Collagen is a protein; it’s the most abundant protein in your body and it’s basically what keeps your body together. So it’s kind of the glue of your body and that’s where the word stems from – the Greek ‘kolla’ meaning glue.
Technically collagen is formed as a triple helix that is made of an amino acid glycine which is mostly proline and hydroxyproline.
Collagen is found in your bones, muscles, tendons, it’s what makes your nails strong and of course your skin. Here we’re most focused on the skin so let’s talk about that.
Collagen in your skin
You’re most likely aware that your skin is your bodies largest organ and it’s made up of 3 layers, the outer layer is your barrier to pathogens and controls your dehydration. The middle layer, or dermis is where you start getting collagen. This layer provides the structural support and strength to your skin and together with elastin the skin’s elasticity, this is also where new collagen is generated. The inner layer also has collagen but is mainly where your fat, sweat glands, blood vessels and other body stuff happens.
As I mentioned it’s the middle layer that produces collagen, it’s actually the fibroblast cells (sounds good doesn’t it, fibroblast) that do this job. When we’re young collagen production is fab so our skin is beautiful, shiny and full – no wrinkles. Once we hit our late 20’s your production of collagen decreases. This is when we get fine lines and wrinkles. Basically that middle layer gets sinkholes – or wrinkles and sagging those things we think of as signs of ageing.
Our genetics play a role in the speed at which we get all those lovely signs of aging and the sun is the other big contributor of collagen breakdown. A high sugar diet and smoking also speed up this process. By the time you’re in your 40’s its and even steeper decline curve!