Collagen is a buzzword in the beauty industry, but what actually is it? Why do we need it? And how on earth do we use it?

New ‘must-have’ skincare ingredients are appearing regularly. So regularly, that it can get confusing over what we really need to put on our face and what are just extras. Collagen is one of these buzzwords that has made us all curious, so we spoke to Dermatology and Cosmetic Nurse, Louise Walsh AKA. The Skin Nurse to find out more.

We know what you’re thinking, what exactly is collagen? Louise explained to us that, “collagen is a vital protein which gives strength to our skin and helps it to look firm, supple and youthful.” She told us that the benefits of having collagen in our skin is that it provides it with strength and resilience, hydration and elasticity.

As youngsters, our skin naturally produced ample amounts of collagen, but the bad news is our skin stops producing collagen as we age… from 25 years young! So it’s all about preserving the collagen supplies we have.”

Louise Walsh, The Skin Nurse

How do we know if we need to begin introducing collagen into our skincare regime? Louise told us to look out for signs such as skin sagging, loose skin, lines and wrinkles. There are a handful of particular zappers which contribute to our collagen levels lacking, these include over exposure to the sun, smoking and a high sugar diet. She said that, “avoidance of these will protect our collagen stores.”

We can boost our collagen levels in various ways. Louise suggested that, apart from lifestyle and dietary changes, we can try topical collagen boosting products. “Although there are products on the market which claim to increase levels of collagen (snazzy moisturisers), collagen itself cannot penetrate into the skin deep enough to make a difference, apart from some superficial hydration, so we need to look for products which contain ingredients that will support the preservation and protect our collagen and go deeper into the skin.”

She explained further that, “amino acids and peptides are proteins and are often found in skincare products, these are supportive and give strength and structure to our skin.” Alternatively, Louise recommended investing in a decent Vitamin C serum, as they’re great at supporting your collagen levels as they protect your body from free radicals which reduce our collagen and healthy skin cells.

You can also use retinol products to ensure that our skin is working wholly as it encourages and increases cell turnover which leaves our skin feeling smooth and looking glowy. “With all skin care products the amount of the active and important ingredients is vital to ensure it can be effective, they also need to be used routinely to make a difference.  There’s no such thing as a miracle cream!”

There’s plenty of skincare options for you to choose from, but you can also pursue in-clinic procedures such as micro-needling to encourage improvement of collagen levels. Louise simply explained what this practice involves. “Micro-needling, also known as collagen-induction therapy is the only way to boost new collagen, this is a form of controlled wound healing – sounds horrendous, I know, but is a very effective and popular treatment.”

She’s also explored the possibility of using collagen supplements; “there isn’t currently a lot of clinical data/research on the efficacy on collagen supplements and I am sceptical whether they do actually work to increase collagen or they’re more placebo…  However most are based on amino acids and/or peptides which are good for over-all health, if absorbed well.  I believe a diet rich in protein will offer the same benefits.”

Collagen is something we naturally produce, however as we get older, some of us might want to add to those natural levels. We’ve learned that there are many ways to do this, using cosmetic products, procedures and supplements. Ensuring that you maintain a diet that is full of quality protein will also help. Let us know your secrets to boosting collagen levels! We always love to know what you’re doing as part of your skincare regime.