Your skin says a lot about you. After all, it’s the first thing people see when they meet you. Whether your skin is smooth and youthful looking or shows signs of aging, the way your skin appears on the surface tells a story about the collagen underneath.
Collagen’s functions go well beyond maintaining skin tone. It makes up the bulk of all connective tissue, accounting for approximately one-third of the body’s total protein content.
Strong collagen explains why a baby’s skin is firm, supple and silky. By the time a person reaches the age of 35, collagen has reached its peak. A good indicator of strong collagen is when the contour of your face is still defined and has good elasticity – meaning it bounces back when you pinch it and doesn’t sag along the jaw line. As one ages, collagen is lost through a steady, natural decline in collagen production and repair which weakens the skin’s structure and results in lines and wrinkles.
Neglecting to care for your collagen can leave you looking older than your years. To reap the benefits of collagen, it’s important to stay mindful of your skin every day. Experts say everything you take into your body reaches the skin cells that produce collagen. Exposing yourself to elements that can damage your skin’s collagen can inhibit the epidermis from effectively connecting to the dermis, thus leaving you with sagging, wrinkly skin.
Best defenses to keep skin healthy
So, what are the best defenses to keep your good looks and skin healthy?
Limiting ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and tanning beds are a good start, since these rays are collagen’s worst enemy. But that doesn’t mean you have to avoid the sun all together. Small amounts of UV light are good for you, as it helps your body make needed vitamin D. Just be sure to limit your time in the sun, since longer exposures to UV are harmful and produce free radicals that damage collagen and collagen-producing cells.
Ultraviolet rays aren’t the only culprits that can lead to excessive free radical production. Exposure to herbicides, chlorine and other chemicals, as well as smoking, breathing in smog, and experiencing emotional stress can wreak havoc on your skin’s collagen, which causes premature aging.
Do you like your sweets? Unfortunately, your sweet tooth may be doing more harm to your skin’s collagen than you realize. Experts claim that too much glucose in the blood can react with collagen molecules, damaging them. This process – called glycation – results in drier, more brittle collagen. Diabetics are especially prone to glycation-related skin damage.
Damage Control – Get the Right Nutrients
To keep your skin healthy, fight free radicals by maintaining a healthful, balanced diet that’s rich in antioxidants, such as the lutein in dark-green leafy vegetables. Lycopene, found in red fruits and vegetables, helps the body produce more collagen. Your diet should also include the omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and herring, as well as fish and krill oils.
Considering that collagen consists of protein, it makes sense for experts to recommend the consumption of as many grams of protein as pounds that you weigh. An easy way to reach that number is to add whey protein to your diet.
Well-formed collagen is impossible to achieve without adequate amounts of vitamin C. Experts say vitamin C is required for one of the critical steps in healthy collagen production, which occurs when enzymes that are called hydroxylases modify the collagen proteins. Vitamin C, which is found in citrus fruits, strawberries and broccoli, also limits UV-related skin damage, as do vitamins A, D and E. And don’t forget the B-complex vitamins, along with the minerals zinc and selenium. Silica, another mineral, plays a crucial role in collagen creation. It’s a winning combination that uses vitamins and minerals to support the cells – and then allows the cells to do the work to produce, protect and repair collagen.
Another way to stave off the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging is by using collagen supplements. In addition to improving skin elasticity and tone, supplemental collagen supports healthy hair growth and strengthens weak nails. (Now, there’s a bonus!) Hyaluronic acid helps hold moisture in the skin, which also promotes greater elasticity.
You may be wondering about collagen creams. Experts reveal they don’t have any proven benefit, as applying them to your skin isn’t going to stimulate collagen production, but you will receive protection for the skin. It is recommended, however, to use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 20 to protect your collagen, even on rainy, snowy or overcast days.
The next time you look in the mirror, ask yourself, “What have I done today to protect my collagen?” Remember, so long as your skin cells are well-maintained, you can gain the benefits of collagen by effectively producing and repairing it. You can help your body do its job best when you nurture your skin health from within.
Please contact the Nature’s Plus team if you have any questions or comments.