Photo by Latrach Med Jamil on Unsplash

These Are Our Collagen Levels From Our 20’s Through to Our 50’s

The findings are scary, but there are many ways we can encourage it's natural production

Words by
Libby Babet
Expert in
Fitness trainer, author and speaker

After the age of 20, the dermis layer produces 1% less collagen each year. It is a natural ageing process known as intrinsic ageing. The collagen and elastin fibres become thicker and looser as we age, which means our skin is less elastic, which eventually causes wrinkling and sagging.

In our twenties, the skin’s exfoliation process decreases by 28%. This means our dead skin cells stick together for longer periods of time.

In our thirties, the transfer of moisture from the dermis to the epidermis is slowed and fat cells begin to shrink. These effects make the skin look dull and thin.

In our forties, collagen has been reduced significantly – meaning the collagen and elastin fibres break, losing their elasticity in the process.

Finally, in our fifties, the skin becomes dry and is easily bruised as the sebaceous glands (which produce oil) have decreased in size. In women, menopause also decreases oestrogen levels, leaving the skin drier and less toned.

So, what can we do to help boost collagen levels you ask? Let’s be honest…you can spend thousands of dollars on anti-wrinkle injections, fillers, facelifts and all sorts of cosmetic treatments but if your skin is dull, dry and full of tiny lines, you are probably just wasting your money. If you take good care of your skin from inside out, you might not need any other treatments and you can definitely extend the time between treatments thus saving lots of money in the long run.

1. Get the Right Dose of Sun Exposure and Sun Protection

fat cells triggered by light metabolism
Image: Unsplash

Excessive sun exposure is the number one reason for skin damage and premature skin ageing as it literally destroys the collagen in your skin. However, applying 50+ sunblock and staying in the sun all day is not the way to go and neither is locking yourself indoors like a vampire and never letting a sunray touch your skin. As with most things in life, you need a balance when it comes to sun exposure and sun protection.

We need daily sun exposure to activating vitamin D in our body. Vitamin D is a potent antioxidant, crucial in the fight against fine lines and wrinkles. A lack of vitamin D can make existing wrinkles become much deeper and more visible, and it can also lead to developing new wrinkles at a much quicker rate. If you never expose your skin to the sun without a sunscreen, you will likely suffer from lack of vitamin D. Not to mention that most sunscreens are full of harsh skin-destroying chemicals.

The best way to go about it is to expose your skin and eyes to the sun daily without any sunscreen or sunnies. The best is to do it in the morning to avoid sunburn. Apply sunscreen during the day and steer away from sunbaking sessions, especially in the middle of the day during summer.

2. Hydrate

Drinking water to increase collagen levels
Photo by Julia Zolotova on Unsplash

Healthy skin contains between 10-20% water. Skin dehydration (anything less than 10%) is one of the main reasons for premature skin ageing and sensitivity. In this day and age, you will need around 3 litres of water every day to keep hydrated, to eliminate toxins and to keep your metabolism working optimally. You will need even more if exercising in hot conditions.

Drink water at room temperature and add a little bit of pink salt to it. You can also add fresh lemon or lime or frozen fruits to make it more palatable. Keep in mind that your body can only assimilate 500ml of water per hour or up to 1L in the most extreme heat conditions and exercise effort. Don’t wait until you are very thirsty; that’s a sign of dehydration. You need to SIP throughout the day and throughout the session. Sculling down one litre of water in one go will just end up with frequent bathroom visits instead of hydrating you adequately. To make your water intake tracking simple, get a 1.5L bottle and aim to finish two of them per day. It’s visual and you will not have to remember how many glasses of water you had. Two bottles gradually throughout the day. Easy-peasy.

3. Eat Collagen-containing foods

Collagen beauty snack
Image: Beautyfood

Collagen is the main structural protein in our skin. As we age, we produce less and break down more, which causes loss of volume and wrinkles. This process starts after 20! While you can’t completely stop it, you can significantly slow it down by eating foods that contain collagen and collagen synthesis co-factors. You don’t need to spend all your money on expensive collagen supplements either if you can incorporate collagen-containing foods in your daily diet.
Our top collagen dish is a bone-broth based vegetable soup with some legumes. This is because the co-factors of collagen production are vitamin C, zinc and copper. You get the collagen and zinc from the broth and the copper and vitamin C from veggies and legumes.

If you are not a fan of bone broth, you can have a collagen snack such as the Beauty Food Collagen Cookie or a supplement. Just make sure it has at least 10g of collagen per serving and no added crap such as sugar, preservative, fillers and artificial flavouring. And keep in mind that supplements are meant to supplement a healthy diet and not to replace meals or undo the damage from a junk food diet.

4. Change the Way You Socialize

Alcohol decreases collagen levels
Photo by Lefteris kallergis on Unsplash

Sorry to be a party pooper but drinking alcohol and sugary cocktails, staying up until the wee hours and eating party food are definitely going to make your skin dry and wrinkly, especially if you are 30+. Alcohol makes you dehydrated and it also damages the collagen in your skin, as much as sugar does. Lack of night sleep robs you of skin rejuvenation time (they call it beauty sleep for a reason) and party food usually contains all skin enemies – sugar, preservatives, cheap vegetable oils and trans fats. I’m not saying you can never ever party again, just make it a treat instead of a regular part of your life. And if you do go out, have a healthy dinner before you go instead of stuffing your face with party food, drink lots of water throughout the night (and the next day) and choose alcoholic drinks that are low in sugar such as vodka & soda, tequila and a glass of good quality champagne (not sparkling wine).

5. Give Your Skin Some Love and Affection

9 Night Time Skin Care Tips That Actually Work
Image: They Call Her Alfie

Take care of your skin inside out. Even if you address all previous points, you still need to take care of your skin from outside. Your skin regimen does not have to be expensive or time-consuming but it needs to happen…every day! What’s the best daily skin regimen? The one you actually execute and stick to! Using chemical skincare products, going to bed with makeup on or even just not cleansing your skin properly every night and forgetting to moisturize are the top three culprits in skin dullness and premature ageing. You don’t need to break the bank to give your skin what it needs from outside. There are many amazing natural skincare brands on the market that are even less costly than crappy supermarket products laden with chemicals. All you need is a cleanser, moisturizer and night cream. Use all three of them DAY and NIGHT. Massaging your face and neck every day while making funny faces in the mirror will further help to keep the skin on your face firm and youthful.

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