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Beauty
|26 Feb|6 mins

Everything You Need To Know About Collagen

The beauty supplement you’re seeing everywhere, explained by a clinical nutritionist.

Gone are the days when celebrities only credit litres of water a day for their glowy skin. These days, they’ll likely rattle off a laundry list of inner beauty supplements. And at the top of the list? Collagen. We turned to Shannon Rosie Barge, clinical nutritionist of @livingwithrosie, author of Conscious Cocktails for the 101 on this inner beauty booster.

Collagen, derived from the Greek word kolla meaning ‘glue’, is the single most common protein that exists in our bodies and is packed full of proline and glycine which our body uses to repair and maintain tendons, joints and bones as well as the structural integrity of our skin. But like most good things, our collagen doesn’t last forever – it declines around 1% every year from our twenties and approaching menopause, declines at up to 30%, Shannon tells us. And to this we owe the hallmarks of ageing: weaker bones and less firm skin. 

@theroject

“The majority of collagen in our bodies exists as types 1 , 2  and 3, each with a different role; Type 1 is most abundant and is stronger than steel on a gram-for-gram basis, helping to keep skin elastic and heal wounds. Type 3 collagen is the ‘scaffolding’ of our skin and organs, plus, forms tissues and blood vessels. Paired with type 1 collagen in formulations, skin is kept plump whereas type 2 helps build cartilage and can be used to boost joint health.” Her tip? Whatever your type, spike your coffee or smoothies with collagen. 

Nail your healthy diet and lifestyle, and then include supplements, she says. Leading by example, Shannon boosts her natural collagen production with Vitamin A-rich foods (sweet potatoes, spinach,  carrots) to Vitamin C-rich foods (lemons, grapefruit, broccoli, tomato), Copper-rich foods (shellfish, organ meats, dark choc, almonds and pepper), foods rich in the phytonutrient Anthocyanidin (blueberries and blackberries) and even bone broth which is rich in amino acids and hyaluronic acid. “Like diet and exercise, you will always see the best results when used together.” 

Collagen supports so many crucial parts of our bodies, “the digestive system, teeth, cornea, blood vessels and more,” Shannon explains. Thanks to her ‘inside-out’ beauty mantra and way of eating, Shannon doesn’t see the need for needles. She uses wholefoods plus beauty supplements like collagen to help her cells repair. “My goal is to have the best skin I’ve had since my early 20s. No needles required!” 
Clinically, she’s seen collagen supplementation yield smoother skin and stronger nails, by far. Yet it comes with a caveat: “it's impossible to give a blanket statement recommending it for everyone”. 

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Like all health foods, collagen supplements aren’t equal. Our clinical nutritionist chooses brands with free-range, organic, and antibiotic-free sources and prefers hydrolyzed collagen for it’s bioavailability. If you’re vegan, try collagen builders which deliver ingredients your body needs to genetically engineer its own collagen from the inside. While this means is alternative to traditional bovine, chicken or marine collagen, it lacks sufficient research to substantiate its safety, Shannon says.

Do we need to take protein powder too? “The distinction between collagen and protein lies in their amino acid profiles, which have different functions.” Want to grow muscles, recover faster from your workouts? Choose protein powder. But building youthful skin, strong nails, luscious locks and healthy bones and joints require collagen,  Shannon clarifies.

While the science behind collagen supplementation is promising in all realms from wound healing to hydration and ageing, according to the Journal of Drugs In Dermatology, topical collagen creams don’t achieve the same results. They’re unable to penetrate deep in the skin due to their molecule size. Pro tip: skincare with vitamins C, E and niacinamide are made up of smaller molecules that can penetrate deeper and keep us looking plump. Vitamin C is vital to collagen production and is even more powerful and protective when paired with Vitamin E in anti-ageing formulations, states the Journal of Dermatology and Endocrinology. Vitamin A also helps stimulate collagen production and enhance our skin’s barrier function. Win!

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Although negative collagen side effects are rare, Shannon recommends consulting your healthcare professional to see if it’s right for you, especially if you’re pregnant or have pre-existing medical conditions. After all, health and beauty, isn’t one size fits all. For all other professional nutrition support, reach out to Shannon directly via her website livingwithrosie.com. 

Leah Teperski
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