Collagen is a vital element in your body, and especially for your skin. Collagen makes up 30% of our body’s total protein, and up to 70% of the protein content of our skin. It's the scaffolding of the skin, and as collagen our body’s natural collagen production declines, that’s when we start to notice skin ageing – wrinkles, sagging and less of that youthful luminosity and hydrated appearance.
Causes of Collagen Loss
Collagen levels and rates of decline vary from person to person (genetics make a huge difference here), but in general, most people begin to lose collagen at a decrease of about 1 percent per year once they hit their mid-twenties. And by age 45, you face up to 25% collagen loss! And the rate of collagen decline is thought to increase during and after menopause. This happens because when we're young, our bodies product more collagen than we break down, but by our 20’s we stop making as much, and the balance tips the wrong way.
UV rays from the sun are proven to negatively impact collagen, both by causing DNA damage to collagen producing cells, and by increasing free radicals that oxidize collagen.
Stress causes an increase in cortisol, which can decrease collagen production. Stress also increases inflammation, so the body diverts more resources to fighting inflammation instead of making collagen.
Smoking is a huge factor for collagen breakdown; it decreases the oxygen that gets to the tissues, and leads directly in increased premature wrinkles.
WHAT WE EAT
Eating habits that are high in sugar, simple carbs, and processed foods increase inflammation in the body, which damages cells and interferes with collagen, leading to premature skin aging and wrinkling.
What can we do?
Focus on what you can control. Genetics and the passage of time are well beyond our control, but we can take steps to manage the factors we can control. A few good habits (or niyamas!) can be very helpful in managing collagen and keeping it’s benefits longer.
SPF Sunscreen – wear it whenever you go outside. Many moisturizers include one, and if you wear makeup a lot of foundations or beauty balms also contain them. Otherwise, invest in a good natural barrier sunscreen and apply daily.
- Avoid inflammatory foods: sugar, “white carbs” (flour, rice, pasta), bread), and eat the rainbow of fruits and veggies which contain loads of antioxidants like vitamin C, and include healthy fats and protein at each meal. Eliminate or restrict processed foods.
- Manage stress and get good sleep– see our blog on the cortisol and insomnia connection
- Collagen supplements have been shown to promote collagen production. If you are plant-based or just not keen on the animal/fish scale sourcing of collagen peptides (there are NO plant sources of collagen – only animals produce it) Niyama’s Glow & Flow is a Vegan Collagen Booster powder supplement that provides your body with concentrated sources of the key amino acid building blocks to make more collagen – with no animal sourcing.
- Including a complete protein source at every meal isn’t always easy, but we need enough protein to support our body's regular protein needs to ensure it has enough left to make collagen. Our Clean Plant Protein is great in a smoothie or in pancakes, energy balls or baking to help you get more protein daily, without the nasty taste and texture that often comes with plant protein powder.
Concentrate on what you can control – it’s all about healthy habits at the end of the day – and your skin with thank you!
Sources and more reading:
- Shuster S, Black MM, McVitie E. The influence of age and sex on skin thickness, skin collagen and density. Br J Dermatol. 1975;93:639-643.