How Can I Increase Collagen Production?

I read that your skin stops naturally producing collagen when you are 25.  Is that true?  Is there any way to get your skin to continue producing collagen or increase collagen production as you age?

Doctor Answers 15

Increasing collagen production

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Hopefully, I will not be the only dermatologist to answer this question.
First, although you did not ask this directly, you must first try to prevent your collagen's degradation. It is a redundancy, but redundancies are true: wear a good sun screen. Put a sunscreen next to your toothbrush. The youthfulness of your skin is just as important as the whiteness of your teeth. I like Aveeno with Feverfew. Aveeno uses the same helioplex technology as Neutragena and Feverfew is the strongest anti-oxidant around. Anthelios SX (with Mexoryl, the first new sunscreen product in years).
Revale is terrific as it protects against UVB (unpublished article) and the Day Cream has a sunscreen. Avoid sun exposure between 10:00 - 3:00. Wear sunglasses to preserve the delicate collagen around the eyes.
Also, do not smoke. Archives of Dermatology Dec 2007 showed identical twins, who lived near each other and both worked as delivery truck drivers. One smoked heavily the other was a non-smoker: amazing difference.
In a recent study in our literature, water consumption did nothing to collagen either way. Good sleeping habits may help. Sleep on your stomach by the way to prevent dynamic wrinkles. This tip has nothing to do with collagen though.
To answer some of the plastic surgeon's questions above: there is both a degradation of collagen and a decrease in the formation of new collagen. The sun and various toxins (pollution) form reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as superoxide anion, peroxides, and singlet oxygen (oxidants.) These oxidants damage DNA, cell membranes and most importantly collagen fibers. These reactive oxygen species increase matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), which breaks down collagen.
Many of us dermatologists feel that there is an inflammatory process taking place and anti-inflammatory agents are helpful along with antioxidants. This is controversial.
Myself, I am in the above school of thought and feel antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents are both beneficial. Therefore, I recommend orally CoffeeBerry, Resveratrol, Pynogenol, Acai, green tea, Vitamin C (get the Ascorbyl Palmitate version), and Nicomide. These are all potent antioxidants.
An antioxidant is nothing more than a reducing agent (if you can remember your high school chemistry). The above ROS are all greedingly and aggressively looking for an electron. They try to grab one from the DNA or collagen. The antioxidant is a generous fellow and gladly gives one up, calming the ROS down and stabilizing the situation.
I also believe that Oracea, Doxycycline 40 mg. a day, does well. In animal studies it substantially decreases the amount of MMP's.
Topically: I agree with the above that Retin A is tried and true. I like Tazarac better. Our dermatology literature shows that Tazarac works a little better than Retin A. Differin o.3 has yet to be studied in a comparative trial.
OTC Retinol is not bad either. ROC makes a good and fairly stable one. The alpha-hydroxy acids are similarly tried and true, glycolic acid being the best. Neo-strata is a great brand.
Also, I must partially disagree with my colleagues above; While there is a lot of hype to other topicals, and skepticism is healthy here, I feel that dermatopharmacology has improved greatly and many of the ingredients, especially peptides and hyaluronic acid, are small enough molecules and can penetrate the epidermis. Without a lengthy discourse on peptides, I feel the carrier peptides which bring zinc and copper into the dermis can increase collagen production (Neova and Osmotics higher priced Neutrogena's Visably Firm other end). Also the signaling peptides (when collagen breaks it spurs collagen production, hence the value of IPL and laser treatments; Collagen fragments are peptides; a signaling peptide signals the fibroblast to make more collagen!) can cause you to make collagen.
The much touted Strivectin (Better Than Botox...come on give me a break!) has Matrixyl, a signaling peptide as does the far cheaper Oil of Olay Regenerist. Hyaluronic acid products, if they are micronized (broken into molecular sized fragments), can penetrate the skin. They sit on top of the skin and make a great moisturizer and Bionect and Hylira are absorbed into the dermis and fill in your ground substance, the stuff that collagen baths in.
Agree with the above physicians that genetics are important. Eventually, we will figure out the molecular reasons behind that. Nonetheless, even though you have dealt certain cards, you got to play them right. Maybe, I've been the fellow behind you at the table whispering whether to fold or draw.
I hope this helps and has not been confusing to you.

Virginia Beach Dermatologist

Collagen production

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Collagen is a structural protein and is a principal component in skin, cartilage and connective tissue. There are several subtypes of collagen and each part of your body can have a different mixture of these collagen subtypes.
Your body will continue to produce collagen throughout your life. Collagen and other proteins like elastin are components of youthful skin. There can be decreased collagen content in older skin in comparison to younger skin. It is not completely clear if that is completely secondary to decreased production or a change in the rate of degradation.
While there are certain treatments that increase collagen production (Dr. Shafer has mentioned Retin A) there is not a global product that will completely restore the balance of structural proteins to the content younger skin had. In addition, even prescription products may not increase collagen production in the entire thickness of the dermis.
In addition - be cautious - there is a significant amount of marketing around "increased collagen production" - usually non-prescription products cannot effectively achieve this.
I hope this helps!

When you ask for collagen, you are truly asking to maintain skin thickness.

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As you age the following things take place in your skin:
  1. The amount of collagen produced is diminished and the type of collagen changes from a more youthful type of collagen to an older type of collagen. The production of collagen never ends.
  2. The Elastin in your skin decreases in content as well as production. But it also does not completely stop being produced.
  3. The Melanin granules (color/pigment in your skin) in the upper layers of your skin coalesce into pocket, we call them freckles, sunspots or brown spots.
  4. The cells of the skin age and more dead layers of skin pile up in the upper layers of the skin.
  5. Skin cancer risks go up because of environmental influenced - sun, pollution.
What you can do to correct these problems:
  1. Retin-A - increases collagen production, slows the loss of elastin, decreases the production of metalloproteases, cause the dispersion of melanin granules, reduces the rate of topical skin cancers, exfoliates the dead skin layers and improves acne as well. the down side to retin-a is complinace - you have to start at a low concentration and move to the highest concentration as your skin allows.
  2. Hydroquinone - Bleaches the sunspots and retards the production of melanin.
  3. Sunblock- Zinc Oxide sunblock is the best. I sell EltaMD in my practice.
  4. Alpha Hydroxy acid- does many of the same things as retin-a but not as effective. Can be used as a lunch hour peel at the doctors office - very effective at that dose. Better then microdermabrasion of photo facials.
  5. Anti-oxidants - Cellex-C, Prevage or Revale are the best available.
Go see a doctor who will help coordinate this skin care regimen.

Robert M. Freund, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 34 reviews

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Aging, Collagen Production and HYPE

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Collagen has many function but is essentially a space occupying grout-like material between cells. As we get older, the PROPORTION of different types of Collagen in and under our skin as well as the quantity of total collagen change. Some of the collagen is changeable but a lot of it, despite everything you read out there, is NOT.

The same cells producing collagen, fibroblasts, ALSO produce a LOT of collagen when they lay down scar tissue, whose major component is collagen.

Whenever someone glowingly encourages you to use PRODUCT X which Stimulates fibroblasts (ie scar cells) to deposit collagen, in effect they are saying, that Product X causes an injury to the skin which cases fibroblast scar cells to react and produce a mild, scar-like collagen formation. With time, this collagen is either broken down completely or is replaced with other mature collagen. Injury = Collagen deposition. Greater injury = greater Collagen deposition = scar tissue. The key with all such treatments is to not over-do the injury to prevent scar formation.

Either way, it is always better to understand the science behind the hype and take care not to hurt yourself with such products.

Good Luck.

Dr. P. Aldea

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon

Don't Get Caught Up In This

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While we know that the skin decreases collagen production as we age, we are not sure how items solely increasing collagen production or soft tissue fillers will fare over time. As another doctor mentioned, there are multiple types of collagen present in different tissues. This is not a simple supplementation situation.
I am more of a believer in therapies with which we have experience. Retin A has been around for decades and is now in generic form. It is a good skin conditioner with multiple beneficial effects including an increase in collagen production. Avoiding sun exposure and wearing sun screen is simple and effective.
Keep it simple here.

John P. Di Saia, MD
Orange Plastic Surgeon

Collagen and anti-aging treatments

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While I think the reviews of the other physicians is excellent, there is one additional article to reference. The August 19, 2008 issue of the New York Times has an article referencing a review in The Archives of Dermatology.

The articles states: "A recent review in The Archives of Dermatology concludes that three anti-aging treatments are proven clinically effective: the topical application of retinol; carbon dioxide laser resurfacing; and injection of hyaluronic acid, a moisture-retaining acid that occurs naturally in the skin. Each depends on the same mechanism, the interaction of skin cells called fibroblasts with the collagen they produce."

D.J. Verret, MD
Dallas Facial Plastic Surgeon


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KTLamb, I feel one of the easiest and least expensive ways to stimulate collagen synthesis in your skin is Retin-A. Retin-A is a form of Vitamin A which comes in creams and gels.
Continued daily treatment leads to maintenance of collagen and stimulates new collagen and elastin in your dermis. In combination with good skin hygiene, good nutrition and wearing SPF you can help keep your skin healthy.

Exercise skin to produce collagen

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One sure way to produce collagen is to exercise the skin. By exercising the skin, we mean to exfoliate. By exfoliating, removing the surface layer of dead cells, the skin is shocked into production of new cells which helps stimulate new collagen production.
We make the analogy of going to the gym. When you work out your muscles they are able to regenerate and come back stronger and more toned than before. The same holds true for the skin. Exfoliate the skin to keep your skin in shape and producing new collagen.
Retin A, Glycolic Acid products, microdermabrasion and manual facial scrubs are all good ways to exfoliate the skin.

Harold J. Kaplan, MD
Los Angeles Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.4 out of 5 stars 7 reviews

Good skin care and Retin-A

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I agree with my colleagues below- Retin-A as part of a good, prescription level skin care program supervised by your Board Certified Plastic Surgeon or Dermatologist is a great start. Avoiding sun-worship and eating healthy/drinking lots of water are requisite to good skin health as well. Once you've followed these guidelines, further improvement is possible through skin resurfacing techniques. In my practice I use the Mixto SX laser for skin resurfacing (but many good options exist) and have had great (often amazing) success improving the health and appearance of my patients skin, beyond what Retin-A and skin care had done. Over 3-4 months, the laser treatment leads to increased collagen production with improved firmness and tightness of the skin. Start with the basics- avoid the sun, drink lots of water, and consider a physician guided skin care program. Then, if you want more improvement ask about a laser like the Mixto.

Quality skin care is extremely important

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I agree with Dr. Williams' statement that your body will continue to produce collagen all your life, but as you get older, the amount of collagen produce will decrease. It is true that the older you get, the thinner your skin becomes. No one can really say definitively that collagen production slows at age 25. Rather, I believe that the way a person ages is largely dependent upon genetics. Look at the skin quality of the elder people in your family and you'll have somewhat of an idea of the way you'll age. However, I believe that it is never too late to improve your skin. 70% of improvement often is a result of your daily skin care regimen.
My practice offers products which have very effective anti-aging treatment ingredients, such as the NIA 24 skin care line. Products in this line are clinically shown to improve skin tone and texture. At the risk of sounding TOO technical, one of the effective ingredients in NIA 24's products is the 5% Pro-Niacin, which is a very potent anti-oxidant agent. This ingredient allows for conversion of Nicotinic Acid, which plays a central role in energy metabolism. This process helps repair skin damage and promotes skin cell generation. Obtaining a great skin care line and a consistent skin care regimen will help your skin remain youthful and healthy. I'd recommend that you visit a board certified physician to develop a skin care plan that incorporate medical grade products. Thank you for your question!

Stephen A. Goldstein, MD
Englewood Plastic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.