If less-than-supple skin has got you down, don't stress. While you may not be able to turn back the clock, you can make sure your skin stays firm and bouncy (AKA amazingly youthful). The secret? The right collagen-boosting products and procedures. More on the science part of things in a minute, but for now, remember that more collagen equals fewer wrinkles. Ahead, seven different ways to get it.
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Remind me, what is collagen?
Let's start with a quick science lesson. Simply put, "Collagen is a protein that makes up most of the skin's structure," explains
Dr. Jennifer MacGregor, M.D., a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City. "It gives it strength, thickness, and that youthful smoothness." Think of it as forming the foundation of the skin, keeping it firm and supple. You'll often hear it mentioned along with elastin, another important protein, which gives skin elasticity and the ability to stretch.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but natural enzymes in your body are constantly breaking down collagen. There's also a whole of host of environmental and lifestyle factors -- UV exposure, pollution, smoking -- that accelerate that breakdown. As the collagen degrades, you end up with wrinkles. Luckily, your body is simultaneously producing new collagen, and the right topicals and treatments can help stimulate this production and/or preserve the collagen that's already there, points out MacGregor. Without further ado, these are the seven standouts that can help.
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Retinoids, a class of vitamin-A derivatives, easily get the gold star for their tried-and-true anti-aging benefits. "Topical retinoids have the strongest and best evidence for slowing down collagen breakdown in many different ways," says MacGregor. And as if that weren't enough, they also stimulate the production of new collagen, she adds. Since the potent ingredient does have some potentially irritating side-effects (redness, dryness, flaking), be sure to apply only a pea-size drop of any retinoid-containing product on your entire face. You can also try using it every other night to help minimize irritation. FYI, the "night" part is important; the sun inactivates the ingredient, so reserve these products solely for your evening regimen.
"Peptides are the individual building blocks that link up to create protein," explains MacGregor. As you recall, collagen is a protein, so, in theory, more peptides equal more collagen. There's no shortage of different types of peptides out there, all of which do have varying degrees of efficacy, MacGregor notes. Still, the nice thing is that they're relatively well-tolerated in almost all skin types, and, unlike retinoids, are safe to use during pregnancy (though of course check with your doctor).