We’ve heard it thousands of times, and maybe we even use a treatment that includes it, but surely we still don’t know why it is so vital for us. Collagen is one of the most important proteins in the body, as it represents over 25% of the total proteins that make up an individual.
We find it in all of the body’s essential structures, such as bones, tendons, ligaments and the skin. It is responsible for making very resistant, flexible fibres (collagen fibres), that keep the inner workings of all tissues functioning properly.
Collagen is the skin’s support, giving it the firmness and elasticity it needs to move and function healthily. If we were to make a comparison, we could say that it is the skeleton of our skin. Our body makes collagen naturally until about 30 years of age, after which it produces increasingly fewer hormones and less collagen. At 40 years of age the creation of this protein can decrease up to 1% annually, while this loss is around 30% per year by the age of 70.
The progressive decline in collagen in our body causes the skin’s epithelial structures (tissue formed by several layers of cells) to weaken; this thins out the skin and triggers more sagging and wrinkles. According to Leire Azcona (2006), sagging skin entails a reduction in the quantity and quality of collagen fibres, thus decreasing soluble collagen and increasing insoluble collagen.
Having said that, skin ageing does not destroy collagen, but rather diminishes its production. Although the passing of time is the main culprit behind the wearing down of the skin’s collagen, there are other factors that favour its loss and destroy the body’s existing reserves, such as stress, excessive exposure to the sun and a diet poor in minerals, vitamins and amino acids. As for the sun, it breaks down collagen and limits its synthesis.
Even though it is impossible to maintain stable levels throughout life, there are factors that can help us to compensate for the loss of collagen and slow down damage to our skin:
Now that we understand the invaluable role played by collagen in our skin, maybe we will be more aware of the need to combine a diet rich in antioxidants with the use of dermo-cosmetic products to reduce the effects of its loss. We might not be able to achieve eternal youth, but we can live with healthy skin for more time.