How Does Collagen Work?

Posted by Azadeh Shirazi MD on

In a world obsessed with both youthful appearances and good health, understanding the secret ingredient that holds the key to both is essential: collagen. It comes in many forms; supplements, creams, serums, and can be naturally produced in the body. There is a lot of debate about collagen and which products or services help to produce more. So let's dive in and cover the facts. Be sure to check out the More Than A Pretty Face Podcast over this topic for more in depth information!

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is one of the most abundant fibrous proteins in the human body. In simple terms, collagen provides structural support, strength, and elasticity to many tissues and organs, including our skin. Your body makes collagen from the nutrients you absorb, such as Vitamin C, Copper, and Zinc. Although these can be found in food, as your body ages, it struggles to ingest nutrients and process them into collagen. 

How Does Collagen Help Your Skin?

Collagen plays a large role in helping your skin maintain firmness and elasticity. It helps stimulate new tissue growth, making new skin creates this youthful appearance. Since your skin is full of all the nutrients it needs, it also appears plump and firm. However, our collagen production naturally decreases with age, causing thinner skin. This ultimately results in wrinkles, sagging, and loss of volume.

Which Products And Treatments Really Work?

Now that we understand why and how collagen is produced for our skin, let’s do a little myth vs. fact checking on what products and treatments are beneficial. 


  • Skincare Products
    • Retinol: Retinols encourage healthy skin cell turnover. They exfoliate dead skin cells and promote the growth of new, healthy skin cells. This process supports the production of collagen and helps improve skin texture and appearance. One of my favorite products is Lift and Renew, an all-trans retinol and bakuchiol serum. Great for those who cannot tolerate normal retinol. 
    • Vitamin C: an antioxidant that helps protect collagen from damage caused by harmful free radicals. By protecting collagen from free radicals, vitamin C’s like Glow Serum and illumiC help preserve its integrity and prevent premature aging.
    • SPF: although SPF cannot generate new collagen, it helps protects the collagen from being degraded harmful UV Rays. SPF like HydratintBB SPF33 and  UV Clear Defense SPF 45, contains Zinc which protects your collagen from harmful sun damage, to maintain that youthful, firm skin.
  • Treatments: there are alot of treatments that can be great for collagen stimulation as they insight a healing response. As the body starts the healing process, it stimulates the production of new collagen and elastin. These treatments ultimately improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and scars, allow skincare products to penetrate more deeply, and increases blood circulation. A few great collagen stimulation treatments include
    • Microneedling
    • Lasers
    • Chemical Peels


  • Supplements: Supplements can help give your body the building blocks to make collagen, the nutrients, however consuming c collagen doesn't  mean it goes directly to your skin. Your body has to make collagen. The collagen in supplements includes short chain amino acids, the proteins that make up pieces of the collagen molecule. Once absorbed, your body will determine where it is most needed. It’s also been noted that if you’re already eating a healthy diet, this won’t help create any more collagen than your body is already making.
  • Topical Collagen Creams: Applying collagen creams or lotions to the skin is often marketed as a way to boost collagen production. However, collagen molecules cannot effectively penetrate the skin because they are too large.

Next time you’re looking for a collagen boost, remember to check the ingredient list carefully. Be cautious of products that make exaggerated claims about generating collagen. Consider keeping this article as a valuable resource to understand collagen production better!

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Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, MD is a Board-Certified Dermatologist.

Specializing in medical, surgical, and cosmetic dermatology, Dr. Shirazi received her undergraduate and medical degrees from the University Of Kentucky College of Medicine. After doing a Research Fellowship at Harvard Medical School at the Wellman Center for Photomedicine, she completed her residency training in Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in addition to completing her training in dermatology and cosmetic surgery at the University of California San Diego.

She has received multiple research scholarships from iconic institutions including Harvard University and the University Of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and has several peer-reviewed publications to her name.