3 Underrated Ingredients To Restore Collagen & Keep Your Skin Firm
You can attribute a surprising number of skin gripes to a simple lack of collagen. Fine lines? They crop up as your skin thins and collagen levels dwindle with age. Crepey skin? A loss of collagen and elastic fibers. Sagging eye bags? Yup, that's all collagen!
It's no wonder collagen has become one of the buzziest terms in the beauty lexicon, with more and more people itching to know how to improve their levels (and, thus, their skin health). If you count yourself a collagen-curious individual, you've come to the right place: Below, find three underrated players to restore your natural levels and keep your skin firm:
OK, this one might not sound so underrated. But many people do forget that the most effective way to promote collagen production in the skin isn't to slather on a serum but to start from within.
See, research shows collagen peptides are able to enhance your body's own collagen production1 by stimulating fibroblasts, those same cells that make collagen and elastin to begin with. As a result, those collagen supplements can support skin elasticity, hydration, and smooth the appearance of texture (like fine lines and wrinkles)2. Another double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial found that participants' moisture levels in the skin were seven times higher3 than those who did not take collagen supplements.
That being said, not all collagen supplements are created equal. A stellar formula for skin health will deliver 10 to 20 grams per serving, contain nutrients that support collagen production through other pathways (like vitamin C), and features a clean ingredient list (aka, no artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors, fillers, etc.).
This may sound like a tall order, but we did the legwork for you: Check out these high-quality collagen supplements, all vetted by a nutrition Ph.D.
When it comes to topicals, you might consider retinol the collagen-boosting holy grail. Nothing against the buzzy vitamin A derivative—but we shouldn't forget about the collagen-restoring power of glycolic acid. The AHA has been shown to increase collagen production4 when used topically; the theory is that it triggers a restorative healing response in the skin, which spurs collagen production.
"Studies have shown that six months of topical glycolic acid stimulated a 27% increase in epidermal thickness5," board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., previously told mbg. Just keep in mind that glycolic acid does have a smaller molecular size, meaning it penetrates more easily into the skin—and this can cause sensitivity for some. You can read all about the beloved AHA here to find out if you're a good candidate.
Ever heard of astaxanthin? It's a carotenoid with powerful antioxidant properties, especially when it comes to dealing with free radicals from UV exposure—and "up to 80% of the signs of skin aging6—including thinning and loss of elasticity—are due to UV damage," board-certified dermatologist Cynthia Bailey, M.D., founder of Dr. Bailey Skin Care, previously told mbg.
Consider snagging an astaxanthin-infused serum (like Maya Chia's The Super Couple), or you might supplement with the carotenoid, too: In one clinical, participants who took astaxanthin supplements saw improvements in skin elasticity7, while those who did not supplement saw worsening wrinkles.
In another study, astaxanthin supplementation combined with collagen significantly improved skin elasticity, smoothness, and hydration in just 12 weeks. Feel free to browse our beauty supplements guide to find your new favorite astaxanthin-infused formula.
Collagen literally makes up the structure of your skin, so if you really want to keep it firm for the long haul, you'll want to support your natural levels. To do so, we suggest seeking out the above players—they're not the only ones you can integrate into your collagen-promoting routine, but they are often overlooked.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.