Skin deteriorates over time due to many factors. The top ones include aging, smoking, exposure to UV light, and poor nutrition. All of these factors disrupt how skin is constructed.
Nevertheless, you can significantly slow down and even reverse these effects when you know how to prevent skin breakdown.
One of the key elements for good skin structure is the synthesis of various proteins that provide strength and flexibility.
Healthy, youthful-looking skin depends on keeping the protein-making machinery in good working order.
The most important skin protein is collagen. It comprises about 70% of all skin proteins. Boosting collagen synthesis, therefore, is the most valuable strategy for preventing skin breakdown.
Collagen is not only the most common protein in your skin, but it is also the most abundant protein throughout your body.
It occurs in connective tissues, bones, tendons, muscles, digestive system, blood vessels, hair and nails. Boosting collagen for better skin health also benefits all other areas in your body where it occurs.
Factors Influencing Collagen Production
Your collagen levels peak out by your mid-20’s. Levels slowly diminish over time. You lose about three-quarters of it by your 80’s. Loss of collagen is the main reason why skin sags with age.
Many environmental and lifestyle factors influence collagen production. Loss of collagen speeds up in the face of poor nutrition and exposure to pollution, food additives and other toxins.
Narrowing down all the possible influences on collagen production leads to two general strategies for boosting it:
- better nutrition.
- collagen-inducing skin care.
Skin health starts within. Good nutrition is crucial. This means consuming good foods while eliminating those that damage skin. The best foods for building strong, flexible skin contain important co-factors for collagen synthesis, including collagen itself.
Since collagen is a protein, its basic building blocks are amino acids. The most abundant ones are glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. They comprise 57% of the total amino acids in collagen (2018).
The best food sources for these amino acids are animal-based. They include organ meats such as liver, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken and their egg yolks, and wild-caught fish.
Dietary collagen itself also works well. Gelatin and bone broths are excellent sources. Supplementing with hydrolyzed (pre-digested) collagen from the hides of cows or pigs also provides raw materials for collagen synthesis.
The most important co-factors for collagen synthesis are vitamin C, zinc, and copper. Excellent fresh food sources of vitamin C include green leafy veggies, broccoli, red peppers, and citrus fruits. Oysters are the top food source for zinc and copper.
- Omega 3 fatty acids (salmon, mackerel, flaxseed)
- Vitamin C (citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli)
- Vitamin A (vegetables that are dark green or dark orange in color)
- Zinc (seafood, meat and eggs)
- Protein (meat, eggs, cheese, and soy products)
How about foods that inhibit collagen?
In general, an inflammatory diet will undermine youthful looking skin by ruining the formation of good collagen. Many kinds of foods can cause inflammation. Just eliminating or reducing consumption of the three worst ones will do your skin and overall health tremendous good.
At the top of the list of the ‘worst three’ is sugar and refined carbohydrates (2015). They ruin protein structure by forming what scientists call advanced glycation end products (AGE’s).
The formation of AGE’s is a disaster for collagen synthesis.
Next in line is processed foods. They are generally nutrition-deficient. However, they also lead to the formation AGE’s (2010).
The third most common source of dietary inflammation is refined vegetable oils. Those from corn, safflower, cottonseed, and soy are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids that fuel body-wide inflammation, including skin (2016).
- Collagen-Inducing Skin Care
Collagen itself is a large protein molecule. Creams and other topical products that contain it are not effective, since it doesn’t penetrate the skin. However, certain substances that do get into skin will either induce collagen synthesis or prevent its untimely breakdown.
Research on natural products for skin care now shows that a variety of substances boost collagen levels.
Some of the more recently discovered examples include the following:
Astaxanthin. This antioxidant is growing in popularity as an ingredient in cosmetics. It was recently shown to boost collagen synthesis (2017). This substance provides a double whammy benefit by:
- reducing inflammation by reactive oxygen species
- accelerating the activity of genes that control collagen synthesis
Astaxanthin also prevents collagen breakdown that normally occurs when skin is damaged by UV light (2012).
Argireline. Search for a topical anti-wrinkle substance to replace injections with botulism toxin has led to the discovery of this substance made from a small chain of six amino acids. Not only does it effectively replace a dangerous toxin, it also boosts the main type of collagen in skin (2013). Argireline is now being hailed as a rejuvenating substance for aging skin.
Rice Ferment Filtrate. The concentrated extract of fermented rice water is behind the “forever young” hands of Japanese sake brewers. A recent study showed how it boosts collagen levels in human skin cells (2017). This discovery adds to the array of previously demonstrated benefits to skin health of this filtrate, including protection against damage by UV light and prevention of skin moisture loss.
Radish Extract. Rasatiol, the main active ingredient in radish extract, provides a multiplicity of benefits for skin health, including the increased production of collagen. It also boosts levels of fibronectin and elastin, which are two additional proteins that make up healthy skin structure (2013).
What Else Can You Do to Prevent Skin Breakdown?
Since skin is the largest organ in your body, everything you do will have an impact on its health. Sensible health choices such as getting good sleep, not smoking, avoiding sunburn, and keeping alcohol consumption down are some of the more obvious things you can do for preventing skin breakdown.
They all add to the benefits that you get from boosting collagen with better nutrition and collagen-inducing skin care products.
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