Collagen is increasingly becoming the hype ingredient in anti-aging skin care, but can collagen really do anything against wrinkles, tighten the skin or prevent skin aging? We took a closer look at the beauty trend and reveal what’s behind the miracle protein and what it can really do.

What is collagen?

Collagen is not an additive in cosmetic products or a dietary supplement, but primarily a protein in our body. And even the most common protein, as 30 percent of our proteins are collagen proteins. Different forms of the structural protein collagen give strength not only to the skin, but also to bones, cartilage and connective tissue. Collagen plays an essential role in the structure of the skin and, together with ceramides, the natural moisturizing factors “NMF” for short, and hyaluronic acid, forms the basis of the skin.

The structural protein collagen stretches over the skin like a scaffold and gives it firmness. However, the older we get, the more the collagen effect and collagen production diminish, so that the scaffolding becomes more unstable, the connective tissue slackens and wrinkles appear. Free radicals, for example from cigarette smoke or alcohol, additionally attack the collagen framework and promote skin aging.

Not only the skin, but also organs such as the lungs and heart, blood vessels, cartilage, bones, tendons, ligaments and joints are held together by collagen. There are different types of collagen, which differ in structure and are each responsible for different biological functions. Type I, II, III and V collagen support the skin, skeletal muscles, bones, tendons, cartilage and connective tissue. There are a total of 28 different types of collagen, and ten other proteins have collagen-like structures. Thanks to the protein’s versatility, collagen is not only important for our skin, but also for maintaining joints, ligaments and cartilage. Thus, it plays an important role in sportsmen, but also in older people who suffer from muscle atrophy.

Does collagen help against wrinkles?

When it comes to taut skin and firm facial features, the word collagen usually comes up directly. This is because collagen creams are supposed to reduce wrinkles, tighten the tissue and also dietary supplements with collagen are supposed to give elasticity and firmness to ligaments, tendons, cartilage and bones. Does collagen really work against wrinkles and how does it work? Do collagen powders, capsules help against premature skin aging? We have compiled all the information on the anti-aging booster for you.

Collagen for the skin: What can collagen creams do?

Collagen in cosmetic products has moisturizing and moisture-binding effects but does not act like the body’s own collagen and does not boost collagen production. The molecules of collagen are too large to penetrate the top layer of skin and reach the connective tissue, where the body’s own collagen is located. However, it can moisturize dry skin, thus the skin becomes plumper, dimples disappear and the collagen cream has at least a temporary smoothing effect. By the way, cosmetic products that contain antioxidants such as vitamin C and retinol in addition to collagen are particularly suitable, so the skin is simultaneously protected from free radicals and the formation of new skin cells is promoted.

Collagen as a dietary supplement

Dietary supplements in the form of collagen capsules, tablets, powders or drinking ampoules are flooding the market, but they are not really promising. In order for the collagen to be better absorbed by the body, hydrolyzed collagen is used, which has been made water-soluble via a specific process. It usually comes from animals, for example from chicken bones, fish skin or products from cattle and pigs; synthetic collagen is used less frequently. Although the preparations are broken down into the required components in the stomach or intestines, it has not yet been proven that complex collagens are actually produced from them, placed in the right places and that success is visible. Unfortunately, it is not the case that collagens go from the stomach directly to the skin and iron away wrinkles. With a healthy lifestyle that boosts the body’s own collagen production, you will probably achieve much better results.

These foods support collagen formation

To produce collagen, you need foods with certain amino acids or antioxidants. The amino acids proline, hydroproxyline and glycine are mainly responsible for collagen production, while antioxidants ensure that free radicals are rendered harmless, thus supporting the formation of collagen. Therefore, include plenty of soy, peas, lentils, beef, salmon, oatmeal, nuts, eggs and fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, so you will be supplied with all the important amino acids and antioxidants. If you do not manage to consume these important ingredients in sufficient quantities, supplements can be an alternative. By taking antioxidants such as vitamin C or amino acids, you can boost your body’s collagen production.

However, be careful not to counteract collagen production with your lifestyle: smoking, little sleep, stress, and alcohol put a strain on the skin and lead to increased formation of free radicals. On the other hand, with sufficient sleep, a healthy diet and lifestyle, as well as daily exercise in the fresh air, you create a good basis for your body to produce collagen.

Collagen: What are the side effects?

Side effects with collagen primarily refer to the oral intake of collagen. But also when collagen is used in creams or serums on the skin, as with any other skin care product, skin irritation may occur, sensitive skin may react with redness, pimples or itching. Allergic reactions may occur when taking collagen products, especially if the collagen is made from fish skins and there is a fish allergy. If the product also contains nicotinamide, facial flushing and hot flushes may occur.

Is there vegan collagen?

Collagen is a protein of the human or animal body and does not occur in the plant world – so it cannot be included in the range of vegan cosmetics. What is new and so far rarely represented in cosmetics is a type of collagen produced by microorganisms. Corn, soy or wheat, for example, serve as the basis for a vegan collagen alternative. Plant-based products that have a positive influence on the body’s own formation of collagen are also frequently referred to as vegan collagen. It is used in cosmetic products, but also in collagen capsules, tablets or powder for ingestion.