Over the past few years, collagen has been one of the buzzwords in skincare - every other brand out there has some sort of cream or mask with collagen in it. The claims are quite hyperbolic, claiming to restore elasticity, and reverse the aging process. I've been having quite a number of conversations with friends, co-workers, other beauty bloggers, and so on about collagen in skincare, so I thought to save myself all tht saliva I wasted telling everyone individually, I'd just blog about it here, and refer everyone to my blogpost instead (if I think they are the type of person who would read a beauty blog, I guess!). Basically, these products market themselves on the premise that applying collagen to your skin will replace the collagen lost as a result of aging. Just take a look!
Unfortunately, putting collagen creams, lotions, serums, masks or what-have-yous on your skin will not help replace your skins collagen. But why?
Molecules (whether they're collagen, or whatever) need to be small enough are to penetrate through the layers of the skin and be absorbed. As a guideline, this limit is often cited as 500 Daltons. Now there are exceptions to the rule, but generally, the reason why 500 Daltons rule is generally accepted is because: 1)almost all common contact allergens are under 500 Daltons. Larger molecules cannot panetrate the skin and cause allergies; 2) the most commonly used pharmacological agents applied topically are all under 500 Dalton; 3) all known topical drugs used in transdermal drug-delivery systems are under 500 Dalton.
Collagen (including collagen "extracts" in skincare) has a molecular weight of 15000 to 50000 Daltons, so they are waaay bigger than the 500 Dalton limit needed to ensure that they willl pass through and be absorbed by the skin. Some products advertise that they have "smaller collagen" that will be able to be absorbed by the skin - this is just not the case. The truth is, it's all a marketing play, as there is no real benefit from collagen applied topically - it doesn't get absorbed into your skin, but it just sits on top of your skin.
So, if collagen doesn't actually penetrate your skin, then what does it do when you apply it to your skin? Well, firstly, collagen on top of your skin can function as a humectant, and this helps to moisturize your skin. But there are a lot of other equally cheap and effective humectants out there, such as glycerin and urea. So you donn't really need to spend all that money putting collagen on your face when any old cream with glycerin would do the trick.
Secondly, the collagen in some creams (typcially formulated with other proteins/peptides in them) also form a film on the skin that gives the appearance of smoother skin by filling in surface irregularities. But this is a temporary effect - it's gone as soon as you wash your face, and wash the film off. It definitely does not have any long-term effect.
When I tell most of my friends this, they immediately follow up by exclaiming, eureka-moment style, "Oh! So I should be eating collagen supplements instead of using collagen creams!" Oops. Unfortunately, eating your collagen won't work either. It might be tempting, though - there are so many, many brands of collagen out there - Fancl, DHC, Meiji, the list goes on. And they all advertise themselves oh-so-scientifically:
What happens when collagen is ingested? Well, collagen is really a type of protein, and all proteins are composed of amino acids. So, collagen (like any other protein) gets broken down into amino acids, so unfortunately, they don't jump straight undigested from your stomach to your skin. Also, you can get your amino acids from plenty of other protein-rich foods - meat, dairy, beans - you know, actual food. There's no need to spend extra for collagen supplements. While they're not harmful, there's probably no extra benefit you're going to get from them - you supply your body with amino acids, but it's not like you can't do the same through a healthy, well-balanced diet. Besides, collagen supplements aren't cheap, and there's a much cheaper alternative available. If you do want to eat collagen, instead of splurging on a collagen supplement, you can eat gelatin - it's cheaper, and is what collagen supplement and skincare marketers have been calling "hydrolyzed collagen". And, it's definitely yummier (who doesn't love jello? I love me some jello!).
Sudden Clarity Clarence has also just had an epiphany.
Anyway, I hope this has helped provide a sanity check on some of the hype around collagen skincare and supplements. Most of these are really marketing gimmicks and not much else. Instead of spending money on these creams and supplements that might not work, it might be wiser to spend money on a good sunscreen instead (I do have a post on sunscreen). Share | | |