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Collagen: Con or cure?

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If it takes a little longer to return to its original place, something is wrong with its elasticity. The ability of the skin to bounce back is all about elasticity and as the skin gets older, its elasticity lessens. This usually begins in women somewhere during her mid-twenties and peaks at menopause.

The elasticity of the skin is attributed to the presence of two proteins: collagen and elastin. Contrary to what many advertisers tell you, you can’t eat (or drink) collagen and expect it to be channelled straight to your skin. Nor do collagen-laden creams work simply via direct application.

“Collagen is physically incapable of entering your skin cells,” notes Rizvana Abdul from EzineArticles.com. “It has very limited usefulness as it does not nourish the skin in sufficient quantities.”

In the book Cosmetic Dermatology, author Leslie Baumann points out that collagen molecules are too large to fit through the outermost layer of the skin. Only molecules that have a mass of 5,000 Daltons (or less) can penetrate the skin, and collagen is three to four times that size.

The actual effects of collagen supplements taken orally are debatable; there is as yet no definitive evidence to suggest that such supplements are likely to be of any significant benefit to the skin. Collagen can be of use if injected, but that procedure can go awfully wrong if done by someone lacking the necessary skills. So, the best way to make sure your skin looks and feels young is to understand how it, and your body in general, actually works. The hypodermis, or the base layer of the skin, consists of fatty tissue and fibroblast cells, which provide the foundation to which the matrix of collagen and elastin fibres attach. The middle layer of the skin is where collagen and elastin fibres are produced. Good nutrition ensures that natural collagen and elastin production is effective.

If the base layer of the skin is healthy, it provides enough tension to support the collagen and elastin matrix. If the middle layer is healthy, it produces sufficient elastin and collagen for a person’s needs. In other words, your skin cannot have an ideal level of elasticity if it is not in good health. So it doesn’t make sense to just aim for products that claim to increase skin elasticity; you need to take care of your skin, both internally and externally.

In a nutshell, regular hydration and moisturising are necessary to keep the hypodermis healthy, so always use an effective, long-lasting moisturiser.

Choose the right product for your skin type to make sure it gets neither too dry nor too oily. Before selecting an anti-ageing cream, check out its ingredients and do some research on them; don’t just take all the manufacturer’s claims at face value. And another piece of advice that never gets old: always use sunscreen. To ensure sufficient collagen and elastin production, eat nutritious food, drink enough water and get enough sleep.

There have also been claims that certain foods help stimulate collagen production. In reality, no single type of food can achieve this on its own.

The best method is to stick to a nutrient-rich, well-balanced diet. Inadequate protein intake could cause your skin to sag.

Products containing collagen are not necessarily bad; some of them are actually good for skin hydration. But be wary of oral collagen supplements and always consult a dermatologist before you make any purchases. While there haven’t been any reports of negative side-effects as yet, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Good food is always cheaper than fancy pills anyway. – The Bangkok Post