In an age where surgery and injectables are ubiquitous, eating mint chocolate collagen chews as a way to recapture the skin of your youth doesn’t sound like a bad deal. If candy isn’t your thing, there are liquid supplements, and there’s even a collagen-infused beer on tap in Japan. Or you could go the old-fashioned skincare route and slather on a cream. But will it make a difference?
Collagen helps your skin’s elasticity — and therefore its youthful appearance — but you produce less of it as you age. Toronto dermatologist Dr. Lisa Kellett says while you definitely want to encourage collagen production, every product that contains it isn’t necessarily going to help the cause. “Everything has to be based on evidence-based medicine, not based on trends,” says Kellett. So while the ever-glowing Jennifer Aniston adds a collagen peptide supplement to her morning smoothie, Kellett says there’s no solid evidence for ingestible forms of collagen, despite a couple of recent research studies that point to its effectiveness. “Just because an article is published does not make the results valid,” warned Kellett. “There are a number of flaws in the study design and potential biases in both papers such that one is not able to extrapolate these results clinically.”
Topical creams that contain collagen may also be a waste of money: “Collagen is a very big molecule so it’s very difficult to get through the surface of the skin,” Kellett says. So is there any proven method to jumpstart collagen production? Yes. In fact, Kellett says there are three. First, she suggests using topical liquid vitamin A, often used in acne medication, at a concentration of 1 percent or higher. Resurfacing lasers, like PicoSure, create heat which boosts collagen production, according to Kellett. Finally, there are injectable options. The most commonly used injectables in Canada are hyaluronic acid fillers, and the act of injecting can not only help fill in folds and/or add volume, but also stimulate your own collagen production.
Lasers and fillers can sound pretty serious, but Dr. Kellett says there are simple things you can do every day to keep your skin looking its best. First, daily sunscreen application is a must — on your face, neck, chest and the back of your hands. “The sun actually breaks down collagen because of the presence of free radicals,” she says. Second, apply a topical vitamin A at night. And finally, use topical vitamin C, with a concentration of 20 percent or higher, in the morning. “Usually after eight to 10 weeks you’ll start to see a change — it doesn’t happen overnight,” she said.