Collagen is a protein that, along with keratin, binds cells together. This provides shape and support to our skin, teeth, bones, cartilage and organs. Collagen fibres maintain our skin’s elasticity and resiliency. Over time, due to sun and environmental damage, as well as the natural ageing process, collagen fibres break down and skin loses its elasticity and firmness. Despite the presence of highly touted creams, the best way to increase collagen formation isn’t with a lotion that sits on the skin and at best temporarily hides lines and imperfections, but with lifestyle and dietary choices that encourage collagen production from the inside out.
The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University says vitamin C is necessary for collagen production. Collagen cells are made up of amino acids, which depend on vitamin C for hydrogen and oxygen. If your body isn't receiving an adequate amount of vitamin C, collagen synthesis suffers and the skin gradually succumbs to wrinkling and loss of elasticity at a far faster rate.
A clinical study conducted by researchers at the Université Lyon, France, Department of Dermatology and published in the 2008 edition of “Experimental Dermatology” found that when combined with madecassoside--a compound known to promote collagen production--vitamin C considerably improves wrinkles, smoothness, suppleness, firmness and skin elasticity.
Experts such as Lorraine Meisner, Ph.D., professor of preventive medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, suggest taking a daily dose of 300mg to 500mg of vitamin C. Eat fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C, such as strawberries, oranges, kale and spinach.
Topical treatments containing 5 percent to 10 percent vitamin C effectively treat the outer layers of the skin, protecting skin against sun and free radical damage.
Although the sun delivers a healthy dose of vitamin D to the skin, harmful UV radiation depletes the skin of vitamin A. A healthy diet and daily multivitamin should provide a sufficient amount of dietary vitamin A. When looking to boost collagen production with vitamin A, go the topical route. An increased dose of vitamin A taken internally can lead to toxicity.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, vitamin A is able to penetrate the deepest layers of the skin, where collagen and elastin fibres reside. Vitamin A derivatives have been proven to improve skin tone, diminish fine lines and wrinkles and improve overall firmness.
A study backed by the American National Institutes of Health and the University of Michigan and published in the May 2008 edition of the “Archives of Dermatology” tested the effect of a retinol lotion on the skin of elderly participants. The study determined that the retinol treatment stimulated collagen production by 80 percent, dramatically improving the appearance of wrinkles and roughness in the patients’ skin.
Vitamin E has long been touted as an antioxidant that wards off free radicals and helps prevent sun damage. It reduces roughness and fine lines, although more studies must be conducted to investigate the role of vitamin E in collagen production. Karen E Burke, M.D., Ph.D., recommends a daily dosage of 400IU of vitamin E. Vitamin E can safely be applied topically as well in the forms of oils and lotions.