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publishDate

August 5, 2021

author

Anisha Rao, MPH
What Is Collagen and Why Do I Need It?
Author

Fact Checked By Anisha Rao, MPH
 August 5, 2021

Decline of collagen

I had heard about collagen on so many different skincare and supplement advertisements.

But I didn’t know what it was.

I didn’t understand the importance of it.

I didn’t know that it was one of our most abundant proteins.

In fact, 25% to 35% of our body’s protein is collagen.

I didn’t know that as we age, our ability to produce collagen declines.

Fortunately, we can consume diets and supplements that are rich in proteins and amino acids.

These amino acids form building blocks for our body.

The word collagen stems from the Greek word “kólla,” which means “glue”.

Collagen’s strong fibers act like glue for many parts of our body.

Collagen protects the strength and function of our organs. As our body’s glue, this vital protein connects cells and tissues all over our body.

Collagen is made up of tightly constructed fibers.

By acting like the glue between our tissues and cells, collagen helps our skin maintain its shape, structure, and firmness.

Collagen makes up 75-80% of our skin (1).

80% of our skin’s collagen is Type I, which accounts for 90% of our body’s collagen (2).

Collagen comprises 70% of our dermis (3).

The dermis is the inner layer between the two main layers of our skin.

The dermis has connective tissue, blood vessels, oil, sweat glands, nerves, hair follicles, and other structures.

If our skin is photodamaged, then our collagen I levels may decrease by 59% (4).

This is important to know because collagen is crucial for our skin’s strength, firmness, and elasticity.

So, if we are low on collagen then we are more likely to experience wrinkles, sagging, fine lines, thinner skin, rougher skin, and more vulnerable easily-damaged skin.

Skin

When you combine aging with our environment, diet, sun exposure, smoking, and lifestyle factors then you have the perfect blend to slow down our ability to produce collagen. 

So, our cell structures begin to weaken.

As you may know, smoking increases our risk for lung cancer and heart attacks. Smoking also prevents oxygen and other nutrients from reaching our skin. While, decreasing and destructing our ability to synthesize collagen. Hello, accelerated risks of wrinkles and sagging.

After the age of 20, our skin becomes less elastic. Loss of elasticity leads to wrinkling and sagging. Our skin’s exfoliation process also decreases by 28% (5).

So, our dead skin cells stick together for an extended period of time, rather than shedding and uncovering fresh new cells.

Each year, after age 30, our body’s collagen levels decrease by 1-2% (6). 

Our skin may feel drier, duller, and thinner.

In our 40s, our collagen production and elasticity are significantly reduced.

During menopause, women experience a significant decrease in bone density due to estrogen. 

As a result, postmenopausal women have a greater risk for osteoporosis. 

Their old bone tissue breaks down faster than it can be replaced. Osteoporosis occurs when we lose too much bone and/or make too little bone.

The Harsh Realities About Aging

There are different sagging grades—from the initial slight sagging of our face, to a sagging tummy and thigh, to even creepily-appearing, loose skin around our arms and thighs. Collagen allows our body to function as it should. But if we do not take prioritize replenishing our collagen then our body may wear and tear.

We may notice our skin losing its firmness, elasticity, and structure.

Our cheeks may become flatter while our under-eye areas darken and hollow.

Collagen comprises 65% to 80% of the tissue in our tendons, 70% of the tissue in our ligaments, and 50% of the tissue in our cartilage (7). 

so our joints, muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons may become stiffer. 

We may no longer be as flexible.

We may experience decreased bone mineral density levels as collagen represents about 90% of total organic bone mass (8). 

Collagen is vital for our bone strength and flexibility. Osteopenia occurs when our bones are weaker than average but not inadequate enough to break easily. 

As our bones become more vulnerable, we may increase our risk of bone fractures.

Our muscle mass may decrease as we become weaker.

Our cartilage may wear down as we experience more pain. 

Our cartilage is the rubbery material that serve as a cushion and covers the ends of our joints and bones. 

Our cartilage enables us to bend, straighten our joints, and experience a range of motion. 

Collagen protects our cartilage. 

So, if we do not replenish our cartilage then we may experience more wear and tear, pain, and less range of motion.

Our hair may become lifeless, thin, fall out, and appear unhealthy.

Our nails may break more easily and no longer grow at the speed they did before.

We may lose our ability to fortify, support, regulate, and heal our tissues and intestinal lining.

We may become more susceptible to toxic particles entering our bloodstream.

We experience more digestion concerns as our gut becomes more inflamed.

We may struggle with preserving our healthy cells and producing new cells.

We may no longer be able to break down proteins and carbohydrates as we did before. Our metabolism may also slow down. So, we may even gain weight.

We may experience more heartburn and stomach ulcers.

As collagen anchors our teeth to our gums, we may experience pain, sensitivity, and premature decay.

We may also experience more dry eyes, headaches, breathing concerns, and skin rashes.

We may become more susceptible to harms and external factors.

As we age, we also increase our risk of collagen vascular disease, a disease in the connective tissue that holds our bones, ligaments, and muscles together like glue. 

Our body mistakenly attacks its healthy tissues. 

Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma are among the types of collagen vascular disease. 

Women are more susceptible than men. 

People with these conditions may typically experience fatigue, muscle weaknesses, fever, body aches, joint pain, and skin rashes.

So, I don’t know about you, but I want to do everything I can to replenish my collagen. 

Will you join me in paying more attention to the signs of our skin and signals from our body?