A Holistic Nutritionist On How She Approaches Collagen Support
Recently I was discussing the emerging field of regenerative dermatology with two women in the space: board-certified dermatologist Julie Russak, M.D., and board-certified holistic nutritionist Jennifer Hanway, the experts behind their integrative Anti-Aging Wellness Program. (Tune in to the convo here.) Regenerative dermatology—and the ethos beyond their practice—focuses on how to restore vitality to the body and skin at the cellular level, using the latest and greatest research on whole-body health. And to do so, there's not a one-size-fits-all approach—nor is there one modality that will magically fix skin concerns.
It's about how products, nutrition, lifestyle, and even in-office treatments work together for a better outcome. One such example we discussed was collagen. Collagen is a structural protein in the skin that gives it firmness and lift. Like most things in the body, it declines with age (as well as due to things like UV exposure, diet, and lifestyle habits). And this loss contributes to fine lines, sagginess, and textural issues.
And as Hanway explained, supporting your natural collagen levels requires thoughtful behavior from all angles.
A holistic nutritionist's collagen-boosting tip for smooth skin.
Treating something holistically isn't just for feel-good vibes: There's an art and science to it. The gist is that you can't properly treat a concern by addressing one singular pathway if other parts of the system aren't functioning properly.
"[You can use topicals and treatments] to stimulate collagen production in the skin, but if you're inflamed, then you're not going to be able to regenerate that collagen," says Hanway. "Or if you have too much sugar in the diet, any collagen that's getting regenerated is just going to get broken down again. Or if the gut health is impaired, then you're not going to have those raw materials. Finally, if you're not putting in those raw materials—like amino acids—then you have nothing to build with."
I found this insight to be particularly helpful in my own approach to skin care. Products can transcend their base efficacy when paired with a well-rounded approach. A vitamin C serum (beloved by dermatologists as vitamin C is a vital part of the collagen synthesis process) won't work as effectively when skin is in an inflamed state. You can't just apply a serum to aggravated skin and hope for the best—you need to find the root cause of the inflammation, which can be from stress, too strong of beauty products, environmental aggressors, or diet.
Similarly, your body can only produce what it has building blocks for. Amino acids, for example, are the building blocks of collagen and elastin. Without a balanced diet that prioritizes protein intake, your skin and hair may not have all the materials it needs to keep the skin structure strong. You can support your body's natural collagen production through your diet, as well as supplements.
How you treat your body as a whole plays a vital role in how effective your skin products perform. No product or formula can replace the simple act of taking care of yourself. And regenerative medicine and dermatology fully acknowledge the synergistic nature of skin care. For more insights on how to support skin regeneration, check out our tips here.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.