Collagen is a protein your body makes naturally. It makes up about a third of all of the protein in your body. It is essential for healthy joints. It also keeps skin elastic to lessen wrinkles. For that reason, collagen supplements are popular. They claim to make skin look younger, but does science support the hype? And do you need more?
As you get older, your body makes less collagen. You cannot measure exactly how much you have, but when it drops you may have symptoms such as joint pain or stiff tendons or ligaments. Your muscles may weaken. You could also have papery skin. Taking collagen supplements may help ease these symptoms.
Besides time, three main things will lower your collagen levels: sunlight, smoking, and sugar. Too much exposure to ultraviolet light makes its fibers unravel. This can lead to sun damage, such as wrinkles. Many of the chemicals in cigarette smoke can damage it, which can make skin sag and wrinkle. Sugar causes the fibers to cross-link and tangle. This makes your skin less elastic over time.
Some plastic surgery procedures use collagen shots to plump up the skin. These shots can push your body to make more collagen. You will likely need to have the procedure done again after a few months to a year to keep up the effects. Some studies show supplements can improve your skin's elasticity, lessen dryness, and boost collagen density while you take them. They can also ease joint pain, which might help you be more active.
Skin creams with synthetic collagen may not be an effective way to boost this protein in your body. They add a protective barrier on your skin and stop water loss, but they do not raise the amount of it in your skin. It is better to protect your skin from the sun, especially early in life when skin may be more sensitive.
You can help your body make more collagen by eating healthy foods. You find them in high-protein foods such as chicken, fish, beef, eggs, dairy, and beans. Other nutrients, like vitamin C, zinc, and copper, also play a part. You can get vitamin C in citrus fruits, tomatoes, and leafy greens. For zinc and copper, try shellfish, nuts, whole grains, and beans.
Some good sources for the proteins that help build collagen are foods like red meat, chicken, and bone broth. To make bone broth, you simmer animal bones in water for 1-2 days. This draws some collagen proteins out into the broth. Your body does not absorb it right into your skin or joints, though. It breaks it down into amino acids that help build tissue. You can buy bone broth in grocery stores or make your own.
If you eat a balanced diet, your body likely makes enough collagen for your needs. But if you do want to try collagen supplements, they are generally safe and do not have side effects. They usually come as a powder that you can mix into drinks or sauces.