Collagen. It’s one of the essential building blocks of healthy skin and many other parts of the body like our hair, nails, and bones. It gives our skin its structure, strength and elasticity, and that’s what forms the scaffolding of the skin – the supportive base that provides us with the ‘boiiing’ we need for a plump, vibrant complexion.

Unfortunately, however, optimum levels don’t last, and once we hit 25, production starts to slow down – inducing a loss of elasticity, firmness and luminosity. When collagen breakdown begins, the skin gradually loses that scaffolding, and it starts to look frail and collapses more easily into folds. While we can’t prevent these changes, there are things that we can do to slow them down.

Why is collagen important?

Our skin produces collagen in cells called fibroblasts, and this process of producing and renewing collagen goes on very efficiently until we hit our mid-twenties, at which point the production line starts to slow down. When this happens, our skin can’t repair itself as fast or as well as it did before, and it’s less resilient. Gradually, the expression lines that show up when we smile, laugh, or frown start to become embedded.

We continue to produce collagen well into our 40s, but for many women, the problem becomes apparent when we enter perimenopause, and suddenly, production more or less stops altogether. What’s worse is our lifestyle choices don’t always help preserve our collagen bank. UV light gradually wears down collagen if you fail to protect your skin with sunscreen on a daily basis. Our diet can also fuel collagen breakdown if we don’t feed our body with the proper nutrients, and so can free radicals, the unstable molecules that are created in the body by the effects of pollution, smoking and ultraviolet light.

Collagen is fundamental to the look and quality of the skin, which is why in the majority of my patients, I aim to rebuild that collagen, kick-starting fibroblasts into action through injectable or technology-based treatments and science-backed skincare.

Should you be ingesting collagen?

The thinking behind beauty supplements is just the same as that for dietary supplements – to top up levels of a single or variety of compounds that are known to be integral to your health, but that, for one reason or another, your body isn’t producing enough when left to its own devices. Now we know that collagen production almost ceases entirely when we hit perimenopause. So ingesting it through a supplement can help improve skin elasticity and hydration, mainly when used in conjunction with a good anti-ageing skincare plan.

For a long time, there was a lot of scepticism surrounding the efficacy of collagen supplements, but in the last couple of years, more science-backed innovative formulations have entered the market, which I’m a big believer in.

What to look for in a collagen supplement

The brands that contain enough of the right sort of collagen can make a measurable difference to your skin, and several brands have conducted excellent clinical trials that demonstrate the improvements their products can make. But not all collagen supplements are created equal, so it’s wise to do your research before purchasing.

Firstly, it’s essential to look for hydrolysed collagen formulas. This means that the collagen has been broken up into tiny fragments so the body can absorb and use it. Once broken up this way, the collagen peptides are small enough to be absorbed, unchanged through the digestive tract and distributed throughout the entire body. Essentially, your body is tricked into thinking that these fragments indicate there has been some trauma to the skin and repair is urgently needed, which then stimulates fibroblasts to produce more collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid – the three compounds that give our skin its youthful qualities.

The optimal amount of collagen that you should be taking depends on how depleted your collagen reserves are, your age and other environmental factors, but in general, I recommend my patients take at least 7,500mg but ideally 10,000mg of hydrolysed collagen daily. Collagen can come from many different sources. My personal favourite is marine collagen however, there is also good science behind bovine collagen (from cattle). However, for some people, one source may be excluded from the diet for religious or cultural reasons, so it is always best to check the source before purchasing.

It’s important to realise that if your body is nutritionally depleted, even if you’re taking a high-quality collagen supplement daily, your body still won’t be able to produce new collagen. We actually need stable amounts of various vitamins and minerals to enable collagen production. That’s why my favourite collagen supplement combines everything you need. I take the Skin Fusion by Zenii, brimming with marine extract collagen, vitamins A, B, C, D, zinc, and hyaluronic acid. I simply mix it with half a glass of sparkling water in the morning, and it goes down a real treat.

If you’d like to find out more about how you can optimise your collagen production, click here to book a consultation at my Kent or London clinic.