How does collagen work?

Collagen decreases as we age

Collagen powder

Collagen fibers give the skin resistance to strain and traction. Collagen constitutes about 70% of skin mass, but total collagen decreases about 1% per year over year. It may look like a small decline, but as such a major component of the skin it will affect skin volume and its physical properties. Also, aging changes collagen structure. What was an organized pattern in young skin, becomes an assembly of disorganized bundles of thick fibrils in older skin. It is not only quantity, it is also the quality of it.

We know that aging decreases skin thickness and elasticity, and it is likely that collagen is a good part of the solution. If we care about slowing down and reversing skin aging, we should care about collagen too, because collagen is such a major constituent of the skin, the objective should be to stimulate its synthesis, and preserve the collagen protein in an active, organized structure.

The Science

Chemically, we want to prevent glycation, a modification that affects protein function. The fibroblasts are the main cells in the dermis. They specialize in producing two types of proteins, collagen and elastin, which are a major part of the extra-cellular matrix.

Collagen is synthesized by fibroblasts, initially as procollagen alpha chains on membrane-bound ribosomes. The alpha chains then interact to form a triple-helical molecule after hydroxylation of proline and lysine amino acids. Stability is further enhanced by disulfide cross-linking. The procollagen is then packaged into secretory vessels that move to the cell surface. At the cell membrane, procollagen peptidases cleave the procollagen into collagen.

Collagen is a structural, long-lived protein. Even if synthesis decreases, the total content may not decrease, it will depend on how much collagen was hydrolyzed by protease action. Proteolysis is not bad in itself, it is good for the skin to eliminate proteins whose structure and properties have been modified beyond usefulness.

UV Exposure reduces collagen

Skin aging means, mostly, photoaging - the sun. To see the effect of UV rays on skin aging, compare the outside of your arm with your belly, an area you don’t expose to the sun everyday. UV radiation increases the synthesis of proteases, including collagenase, and this is likely to be a reason why collagen decreases after UV irradiation. Natural aging decreases collagen synthesis while photoaging results in an increase of collagen synthesis and greater matrix metalloproteinase expression in human skin in vivo. Thus, the balance between collagen synthesis and degradation leading to collagen deficiency is different in photoaged and naturally aged skin. 

Combatting collagen deficiency

You can combat the coming deficiency in collagen due to aging by taking collagen powder, drinking lots of bone broth or eating gelatin. Increase the amounts as you get older and use a skin care product that encourages skin to slow down collagen breakdown. We make a UV Repair cream that does just that, while rebuilding skin damaged by the sun. Let us know what you think by leaving a review on the product page. 

xo, Jacci & Laura

Jacci Russ

Our founder Jacci, combines her background in Marine Biology and Organic Cosmetic Science for high performance, yet clean skincare using ocean-based ingredients. She has traveled the world in search of strange spa treatments and perfect pizza. Dreamer and Doer. Adventuress, animal activist, recovering cheese addict. Read more about Jacci.