Q: I’m concerned about my skin’s appearance. Are collagen supplements a good option for tightening loose skin?
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A: Collagen supplements aren’t the best option if you want to improve the appearance of your skin. That’s mainly because there’s no evidence-based science to prove they work ― or that they’re safe.
A few small studies have shown limited improvement in skin texture with collagen supplements. But it’s important to point out that they’re all manufacturer-sponsored studies. And unfortunately, the supplement industry isn’t well regulated and has a history of inaccurate labeling and contamination.
Other safety concerns: The processed form of collagen comes from animal tissue discarded by meat processors. This substance is ground into a gelatin or powder and placed in a capsule or gummy tablet, along with other sometimes-unnamed byproducts. With the increasing numbers of food allergies today, this is a critical consideration.
Why would people take collagen anyway? Collagen, after all, is the main structural protein in our skin. It helps the dermis retain its firmness and elasticity. It’s also found elsewhere, like in our bones, tendons and cartilage. At some point in our 20s, we all start experiencing a steady, gradual decline of our natural collagen ― just how much and how fast depends largely on environmental factors like sun exposure, smoking cigarettes and pollution. As we lose collagen, our skin becomes drier and more wrinkled.
If we want to slow this process down, it’s best to know and avoid these environmental hazards. Specifically, stay away from cigarettes and other harmful pollutants, consistently apply sunscreen, and wear hats and other protective clothing when outdoors. It’s also helpful to use topical antioxidants (like vitamins C and E) to protect against pollution. Lastly, it’s very important to stay well-hydrated. That means drinking at least 64 ounces of fluids every day!
Plus, there are also procedures ― like microneedling ― that board-certified dermatologists can perform to stimulate collagen, too. Not to mention vitamin A-based topicals, such as tretinoin (Refissa®, Renova® and Retin-A®), have shown in scientific studies and extended practice to be effective.
If you’re interested in learning more about these options, talk to your dermatologist.
― Board-certified dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD