Collagen is trending. However you get yours (bone broth, chicken feet, or via a powder you sprinkle in your morning cuppa) the theory is, the more you ingest, the younger you’ll look. Except when it comes to skin, a warming bowl of boiled bones will only get you so far. In fact, I’d argue that when it comes to boosting collagen there are smarter ways to replenish the body’s main structural protein.
For the young and smooth-skinned, collagen is in abundance (hence the term baby face) but when we age, particularly as oestrogen depletes during the menopause transition, it’s harder to come by. Drinking or eating it is one way, as is taking a supplement (marine collagen with added vitamin C is best), but how much your body absorbs is another matter. After all, it has to survive the digestive tract before your body can assimilate its uses.
“When taking collagen orally, it needs to be protected from your digestive system where it’s broken down. A typical collagen supplement can contain 10 per cent collagen peptides but in a liquid or powder form it’s uncertain how much of that 10 per cent makes it to the bloodstream,” explains Pupinder Ghatora, pharmacist and founder of Ingenious Collagen.
“We use a bioavailable vegetable cellulose capsule that’s not broken down by our stomach acid therefore, even though it contains a smaller amount of collagen peptides than your average supplement does, 100% of it gets absorbed by the bloodstream,” he says. “Once the body senses that elevated levels of collagen peptides are present, the body begins to produce more of its own collagen which, in our case, has been proven in randomised clinical trials to reduce fine lines and improve skin elasticity.”
Collagen synthesis also happens when the body is under threat. When you graze your knee, for instance, skin cells go into high alert sending signals to the fibroblasts (the factory cells that secrete collagen proteins) to elicit an emergency uptake in collagen to repair the wound and form scar tissue.
What does this have to do with facial firmness? Quite a lot, in fact.
The same principle applies to certain facial treatments like chemical peels or lasers that work by creating a controlled injury in order to trick the skin into repairing itself and in the process spark collagen synthesis, naturally and powerfully.
In certain cases, such as with skin boosting injectables, collagen and elastin production is triggered by flooding the skin with proteins and growth factors that, again, encourages the making of collagen and its cousin, elastin, the connective tissue that gives skin its bouncy elastic quality.
Whichever treatment you choose, if it’s long term skin fitness you’re after, then these are the smarter ways to boost facial collagen naturally – without having to change your diet.
Best for: Skin tightening
The treatment favoured by Julianne Moore who spoke about its virtues in a Vogue beauty video earlier this year, radiofrequency tightens the skin by using a certain frequency of light to heat up the lower levels of the skin, causing the skin on the surface to contract.
While an initial glow is evident following one treatment, tighter skin comes in the weeks that follow, courtesy of the production of collagen and elastin prompted by the body’s healing response. Great for snatching a slack jawline and neck, lifting the eye area or tightening wrinkly knees. One treatment will reap results, but follow up treatments every six to eighteen months are recommended.
Try Thermage FLX at Dr Rita Rakus’s Knightsbridge clinic, prices available upon request
Best for: Face lift effects
Ultrasound waves get to the deepest layers just above the muscle (known as the SMAS layer) that surgeons target. While methods have improved, as ultrasound goes deep it can be painful and will require numbing cream an hour or so beforehand. HIFU (high intensity frequency ultrasound) is quicker with less discomfort. Both work by stimulating the body’s regenerative pathways promoting collagen production.
Try Ultherapy with Dr. Costas Papageoriou at Harrods Wellness Clinic, from £4,400
Best for: Melasma, acne scarring, improved skin texture
A series of micro-injuries are created using a sterile microneedling tool, a bit like a stamp. Microneedling stimulates growth factors and lays down new capillaries, collagen and elastin while reorganising old collagen fibres for an improved skin texture. Minimally invasive, it’s a classic treatment that taps into your body’s own wound healing processes. Some redness will occur but will usually settle within 24 hours.
Try Microneedling at Dr. David Jack, from £250
Plate-rich plasma (PRP)
Best for: A healthy glow
PRP, or the “vampire facial”, as it’s become known, is a curious procedure inspired by orthopaedic medicine in which the patient’s blood is taken and then spun in a centrifuge to purify and separate the plasma, which is then injected back into the superficial layers of skin. Dr. Barbara Sturm, the aesthetic doctor responsible for bringing this method to the masses explains: “With the purified plasma rich in growth factors, fresh collagen gets made giving the skin a plump juicy look and feel.”
Try the Medical Vampire Facial with Dr. Marwa Ali, from £600
Three collagen-enhancing face creams
Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Vitamin C Antioxidant Serum
The gold standard serum amongst dermatologists, vitamin C is shown to stimulate collagen production for brighter, firmer, glowier skin. This one is combined with vitamin E for less irritation.
Olay Collagen Peptide 24 Day Cream Moisturiser
This moisturiser boosts collagen synthesis by providing the skin with bioavailable collagen peptides, the building blocks of protein, at an affordable price.
Boots No7 Future Renew Damage Reversal Night Cream
Help your skin to repair itself while you sleep with this scientifically proven night cream that contains a patent-pending peptide complex that supports the skin’s natural self-repair process.