24th October 2022

Demystifying Collagen for Skin Anti Ageing: Why Topical or Oral Collagen Is Not The Way To Go

Last Modified: May 2, 2024

"Collagen." A word that seems to be thrown around a lot, especially in the beauty industry.

And that's not surprising, considering that the global collagen market size exceeded $3.1 billion by 2020, with an estimated 8.3% annual growth for 2021-2027.

You've probably even heard things like, "Collagen is the glue that holds your body together."

It is undeniable that collagen - the most abundant protein in our bodies - plays an essential role in the structure and biomechanical properties of our skin.

But here is the problem:
We all lose collagen as we age, making it more important than ever to boost collagen synthesis in our skin.
When you take into account diverse sources, types and processes of getting collagen, it can be difficult to understand and choose a collagen-based solution that effectively meets our skin's needs.

In this post, I, therefore, aim to accomplish two things for you:

  1. Explain why topical or oral collagen is not necessarily the best way to boost the collagen in your skin (and fight the signs of ageing)
  2. Share proven methods for stimulating collagen synthesis in the skin ( crucial for anyone over 30)

We all know that collagen plays a critical role in our skin.

Visible signs of ageing start in the skin and usually show first on the face. As you age, the amount of collagen in your skin decreases. Several studies have shown that collagen production in most people's bodies starts to decline in their mid-20s, decreasing by about 1% a year.

The less of it there is, the less elastic your skin becomes. As elasticity decreases, fine lines appear under the surface of the skin. The skin also becomes more fragile. As a result, you may notice deeper wrinkles and lines, especially on the forehead, around the eyes and mouth.

In addition, over time, the skin becomes thinner and droops - especially around the cheeks and lips. In fact, this decline in collagen levels is the number one cause of skin ageing.

The question is how you can still reap collagen anti-ageing benefits when its production in your skin decreases yearly.

Should You Jump on The Topical Collagen Bandwagon?


Topical collagen certainly sounds easy and simple. All you need to do is rub it into your skin as part of your skincare routine
Common topical collagen products include sheet masks, creams, lotions, serums and even make-up. Most are readily available on the market. Due to their convenience and affordable price, they are the first choice for many people when it comes to incorporating collagen into their beauty routine.

As convenient and simple as these products may be, they are not overnight miracle workers. In theory, topical collagen is supposed to reach the dermis and work on it to improve your collagen levels.

But that's easier said than done.

Collagen, after all, is not naturally found on the surface of the skin, but in the deeper layers of the skin. This is a very important point because the collagen molecules in current products are usually too large to permeate the outer layers of the skin, let alone the deeper layers where the collagen is located.

Currently, there is no reliable research to prove that shorter chains of collagen, peptides, accomplish this feat either.

It is more likely that topical collagen offers no benefits other than moisturising your skin.

What About Oral Collagen?


There is no doubt that oral collagen preparations are better than topical collagen products. Liquid collagen, for example, which is hydrolysed collagen broken down into peptides, is better at nourishing the skin from within.

The process of hydrolysis makes the collagen more bioavailable. In layman's terms, this means that your body can digest, absorb, distribute and use the collagen in this form more easily.

Collagen supplements are actually broken down into amino acids and collagen peptides.

This is a good thing, because this way the collagen can be absorbed by your small intestine, enter your bloodstream and be used by your body to improve your health

Despite these benefits, there are also a handful of disadvantages to collagen supplements that you should consider before adding them to your routine.

They contain animal products (and sometimes allergens)
Traditional collagen supplements, and all supplements in general, are made from animal products and are therefore not suitable if you follow a plant-based diet.

There are some vegan collagen supplements on the market, but it is unclear how they compare to those made from animal products.

If you have food allergies, you should read the label of your collagen supplements carefully. In some cases, they may contain common allergens such as fish or eggs.

Regulation is a grey area
Collagen supplements are regulated as foods (not medicines), which means their ingredients and manufacture are not monitored by an official agency.

These products are not subject to the same regulations and strict approval procedures as medicines, so it can be difficult to know about the quality, purity and safety of the ingredients.

Efficacy studies are limited
Although there are studies on the effectiveness of oral collagen, more research needs to be done. In addition, some of the studies that do exist were funded by companies that manufacture collagen supplements, which may raise ethical questions about bias.

In addition, most of the collagen we ingest is broken down by stomach acid and not absorbed into the bloodstream. It's unclear whether we absorb ingested collagen or whether it is completely broken down in the stomach."

As for the benefits of oral collagen production for the skin, that's still not entirely clear.

The Best Way To Elevate Your Skin's Collagen Levels

collagen production

Radiofrequency skin tightening is a procedure commonly used to treat sagging skin. The aim is to use radio waves sent through a handheld wand to induce thermal damage to deeply seated collagen in the dermis and underlying tissue.

The heat energy transmitted into the dermis via radio waves heats the water in the cells until it is too excited to behave normally. When the water in the cells vibrates and the cells rubs against each other, it heats up even more due to what is called Frictional Heating.

These frictional forces between the molecules cause additional thermal energy as the temperature of the cells rises until they start a chain reaction and move very fast - the temperature rises. When the temperature reaches 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit), it will cause collagen fibres in the dermal layer to become shorter and more taut.

This leads to a quick initial tightening of the skin, which is usually evident after the first treatment

As the body senses this heat change it releases neurotransmitters from the brain that induces an even further tightening of the elastin fibres. This is a natural body reaction that sets its defence mechanism in motion. However, this defence mechanism strengthens the skin and deep tissues, which benefits with tighter, firmer and more youthful skin.

The greatest benefit of this radiofrequency treatment is the stimulation of neocollagenesis in the deep layers of the skin and subcutaneous tissue, which takes place over the coming months. This procedure has been shown to stimulate the production of new collagen fibrils and lead to an improvement in existing collagen structures

The downside is that many of the radiofrequency devices have not yet been tested and their parameters are not yet accepted by the scientific community. This does not mean that devices that are not approved by the MHRA or FDA are unsafe, just that adequate studies have not yet been done with them.

You need to carefully review and research devices before settling one. Talk to your skincare provider about the RF device they use. At Dr Aesthetica in Birmingham, we chose to go with superior and advanced NuEra™ Tight with patented FocalRF Technology from Lumenis.

This allows us to use 5 different frequencies to achieve varying depths of energy penetration and target specific tissue layers while maintaining therapeutic temperature control throughout the procedure.

Very few devices can promise let alone accomplish this. So choose wisely because this type of treatment has a lasting effect on your skin.

Ideally, a treatment course will consist of 6 - 8 sessions. After the treatment is completed, the skin will continue to regenerate new collagen with the occasional maintenance treatment in place. This is the perfect treatment for maximising the anti ageing benefits of collagen long after the production levels in your body have dipped.

Post Reviewed by: Dr Baldeep Farmah
Medically Reviewed on: 24th October 2022
Dr Baldeep Farmah is the Medical Director and lead Doctor of Dr Aesthetica, a Medical Aesthetic Clinic.

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