Collagen is a protein that can help keep the skin looking smooth. As age and other factors reduce collagen levels, the skin loses its elasticity, and lines can form.

The body produces collagen naturally, but as people get older, the amount and quality of collagen fall. One result of this is lines and wrinkles in the skin.

Various approaches may help boost collagen. However, people should check before using them, as not all of them have evidence to prove they are effective.

Here, find out what collagen is, how it affects the skin, and what approaches may help boost it.

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Collagen is the most abundant type of protein in the body and a key component of the skin.

It is present in numerous tissues, including muscles, bones, tendons, blood vessels, and the digestive system. It plays a key role in many bodily functions, including wound healing.

Low levels of collagen occur with severe health conditions, such as:

  • scurvy, which stems from a vitamin C deficiency and leads to:
  • osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic condition that results in weak bones
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which occurs when the body cannot produce collagen effectively, leading to a range of symptoms

When collagen levels are high, the skin is soft, smooth, and firm. Collagen helps the skin cells renew and repair themselves. Both the levels and quality of collagen affect the skin.

As a person ages, their body produces less of certain types of collagen, and the quality of collagen in the body reduces.

This can lead to:

  • a loss of elasticity in the skin and other connective tissues
  • lines, wrinkles, and looseness in the skin
  • joint stiffness

As people get older, changes in collagen structure occur that weaken the bond between the different layers of the skin. This could be why people develop wrinkles and other features associated with aging skin.

Many people are looking into ways of boosting collagen in the skin to stop wrinkles and other signs of skin aging. Here are some options that researchers have investigated.

1. Collagen supplements

People take collagen supplements for their joint and skin health.

A 2021 review concludes that hydrolyzed collagen supplements for 90 days can reduce wrinkles and improve skin elasticity and hydration.

Moreover, the authors of a 2020 review found that the collagen peptides in supplements directly affect the collagen structures in the body known as fibroblasts.

2. Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid is a compound that helps promote collagen production.

In a 2014 study, researchers treated wounds in mice with either water or hyaluronic acid. The wounds that received hyaluronic acid treatment improved more than those treated with water. Also, levels of two types of collagen were higher in the skin around those wounds.

Dermal fillers, which aim to reduce lines in the skin, often contain hyaluronic acid. Research from 2020 found that a combination of hyaluronic acid and a purified polynucleotide helped boost the amount and quality of collagen in the skin and enhance skin elasticity.

The authors of a 2021 study found evidence that hyaluronic acid capsules may also improve moisturization.

People should follow the instructions on the package when using hyaluronic acid, as it can have adverse effects, such as:

In dark skin tones, the area may become darker or take on a pinkish or grayish tone. Pale skin may become red.

Treatments containing hyaluronic acid are available as:

  • injections
  • topical creams and ointments
  • supplements, for instance, in capsules

How can hyaluronic acid help the face and body?

3. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen. A vitamin C deficiency can lead to low collagen levels, resulting in a potentially serious condition known as scurvy.

Symptoms of scurvy include:

  • gum problems
  • skin symptoms
  • problems with wound healing

The human body cannot make vitamin C, so people need to get it from the diet.

Food sources include:

If a person’s vitamin C levels are low, a doctor may recommend supplements.

Many skin care companies add vitamin C to their protective creams. Research suggests topical applications may help protect the skin from sun exposure and changes in pigmentation. However, evidence is lacking to confirm that it works or which formulation is most likely to be effective.

Learn more about vitamin C for skin care here.

4. Aloe vera gel

People often use aloe vera gel to treat the skin after sunburn or ease a rash.

In 2015 research, scientists gave people an extract of aloe vera gel called Aloe sterols to take orally.

After 8 weeks, the researchers noticed that in the participants who took the aloe vera sterols:

  • there was better hydration in the skin of their arm
  • their wrinkles were less deep
  • their levels of hyaluronic acid and collagen almost doubled

The researchers conclude that aloe contributes to the growth of cells that benefit the skin.

People can use products containing aloe as a topical cream or gel or an oral supplement.

5. Ginseng

Ginseng is a plant with a wide range of possible health benefits.

An older study from 2012 found that ginseng increases the amount of collagen in the bloodstream.

Ginseng has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Researchers also note that it might help prevent aging in skin cells.

The results of a 2020 laboratory investigation suggest that red ginseng may reduce the stiffness of fibroblasts, part of the structure of collagen. The authors conclude that it may help improve the elasticity of the skin.

People can use ginseng in tea, tinctures, and supplements.

6. Antioxidants

Antioxidants help protect the body from free radicals, which are molecules that the body produces during metabolism.

Exposure to chemicals, such as those in tobacco smoke, can also introduce free radicals into the body.

Various antioxidants may help protect and rejuvenate the skin, for example, by promoting collagen production. Antioxidants are present in many plant-based foods.

According to older research from 2013, antioxidants in the following foods and drinks may benefit the skin:

Here, learn about some other skin-friendly foods.

7. Retinol and other carotenoids

Carotenoids, such as retinol and beta carotene, are antioxidants that can help boost skin health. They are derivatives of vitamin A.

Research indicates that topical retinoids may help protect the skin from sunlight by preventing UV rays from breaking down collagen.

Foods sources of vitamin A include:

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), using a cream or lotion that contains retinol may help improve the skin’s texture slightly. However, it does not penetrate deeply enough to tighten loose skin.

8. Light therapy

Red light therapy and other types of light therapy may increase collagen growth and improve wrinkles and skin elasticity.

The authors of a 2013 research article conclude that red light therapy may be a quick and safe way to increase collagen in the skin.

In 2021, other researchers looked at the effect of red light combined with near-infrared light on skin cells in a laboratory. They found that it stimulated the production of collagen and elastin. This could help prevent wrinkles and other skin changes commonly associated with older age.

Many dermatologists offer light therapy, but equipment is also available for home use. It is best to ask a specialist for advice before investing in equipment for use at home.

Can LED light therapy help with sun-damaged skin?

9. Protect the skin from the environment

Weather conditions and some lifestyle habits may impact the levels and quality of collagen in the skin. Experts say that exposure to UV light damages collagen in the skin in a similar way to aging.

Tips for preventing skin damage due to low levels of high quality collagen include:

  • protecting the skin from sunlight, for instance, by wearing a sunscreen and clothes that cover the face and body
  • wearing sunglasses to protect the skin around the eyes
  • avoiding smoking, as the chemicals in tobacco may affect collagen production
  • limiting caffeine intake, as caffeine may reduce the body’s ability to produce collagen

What can people do about winter dry skin?

Below, we answer some questions people commonly ask about collagen.

Do skin creams containing collagen get rid of wrinkles?

Many skin care products contain collagen.

According to 2020 research, hydrolyzed collagen in creams and other topical products can moisturize the skin, while oral collagen supplements may help boost collagen in the body. Together, they may help smooth the skin and reduce wrinkles.

Can any natural methods boost collagen?

Eating foods that contain vitamin C and antioxidants, avoiding smoking, limiting caffeine intake, and protecting the skin from sunlight may all help preserve collagen or boost its production.

Does collagen make the skin tighter?

In younger people, the body produces more collagen, which is of high quality. High levels of good quality collagen improve the elasticity of the skin.

As people get older, the body produces less collagen, making the skin appear looser.

Skin care products may help tighten the skin but are unlikely to have a significant impact.

Collagen is a substance that the body produces naturally. Genetic factors and nutrients, such as vitamin C, are essential for its production.

Functions of collagen include keeping the skin smooth and elastic, keeping the joints flexible, and enabling wounds to heal.

Various products and chemicals may help enhance collagen production, but there is not enough evidence to prove that all of them will make a significant difference.