Collagen is an integral part of your body, but even though you need it to survive, your body doesn't always cooperate in keeping your collagen concentration at normal levels. A variety of conditions can reduce the levels of collagen in your body, and the symptoms associated with decreased collagen range from uncomfortable to downright painful. To learn how to treat collagen deficiency in your own body, you'll need to know more about collagen, its function in the body, and what causes it to disappear.
What Is Collagen?The human body contains a number of different proteins. These substances are complex cells, and they consist of building blocks called amino acids. The body uses different proteins for different purposes, but these substances are vital to human health. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, and this substance is present in various areas throughout your body. There are over 20 different kinds of collagen in the human body, and while these proteins are all structurally similar, they serve a variety of different purposes.
For instance, type II collagen is present in your joints, and it contributes to the production of cartilage. This type of collagen also forms a variety of different components in the structures of your eyes. Type III collagen is present in your lungs, liver, and arteries, and type IV collagen is present in your kidneys. Type V collagen is limited mostly to the surface of your cells and your hair, but this type of collagen is also present in the placenta.
From the perspective of skin care, however, the most important form of this protein is type I collagen. While this type of collagen also contributes to the structure of your bones, tendons, and ligaments, it is predominantly present in the skin. Specifically, collagen appears in the dermis, which is the middle layer of your skin, and it plays a role in forming a thick network of cells in the dermis called fibroblasts, which provide the framework on which new skin cells grow. The dermis is the thickest layer of your skin, and the more collagen you have in your skin, the thicker and plumper your skin will appear.
How Does Your Skin Use Collagen?
Without collagen, your skin is incapable of regenerating effectively, and it will become thinner and more prone to the signs of aging. Your skin uses collagen to create new skin cells, and while your tissues will always find ways to regenerate, when their resources are stretched thin, they'll only have the power to cover the bare necessities. For instance, when the collagen levels in your skin are low, your body will have a harder time recovering from wounds, and it will also be less resilient to damage.
Collagen works with another protein in your skin called elastin. As the name suggests, while collagen provides your skin with plumpness, elastin provides it with elasticity. Your skin won't become rigid or hard if you don't have enough elastin, but it will become slack and more prone to wrinkling. If you note decreased levels of collagen in your body, it's likely that you have less elastin than you should as well since the same factors cause the breakdown of both types of proteins.
What Causes Collagen Breakdown?In essence, any factor that leads to higher oxidation or inflammation in your body will make it hard for your skin to produce collagen. A variety of lifestyle decisions such as not getting enough sleep or exercise can lead to excessive inflammation throughout your body, and there are a number of specific mechanisms that scientists have identified as causing collagen depletion.
For instance, if you eat a lot of sugar, you increase the rate of a process called glycation, which is a natural aspect of how your body processes sugar. If too much glycation occurs in your body, however, it can damage collagen proteins, and these proteins will either die or decrease in efficiency. In addition, exposure to UV rays can make the collagen in your skin break down more rapidly than it would otherwise. It's good to get at least some sunshine on your skin, but if you don't use the right methods to help your skin recover from UV ray damage, you could end up with permanently lowered levels of collagen.
Smoking is harmful to your health in many ways, but it also depletes collagen in your skin. Various chemicals in cigarettes directly damage the collagen and elastin in your face and other parts of your skin, and the active ingredient in tobacco, nicotine, is a vasoconstrictor, which means that it constricts your blood vessels. As a result, it's hard for your blood to deliver the nutrients that your skin needs to keep up with proper collagen production.
Various autoimmune disorders and genetic changes can also negatively impact your body's ability to create collagen, but one of the biggest factors that cause the depletion of this protein is the aging process. While aging is considered to be a natural phenomenon, it essentially consists of the gradual breakdown of every bodily function that keeps you alive and healthy. The scientific consensus is that there is no way to mitigate the collagen depletion associated with the aging process, but if you remove the free radicals and other malignant factors in your body that cause you to age, it might be possible to slow down the effects of aging.
In general, diet plays a huge role in the production of collagen. Substances like simple carbs, processed sugars, and trans fats cause inflammation throughout your body, and when your tissues are inflamed, they can't produce collagen effectively. On the other hand, if you eat a lot of fresh fruits and consume plenty of protein, your body will be able to produce collagen effectively, and you'll experience much less inflammation.
What Are Some Collagen Deficiency Symptoms?
When you're suffering from low levels of collagen in your skin, you'll notice a number of symptoms. The most notable symptom is thin skin, and this symptom occurs because the fibroblasts in your dermis are no longer capable of creating new skin cells at the usual rate. When your skin is thinner, it doesn't have as much room for blood vessels, which means that you may also lose some of the color in your cheeks when you have decreased collagen levels. Your skin also becomes more prone to injury when it doesn't have enough collagen, and it takes longer to heal.
Low collagen levels also speed up the process of wrinkling, which is further exacerbated by lowered elastin levels leading to skin sagging. In general, your skin looks older when it doesn't have enough collagen, and you can return a youthful appearance to your skin if you're successful in bringing your collagen levels back up to normal levels.
What Other Negative Effects can Decreased Collagen Production Have?If you're suffering from depleted collagen in your skin, it's likely that you have less collagen than you should in other parts of your body as well. Since your joints contain high levels of collagen, any depletion of this substance will make these parts of your body perform inefficiently. If you're experiencing joint pain, stiffness, or discomfort, it's possible that collagen deficiency is causing these symptoms.
Your body also uses collagen to anchor your teeth to your gums, and if you have deficient levels of collagen, your gums may start to recede, and your teeth might start to loosen in their sockets. Common symptoms of collagen deficiency in your teeth and jaw include tooth sensitivity and early tooth loss. In addition, your muscles use collagen to anchor to your bones, and if you don't have enough collagen in your body, it's likely that you'll experience achy muscles.
Collagen also plays a role in your hair. This substance helps in the process of delivering nutrients to your hair follicles, and when there isn't enough collagen in your scalp, your hair will become duller and thinner. Interestingly, collagen can also contribute to the development of cellulite since this protein is responsible for keeping your skin from puckering.
How Do You Solve Collagen Deficiency?There are a number of ways to address collagen deficiency in your body and face. In some cases, you may want to introduce more collagen into your body to replace the collagen you've lost, and this approach has benefits and detractors. When you stimulate the collagen levels in your body by ingesting this substance, you don't have to worry about removing the root causes of your deficient collagen levels. However, you'll need to continue supplementing with collagen in perpetuity if you want to maintain the health gains that you've accomplished with this method.
The most common way to add collagen to your body is to take oral collagen supplements. In many cases, these supplements contain collagen-rich animal products such as cowhide or cow bone material. These supplements come in a powdered form, and most people mix them with drinks or smoothies for ingestion. Collagen powder is usually tasteless, but some people can have adverse or allergic reactions to supplementing with this substance. If you experience an adverse reaction to supplementing with collagen, cease your supplementation regimen immediately and consult with a doctor.
The other way to improve collagen levels in your body is to stimulate your tissues to produce this substance naturally. Since your body produces ideal levels of collagen when it is in perfect health, if you take certain measures to improve your overall well-being, your collagen levels will increase. Switching to a healthier diet that is free from substances that harm your body is one way to stimulate the production of collagen, and taking other steps to prevent your health such as daily exercise and good sleep will also help your body produce the collagen that it needs.
There are, however, other ways to return your body's collagen levels to normal. If you remove the source of oxidation that is making it hard for your skin cells to produce collagen, for instance, they will return to their usual production levels. One way to accomplish this effect is to topically apply antioxidant products directly to the area that is suffering from the symptoms of decreased collagen. A variety of substances can serve as excellent tools for this purpose, and any substance that contains vitamin C is a sure bet if you want to return your collagen levels to normal. When antioxidants enter your skin transdermally (through the skin), they immediately begin the work of toppling the free radicals that are ravaging throughout your tissues.
When your skin is oxidized, it becomes more prone to inflammation, and when your skin is inflamed, it has trouble reproducing effectively. While it's clear that inflammation is incredibly harmful to your skin, experts disagree as to how much inflammation contributes to conditions like acne, dry skin, and hyperpigmentation. However, if you remove inflammation from your skin, it's likely that any skin conditions you suffer from will clear up and your collagen levels will return to normal.
There are a number of different ways that you can introduce antioxidants to your skin, but facial serums are among some of the most effective and efficient application methods on the market. Unlike other types of cosmetic products, facial serums stick to the bare essentials, and they primarily use water to deploy antioxidant compounds like vitamin C into your skin. Facial serums also usually contain other ingredients that help your skin reach its maximum potential, and when these products contain only organically grown or otherwise safe inorganic ingredients, you can rest assured that you're restoring your collagen levels in a way that doesn't cause further harm to your skin's health.