Collagen has been a popular topic in anti-aging and skin health for a long time, but what does it really mean to lose collagen? Learn more about this important protein and determine the right steps you should take to preserve your collagen.
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, accounting for about one-third of its protein composition. It’s one of the major building blocks of bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Collagen is also found in many other body parts, including blood vessels, corneas, and teeth. You can think of it as the “glue” that holds all these things together. In fact, the word comes from the Greek word “kólla,” which means glue.
What does it do in your body?
There are 28 types of collagen in the body. The three main types are:
- Type I — This type accounts for 90 percent of the body’s collagen and is comprised of densely packed fibers. Type I collagen provides structure for skin, bones, teeth, tendons, cartilage and connective tissues.
- Type II — Made up of more loosely packed fibers, Type II collagen is found in the elastic cartilage that cushions the joints.
- Type III — This type of collagen provides support for the structure of internal organs and skin, being a major component of the extracellular matrix.
What can damage collagen?
- Smoking — Cigarettes contain nicotine and countless other chemicals that can damage your lungs and blood vessels. A study out of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Oulu in Finland also revealed a correlation between smoking and reduced collagen production.
- Too much sun — Excessive exposure to UV rays causes collagen to break down more rapidly. It penetrates the middle layer of skin, causing an abnormal buildup of elastin, which produces enzymes that break down collagen.
- Pollution – Particulate matter in the air has been shown to have negative effects on human skin, presenting issues like inflammation and even direct impairment of collagen synthesis.
- Sugar and refined carbs — High intake of sugar and refined carbs increases your rate of glycation, a process in which blood sugars attach themselves to protein molecules, forming new compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These AGEs damage nearby proteins, making collagen brittle, weak and more prone to degradation.
Collagen production starts to slow at a rate of one percent each year after the age of twenty. It will decrease even more as you enter menopause, and can also be negatively impacted by environmental and lifestyle factors.
Not only should you avoid behaviors and factors that destroy collagen, but you should engage in healthy skin habits as well. One of the most important? Wear sunscreen. Frequent sun exposure can lead to a decrease in the skin’s collagen content, contributing to visible signs of aging. Wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 (and reapplying after every 2 hours when you're in the sun) is the best way to protect your skin from harmful UV radiation and its collagen-damaging effects.
What can you do to prevent collagen loss?
In your 20’s:
This is the most important decade for your skin. The way you care for it now will determine what it will look like for the rest of your life. Because it's probably at its healthiest, with great collagen support, your skin is supple. Whatever sun damage you may have has not yet started to show.
Home Care: Use gentle products, and focus on damage prevention.
Cleanser: Use a mild cleanser—either Cleansing Gel, if your skin is oily, or Cashmere Cleanse, if it's dry.
Moisturizer: Be absolutely sure that your moisturizer has SPF 30+, and that it gives you both UVA and UVB protection. Try our Solar Defense Tinted, apply it all over your face and on your neck and chest (This is critical at every age.)
Daytime Treatment: Use a serum that will protects against DNA & pollution damage such as HydroStem. This serum is our anti-aging prevention hero product and will protect against damage that causes collagen breakdown.
In your 30’s:
Even if you've taken good care of your skin, you'll probably start noticing fine lines and wrinkles, especially around the eyes and mouth. Skin becomes thinner and finer, there's some loss of collagen, and cell turnover has begun to slow down, making your complexion look a little dull. You'll see an immediate improvement if you exfoliate.
Home Care: Add an exfoliant if needed and make sure to incorporate a retinol at night
Cleanser: In the morning, use a cleanser to encourage exfoliation such as our Exfoliating Cleanser. In the evening, wash with a gentle cleanser – we recommend Cleansing Gel.
Moisturizer: In addition to SPF 30+ with UVA/UVB protection, your moisturizer should contain antioxidants which will protect your skin from damaging free radicals, try our Face Lift Moisturizer. Start wearing an eye cream daily. For dark circles, use our Eye Authority; for puffiness, look at our Uplift Eye Gel; for fine lines, use our Vital Eye Serum with Bakuchiol.
Nighttime treatment: Once you're in your 30s, a retinoid or retinol isn't optional anymore! Many dermatologists recommend starting on retinoids - the gold standard for reducing fine lines and stimulating collagen. Before bed, apply a pea-size amount of Nimni Cream all over your face for collagen optimizing benefits combined with time release retinol.
In your 40’s:
Those great beach vacations you took in your teens are showing up on your face: You're beginning to see cumulative sun damage in the form of blotchiness, red spots, and ruddiness. You're also losing more collagen and elasticity, and your skin retains less moisture. Because it doesn't reflect light evenly, your complexion is losing some of its glow.
Moisturizer: Supplement your broad-spectrum moisturizer, which should contain SPF 30+, with a serum & moisturizer containing at least two types of antioxidants. If your skin is beginning to look crepey, try a formula with peptides, which have been shown to strengthen collagen, try our Power Serum which is formulates with 8 peptides. Treat dryness with a rich moisturizing cream that contains hyaluronic acid and shea butter, such as our Power Lift – a fan favorite!
Nighttime treatment: Continue to use Nimni Cream at night (daily is preferred for best results) but start to boost it with our Firma-Bright Booster. This Vitamin C booster is formulated with 20% potency that goes beyond the normal brightening effects to now boosting collagen production!
In Your 50s and Beyond...
Don't even think of retiring from the skincare game. It's never too late to prevent sun damage and to stop the progression of damage you may already have. Cell turnover is slowed, and the most significant change you'll notice in your complexion is dryness and loss of elasticity. Expression lines no longer disappear after you stop smiling or squinting; pores are more visible, especially on the nose and cheeks. Menopause can cause a multitude of skin problems, including extreme dryness, acne, and rosacea.
Cleanser: Wash morning and night with a hydrating cleanser such as Cashmere Cleanse.
Moisturizer: Continue to use Power Serum containing peptides and antioxidant when your face is still damp. Follow with Nimni Day Cream and Power Lift during the day for collagen boosting benefits along with deep hydration. Then apply a broad-spectrum moisturizer containing 30+, with UVA/UVB protection. Add our Firm-A-Fix Nectar to your routine to help with those pesky fine lines and hyperpigmentation on your neck and chest.