a nutritious diet. Here are some ideas for collagen-promoting foods to stock up in your pantry:

  • Proline-rich foods such as eggs, soy, meat, cheese, and cabbage
  • Anthocyanidins-containing fruits like blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and cherries
  • Copper-rich snacks including shellfish, nuts, and red meat
  • Fruit and vegetables rich in vitamin C
  • Plant-based Beta Carotene or animal-derived vitamin A

But the best thing you can possibly do for your collagen levels is to get laser skin rejuvenation therapy at a med spa near you. 

Med Spa Services near Charleston, South Carolina

Now that you’ve learned about the aging process and its effect on collagen, are you ready to do something about your low collagen production? If so, Schedule an appointment with our experts at Coastal Skin Solutions.

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