Collagen is a naturally occurring protein found in connective tissues throughout the body. From joints, bones, tendons, and ligaments, to skin, hair, nails, and the lining of your digestive system – collagen is everywhere. But as we age, we start to lose collagen, and certain factors can accelerate this process. So, what exactly causes collagen loss and is there anything we can do to rebuild it?
Why do we lose collagen?
From our early twenties onwards, we produce around 1% less collagen per year as part of the natural ageing process. During childhood and teenage years, collagen production exceeds collagen breakdown. But as we age, tissue regeneration decreases, and we start to breakdown more collagen than we produce. The rate at which we lose collagen varies from one person to another and is higher for women after the menopause.
Collagen loss in menopause
Research shows that collagen levels diminish by up to 30%
in the first 5 years after menopause and continue to decline at 2% a year after that. Falling oestrogen levels affect collagen production and may lead to menopausal symptoms of joint pains and skin changes, and contribute to the risk of developing osteoporosis
in later life.
Other factors affecting collagen loss
While collagen makes up around 30% of total body protein, it accounts for 70% of protein in the skin. Skin is composed of 3 layers; an outer layer (epidermis), a middle layer (dermis), and a bottom layer (subcutis). Collagen resides in the middle layer, the dermis, which is easily damaged by repeated exposure to UV light in a process called photoaging
. Sunlight is made up of UVA and UVB rays. It is the UVA rays that penetrate the dermis and damage collagen. Enzymes are released to try and repair the damage, but this often results in malformed collagen fibres and badly rebuilt, wrinkly skin. Smoking
Smoking has a significant effect on collagen, particularly in the skin. Multiple studies have shown that smoking is a critical environmental factor in premature skin ageing
. The toxins in tobacco smoke affect collagen and skin health by:
- Inhibiting the activity of fibroblast cells that produce collagen.
- Increasing the breakdown rate of protein structures in the skin.
- Nicotine restricts blood vessels and reduces oxygen supply to the skin, affecting the ability of skin tissues to regenerate.
- Increasing free radical production: free radicals are molecules that cause inflammation and damage to cells.
In addition, dragging on a cigarette can lead to more fine lines and wrinkles around the lips
which add to the signs of premature skin ageing. Poor dietary choices
Diets high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed meats can affect the immune system and contribute to inflammatory damage in collagen-rich tissues. Sugary foods and drinks are particularly harmful because of their high amounts of glucose and fructose. These simple sugar molecules cross-link amino acids within the collagen framework
, altering its structure beyond repair.
What does collagen loss look like?
Early signs of collagen loss include:
- Thinner skin
- More wrinkles and fine lines
- Saggy skin, particularly around the mouth and jaw
- Gum problems
- Joint aches and pains
- Thinner hair
- Weak nails
Is collagen loss permanent?
Yes – and no! While we can’t stop the chronological loss of collagen that is part of the natural ageing process, we can take steps to minimise any damage caused by external factors and stimulate collagen production. This helps to offset natural collagen loss and even repair and rebuild damaged tissues.
How to minimise collagen loss
Try these simple diet and lifestyle tips to minimise collagen damage:
- Quit smoking: this is one of the most important steps you can take to preserve collagen and protect your overall health.
- Use an effective sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
- Minimise your intake of free sugars from sweets, cakes, fizzy drinks, syrups, and fruit juices.
- Swap refined carbohydrates like white bread and white pasta for wholegrain alternatives.
- Eat a rainbow of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables every day. Antioxidants help protect collagen against damage from free radical molecules.
How to rebuild and repair collagen
Using a high quality, bioavailable collagen supplement can help your body repair and rebuild damaged collagen. Unlike general collagen supplements, the unique Bioactive Collagen Peptides® in our Pura blends are formulated to target specific areas of the body. Fortigel®
peptides in our Men and Women’s Health Recommended flex+
formula activate the metabolism of collagen-rich cells in tendons and joints, stimulating collagen production to support joint strength, mobility, and flexibility. This targeted level of support has been shown to reduce pain and enhance recovery from injury
. The daily dosage of flex+ provides 10,000mg of bioactive collagen peptides that can alleviate symptoms in as little as 6 weeks. Verisol®
peptides in our award-winning glow+
powder blend stimulate collagen-producing fibroblast cells in skin. These peptides nourish skin, hair, and nail growth, and can provide visible results within 4 weeks. Peptiplus®
peptides in our restorative sleep
blend enhance the healing and recovery processes that take place during sleep. Working alongside calming co-factor ingredients like magnesium, glycine, and 5-HTP, the Peptiplus® peptides support collagen production in a variety of tissues, helping your body repair and rebuild
while you rest. Our immune defences can be compromised by stress, poor diet, ageing, and a sedentary lifestyle, but the ImmupeptTM
collagen peptides in our protect
formula are designed to offer immune support, whilst supporting ingredients reduce fatigue, and aid cognitive function. Immune cells develop in the bone marrow and collagen is a key part of bone structure. It is also found in other tissues that form our immune defences such as the skin, gut lining, and respiratory tract. Adding one or more (they can be taken together!) of our formulas to your daily routine can help offset collagen loss and support collagen production, to keep you feeling well and looking great no matter what age you are. For more information on collagen itself and the science behind the ingredients in our Pura® blends, read our blog, ‘The Science Behind the Ingredients’
. And you can get started on your own collagen journey with glow+, flex+, protect and sleep, all available in the Pura shop.