In a world of anti-aging that seeks to achieve and maintain wrinkle-free skin, luscious hair, and a supple body; the word ‘collagen’ is unmatched in its ability to evoke so much desire, confusion, hope, and frustration all at the same time. We desire to have more of it, but are confused how to get it.

Yet we have hope that we will find the product or procedure to act as our magic elixir and beautify our skin, ultimately leaving us frustrated because what we have tried on many occasions hasn’t delivered the results we expected. I want to share with you what the science says about optimizing our collagen levels as we age as well as my own experience in working with thousands of patients over the last 20 years to achieve Science-based Sustainable Results (TM) in my practice.

Collagen is a protein that comprises 1/3 of all protein in our body. It provides structural support in our skin to give it strength and elasticity. It is estimated that we lose 1% of collagen each year after the age of 30. When collagen levels decline we experience an increase in fine lines and wrinkles as well as a loss of volume. When we enhance our collagen levels it helps to plump out the skin and diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

On a daily basis, I not only spend time educating, but consulting with my patients on how to achieve a more youthful, less saggy appearance. Keeping in mind a plan for optimizing collagen must fit within each individuals lifestyle, stage of life (age), and budget. To do this we follow a three-step plan at my practice of Protect, Ignite, Illuminate (TM).

First, we need to Protect the collagen that we already have. Sun protection is the number one way we do this. UV rays create oxidation in our skin that damages our collagen. Consuming adequate antioxidants will also help counteract oxidation that occurs through sun exposure, environmental toxins, and even excessive exercise. Finally, managing stress is very important as stress causes increased cortisol levels and cortisol degrades collagen.

Next, we need to Ignite collagen by providing the ingredients our body requires to make its own collagen. This occurs in the form of creams, serums, and supplements. Supplemental collagen has been shown to support skin health, joint health, hair and nail health, as well as gut health. When it comes to collagen supplements it is a misconception that the collagen we consume is transported to our skin intact to restore our collagen levels. The supplemental collagen is digested in our GI tract into smaller fragments known as peptides containing a unique amino acid structure that then travels to our skin providing the building blocks our cells need to make its own new collagen. A 2014 study found that ingesting 2.5 to 5 grams of supplemental collagen reduced eye wrinkle volume by 20% and increased procollagen type 1 by 65% as well as elastin by 18% (1). Collagen supplements should also contain vitamin C and proanthocyanidins (such as grape seed or pine bark extract) as they help with the absorption and protection of the newly formed collagen. Furthermore, another 2014 study found that a combination of astaxanthin and supplemental collagen improved skin elasticity, hydration, and barrier integrity in people with photoaged skin (2). It is best to look for products that contain all of these ingredients and therefore act as ‘multi-taskers’. Creams should contain a combination of peptides, vitamin C and A (retinol) to enhance collagen production.

Finally, we need to Illuminate our skin with professional treatments which will deliver the fastest and most significant results, we do this through: lasers, dermal fillers, and plasma (PRP). Lasers such as Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) help to reduce sun damage, spider veins, and rosacea, but also have an added benefit of stimulating collagen. The light therapy causes vibration in the deeper levels of the skin promoting collagen turnover and new production. Similarly, laser resurfacing and Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy causes micro injuries to the dermal layer of the skin causing new collagen to be produced. Filler which predominantly consists of hyaluronic acid provides volume where collagen has diminished. Some of the latest filler technologies even contain molecules that promote our own natural collagen growth.

When we invest our money, we would never put all our eggs in one basket. We would have a strategy designed by a financial expert to diversify our money. Enhancing collagen levels acts in the same way. We can’t rely on one supplement, one cream, or one procedure to get the job done, as that will only get us part way there. We need a comprehensive strategy designed by a medical professional that Protects collagen, Ignites new growth, and by using modern science – mimics the effects of having more collagen via injections to Illuminate our skin. With all the advice streaming on social media, we must be careful to invest in the right strategies. Trust the science not opinions to Ignite a better YOU!

Dr. Christina Plaskos is the Medical Director at Aegis MD. She is a cosmetic and wellness expert.

1. Proksche, E., et al. Oral intake of specific bioactive collagen peptides reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014, 27(3), 113 -9.
2. Yoon, HS., et al. Supplementating with dietary astaxanthin combined with collagen hydrolysate improves facial elasticity and decreases matrix metalloproteinase-1 and -12 expression: a comparative study with placebo. J Med Food. 2014, 17(7), 810 -6.