What’s Collagen and What Does It Do for My Skin?


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You see it on labels everywhere. In the beauty department. In the aisle of dietary supplements. Maybe even a new trendy drink in the mini fridge while you wait for the checkout.

But what is collagen exactly? Where does it come from? And how does it help your skin? We answer all your questions about this ubiquitous ingredient that also occurs naturally in your skin.


Let’s start.

What is collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, Make up 25% of our total protein content.1 A fibre-like structure that connects tissues, it is a major component of bones, cartilage, muscles, tendons and of course skin. In fact, there are over 28 types of collagen in each of us.


When it comes to my skin, what is collagen good for?

Thick collagen fibers help make your skin resilient and contribute to the firm, supple appearance of healthy skin. If we think of our skin as a mattress, collagen fibers are the springs. These fibers help our skin become firm and elastic.

If we think of our skin as a mattress, collagen fibers are the springs.

Where does collagen come from?

Your body naturally makes its own collagen by converting protein from the foods you eat into amino acids. These amino acids build various types of necessary proteins, including all types of collagen.


So where do you find the collagen in your skin? It is mainly found in our middle layer of skin: the dermis. It forms part of the so-called extracellular matrix, which contains collagen fibers, elastin fibers and proteoglycans.

But what about the powders and pills we see on the shelves? Most collagen supplements come from animal sources. Vegan collagen supplements, on the other hand, typically consist of the building blocks, or amino acids, that your body needs to create collagen naturally.

Factors that affect our skin’s natural collagen levels

lifestyle factors

Lifestyle factors can damage collagen fibers by reducing their thickness and strength and even causing wrinkles to appear. But what factors are we talking about? Collagen production declines the fastest due to excessive sun exposure. Pollution, smoking, diet and lack of sleep, also known as parts of the skin exposome, can also damage collagen structure.

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Our bodies gradually produce less collagen as we age. As we age, the skin cells responsible for collagen production slow down. The result? Decreased firmness and thickness of the dermis. A common example – thinning lips. Most volume loss in the lips is actually due to collagen degradation over time.

hormonal factors

Hormonal changes mean skin changes for many of us. Puberty, menopause, and andropause can all affect your skin’s natural collagen production. For example, low estrogen levels are common Postmenopause can lead to a loss of natural collagen.

How does collagen breakdown occur?

Now we know that collagen levels don’t stay the same throughout our lives. But how is our collagen naturally broken down in our skin?


As we have already mentioned, the effect of sun exposure on the skin or photoaging is the main reason for collagen degradation. Studies have shown that Decreased collagen production is directly related to sun damageas well as aging.

Another factor in collagen breakdown? oxidative stress.2 When our body fights off a lot of free radicals from pollution and the like, a process called oxidative stress can be triggered. This leads to an increase in enzymes that break down collagen.

Finally, let’s talk about glycation. Glycation is caused by the presence of excess glucose or sugar in the skin fibers.3 This excess triggers an internal reaction where sugar molecules attach to collagen and elastin proteins.

Normally, these proteins work together to keep skin firm and supple. However, during glycation, these sugars attached to proteins form what are known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs). Over time, these end products make collagen stiff and firm instead of springy and elastic. Ultimately, this contributes to the skin being less firm, less taut and showing visible wrinkles.

Collagen for the skin: what is fact and what is fiction?

“Skin care products can help my skin maintain its natural levels of collagen.”

based. Topical collagen can help moisturize the skin, but collagen molecules are actually too large to penetrate the skin. This means that any skincare formulated with collagen cannot claim to affect collagen production or resilience.

On the other hand, science-based skincare products can help support natural collagen levels and fight glycation. Certain skin care ingredients can act as powerful anti-glycating agents. But how do they do it? Through a sneaky distraction. The glucose molecules responsible for skin firmness stick to the ingredient instead of your precious collagen, reducing the glycation process.

Collagen for Skin Fact vs Fiction |  ISDIN

“Taking collagen supplements makes my skin look better.”

Maybe. It seems like influencers everywhere are touting the benefits of taking collagen. However, research shows that it may actually be better to take amino acid supplements. Why? These building blocks could help your body create collagen naturally.

What is the best way to care for your skin? Always use a broad spectrum sunscreen! Combining this with a healthy lifestyle is the best way to support your skin. You can support natural collagen production by eating a balanced diet of protein, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Round out your skincare routine with products that can support collagen to get you closer to your overall goal.

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And remember the lifestyle risk factors we mentioned, like smoking and stress? Reducing it will likely support your natural collagen levels more than any supplement.

Healthy Lifestyle - What is Collagen?  |  ISDIN

The Final Word on Collagen

Collagen is a vital protein that our body produces itself. An all-around skin hero, it supports a toned, plump look while adding firmness and structure. But when it comes to using it as an ingredient in skin care products or dietary supplements, get the facts first.

Focus on a healthy diet, limit sun exposure, and stick to your skincare routine to maintain your natural collagen levels. Check out ours innovative formulas so that your skin looks timeless.


SHUSTER, S., BLACK, MM and McVITIE, E. (1975), The influence of age and sex on skin thickness, skin collagen and density. British Journal of Dermatology, 93: 639-643. Tobin DJ. Introduction to skin aging. J Tissue viability. 2017 Feb;26(1):37-46. doi: 10.1016/j.jtv.2016.03.002. Epub March 14, 2016. PMID: 27020864. Danby FW. Nutrition and aging skin: sugars and glycation. Clinic Dermatol. 2010 Jul-Aug;28(4):409-11. doi: 10.1016/j.clindermatol.2010.03.018. PMID: 20620757. Jin Ho Chung, Jin Young Seo, Hai Ryung Choi, Mi Kyung Lee, Choon Shik Youn, Gi-eun Rhie, Kwang Hyun Cho, Kyu Han Kim, Kyung Chan Park, Hee Chul Eun, Modulation of Skin Collagen Metabolism in Aged and Photoaged Human Skin In Vivo, Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Vol. 117, Issue 5, 2001, Pages 1218-1224, ISSN 0022-202X, x. Griffiths, C., Al., E., Unit, AAF the D., Others, JS and, Others, LLH and, Others, SF and, SA Madhi and Others, Cypess, AM, & A. Maqsood and LR Imel. (1993 December 30). Restoration of collagen formation in photodamaged human skin by tretinoin (retinoic acid): Nejm. New England Journal of Medicine. Retrieved March 3, 2022 from Reilly DM, Lozano J. Skin collagen through the stages of life: importance to skin health and beauty. Plast Ästhet Res 2021;8:2. Collagen. The food source. (2022, March 2nd). Retrieved March 3, 2022 from (1970, January 1). Lauren Rittie. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in medicine. Retrieved March 3, 2022 from Morita A, Torii K, Maeda A, Yamaguchi Y. Molecular basis of tobacco smoke-induced premature skin aging. J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 2009 Aug;14(1):53-5. doi: 10.1038/jidsymp.2009.13. PMID: 19675554

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