You’ve heard about it from your best friend, your favourite beauty podcast and that ageless celebrity on their Instagram story, but what exactly is collagen? And do you need it? Let us explain.
What is it?
In short, collagen is a protein – the most plentiful one in our body, in fact, accounting for about one third of your body’s protein composition according to Healthline. It works in a number of ways, most importantly helping your blood to clot and providing your skin, bones and ligaments with structure. Think of it kind of like a building block, or a glue that holds everything together.
Why do we need it?
As we age, our body produces less and less collagen – it’s why weakened cartilage and saggy skin become more common as we get older. The powers of collagen have been harnessed for extensive use in cosmetic treatments, but also for reconstructive surgeries, wound healing, bone grafts and tissue regeneration. It is said to improve the look and feel of your skin, ease symptoms of arthritis and prevent muscle waste, among a number of other reported benefits.
While research into the true effects of collagen is still in its infancy, one 2014 study did find that women who took 2.5 or 5 grams of collagen every day showed better skin elasticity than those who didn’t take it. Other studies seem to prove collagen’s ability to reduce dryness and the appearance of wrinkles, while boosting blood flow and skin healing.
How can you get it?
According to WebMD, women in China have viewed collagen as a ‘fountain of youth’ for centuries, regularly eating pig feet, shark fins and donkey skin to achieve a youthful glow. In the US, collagen was first introduced as an injectable that could plump your lips and reduce wrinkles.
Thankfully, nowadays, there are far more appealing ways to boost your collagen levels. Countless celebrities have spoken on the benefits of collagen supplements, which come as capsules, chewy gummies and powders (to add to your morning smoothie or a glass of water), and there are also plenty of collagen serums for external application.
Remember that, as a protein produced by mammals, many collagen supplements and serums use animal products – it may be worth doing your research to ensure your chosen brand gets its ingredients in a sustainable and humane way. For vegans and vegetarians, don’t despair – there is a growing market for plant-based collagen, too!