Collagen – commercials rave about its anti-aging qualities, pile it into lotions, and sell it in supplements, but what exactly is it and why is it so important? Despite rampant commercialization, collagen is actually a natural protein found throughout the human body. It’s found in connective tissue, supports our joints, and gives our skin its smoothness and elasticity. But as we age, collagen breaks down and our bodies produce less of it, leaving skin thin and sagging, among other forms of physical decline.
If you want to keep smooth, youthful skin into your senior years, you’ll need to protect your existing collagen, stimulate new growth, and supplement your body’s current stores. These 4 approaches can help you look and act as young as you feel – after all, age is just a number.
Worn Down By Weather
Though collagen levels may decline naturally over the years, another reason for falling collagen production is exposure to sun, wind, and pollutants. Indeed, growing awareness of the role pollutants playing in aging is likely to lead to new products that aim to protect the skin from environmental toxins, much like sunscreen protects the skin from UV rays.
For the time being, wearing a hat and sunscreen, avoiding pollutants like cigarette smoke, and steering clear of toxic chemicals and radiation can all help keep collagen levels up. Start young because once you pass the age of 20, production will naturally decline regardless of what you do.
Stretching And Sagging
Every woman who has had a child knows that no matter how much they diet or how many creams they buy, their body never quite goes back to “normal” after having a baby – and that’s because of collagen-related changes. What’s happening? Not only does pregnancy cause the skin and muscles to stretch, but it also causes hormonal changes that can decrease collagen production. Sagging breasts and loose skin are par for the course in this situation.
What can you do to help your body bounce back after having a baby? Though collagen enhanced creams and foods can help, in many cases the body won’t return to its prior appearance without surgical intervention. No amount of collagen cream is likely to perk up your breasts or smooth your stomach – you’ll need a breast lift or tummy tuck to remove excess skin and get that pre-pregnancy look.
The Need For Nutrients
One of the best ways to stimulate collagen creation as you age is to jumpstart the process with nutrients and supplements. Vitamin A derivatives are especially good at this.
Often marketed as retinoic acid or retinol, vitamin A derivatives are the standard bearers in anti-aging treatment. They work well because they actually turn on genes for collagen production – but one word of caution, these products can be as irritating as they are helpful, so use them in small amounts. For a full body approach, traditional vitamin A supplements and fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A will also help keep collagen levels up.
In older adults, one of the most common signs of collagen breakdown is thin skin and bruising. It’s a common problem; without sufficient collagen, even a small bump can cause bleeding. In addition to topical vitamin A, vitamins E, C, and B3 can all help with healing, though at this point it’s generally too late to reverse the process.
Right To The Source
Finally, the most direct way to increase collagen levels throughout the body is to supplement directly. This is why bone broth is so trendy right now; it’s packed with collagen. Preliminary studies in animals have also shown that supplementing with hydrolyzed type 1 collagen can help protect against osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a serious cause of pain and restricted movement, so stopping further joint harm before it starts is a high priority in the medical community.
Collagen is one of the most essential building blocks of the human body and its gradual decline over the human lifespan, the damage by environmental factors, and issues like stress and trauma all lead to reduced levels. It’s important to actively protect your collagen levels, focus on your diet, and guard against environmental damage. Down the road, your body will thank you.