Exactly How Much Collagen You Lose Per Year, According To The Research
Collagen, collagen, collagen. For the beauty-minded among us, we're always thinking about collagen. It's the structural protein that keeps your skin firm and lifted.* Its loss can account for the development of fine lines, sagging, and loss of volume. And past your late 20s, you're constantly losing your natural supply. This is why skin care experts are always recommending ways to protect the collagen you do have—as well as promote its production.
But do you know exactly how much you're losing? Well, everyone's depletion rate is different: Lifestyle and environmental factors all play a huge role, as do genetics. But research can help us glean more info on what the average person may expect. A bonus: We go over what you can do to help.
How much collagen you lose annually.
How much collagen you lose annually is influenced by several factors, most notably your age: Starting in your mid to late 20s, the balance between how much you produce and how much you're losing tips. "Our bodies always balance collagen production and degradation," board-certified dermatologist Gary Goldenberg, M.D., tells us about collagen loss. "When we are young, our bodies produce more collagen than we break down. That balance tips the wrong way with age since tissue regeneration decreases."
After you pass this threshold (which is influenced by genetics), you lose about 1% of your collagen every year1. But this isn't the only thing that influences the rate of your collagen loss. For starters, several habits accelerate collagen's depletion.
Smoking and unprotected UV exposure are the major factors: One study observed collagen under UV light and found that there was a "significant decrease" in collagen structure afterward2. As for smoking, it's obviously problematic for a myriad of reasons, but for the skin: "Smoking decreases the amount of oxygen delivered to tissues. Therefore, tissue cannot regenerate and is more likely to become denigrated," says Goldenberg. But other habits to look out for can be quite insidious: everyday stress, high-sugar diets3, inadequate sleep, and even using too aggressive topical ingredients can all contribute to collagen loss.
Finally, hormones and major (life-stage-related) shifts in hormone production will alter your collagen production. Particularly menopause. People who experience menopause see a dramatic drop (about 30%) in collagen production during that time.
What can you do about it?
First and foremost, address any and all lifestyle changes: Quit smoking. Be smart about sun protection. Adjust your diet as needed. Find ways to lower your stress. Get in your eight hours each night. Only use skin- and collagen-supporting topicals. You know the drill.
Additionally, you can take collagen supplements to support your natural production.* Collagen peptides have been shown to help promote your body's natural production of collagen and other molecules that make up the skin, like elastin and fibrillin, by supporting the fibroblasts.* We go into great detail to explain how collagen supplements support the skin and body here, should you be curious.
Robust research has shown that you are able to improve your skin's appearance4 thanks to this. For example, one double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial found that participants' moisture levels in the skin were seven times higher5 than those who did not take collagen supplements.* Another rigorous clinical trial found that when a small group of women took a collagen supplement that was also formulated with hyaluronic acid and a few other actives, they experienced a significantly smoother appearance of wrinkles.* With so many collagen supplements on the market, though, you may be wondering where to begin. Don't worry: We've rounded up a list of our favorites 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.