Everything You Need to Know About Collagen And Skincare

You likely know collagen as the buzzy supplement all over Instagram spiking frothy latte after latte. It’s been difficult to avoid in the past couple years as we approach peak wellness and potions and powders promise everything from focus to a full night’s sleep. But you knew collagen before that too. In fact, it’s been in your body this whole time.

So what is collagen? Besides some sort of magic powder to make oat milk even better, it’s the main structural protein in our skin. It makes up 75-80% of it! As the glue that holds everything together, collagen in the dermis gives skin structure, firmness, and elasticity. When we lose it, skin sags and wrinkles form. For healthy and youthful skin, it’s incredibly important.

The problem is that collagen is depleted as we age because it breaks down over time and cell renewal slows. Damage from sun exposure and pollution decrease it even more. So it makes sense to take care of the collagen that we have and try to produce more. That’s the M.O. behind, actually, most of the ways we take care of skin. From topical products to ingestible supplements to cosmetic treatments, the key is collagen. Let’s breakdown how you can boost it.

Which Topical Ingredients Stimulate Collagen Production in Skin?

When it comes to skincare products meant to maintain and restore collagen, two popular ingredients do a lot of legwork: vitamin C and retinoids.

Collagen is made up amino acids, and your body uses vitamin C in the process of combining those amino acids to form collagen. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant that helps prevent free radical damage, so it both protects and promotes collagen. (1)

Retinoids, derivatives of vitamin A, are widely regarded as the powerhouse of skincare because of how they impact collagen. Mainly lauded for speeding cell turnover, retinoids pumps up collagen production while also slowing its breakdown. (2)

A third up-and-coming skincare ingredient makes a difference too: peptides. The formation of collagen goes from amino acids to peptides to protein as more of the “building blocks” are linked together. Certain peptides in skincare imitate your body’s own peptides and send a signal to produce more collagen. (3)

What Foods Help Produce Collagen?

Collagen supplements are having a real moment right now, and they’ve definitely brought collagen into common conversation. Most are hydrolysed collagen or collagen peptides in powder form to add to drinks or gelatin gummies to eat. It seems to make sense to ingest the thing you want more of, but it’s not that simple.

When you eat or drink collagen, it doesn’t go straight to your skin. Digestion breaks the collagen down to the amino acids it’s made of, and those can be allocated to anywhere in the body. It doesn’t hurt to ingest collagen, but know that it doesn’t go straight from your cup to your crow’s feet. (4)

A better approach is eating healthfully to get the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to produce its own collagen. Eating protein is important to get the amino acids needed to build collagen, as well as fruits and veggies with vitamins A and C as antioxidants and to be used in the collagen-forming process. Sugar interferes with collagen’s ability to repair itself, so excessive amounts should be avoided. (5)

Side note: All direct sources of collagen are animal-based—typically from the tissues and bones of cows or pigs but sometimes fish scales—so collagen supplements for the most part aren’t vegetarian-friendly. Collagen supplements billed as vegetarian are instead a blend of vitamins and minerals to encourage collagen production rather than collagen itself.

The Best In-Office Treatments To Boost Collagen Production

Now, skincare and nutrition are well and good, but the big guns are cosmetic treatments that essentially fool your body into creating a lot of collagen.

Because collagen is necessary for the structure of skin, producing more is part of the healing process when anything bad happens. Triggering this healing process stimulates collagen production.

That’s the function behind microneedling and various types of lasers. Though they all do it a little differently, treatments like these create microinjuries that your skin tries to heal by creating more collagen. This level of stimulation can noticeably plump and smooth skin directly where it’s done, making it the most straightforward way to increase collagen.


Help your body make collagen by give it everything it needs to do so. And when that’s not enough, you can trick it into making even more.

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