Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan and Physician Lim Sock Ling
Breaking Down Collagen Benefits for Your Skin and Hair
Published | 5 min read
Collagen impacts skin and hair health. Luckily, simply tweaking your diet can be one of the easiest ways to enjoy collagen benefits.
Maybe you’ve noticed some fine lines around your eyes. Or maybe your hair doesn’t seem as shiny as it once did. Aging also can cause the hair to become thinner and dull. A major building block of skin and hair is collagen. And, as we age, boosting the body’s production of collagen can bring anti-aging benefits. Luckily, simply tweaking your diet can be one of the easiest ways to enjoy collagen benefits.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is an important component of the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and skin. In fact, it is an essential protein your body requires. It also promotes healthy internal organs. Basically, it builds and maintains the structural support systems of the body.
Your body produces collagen naturally. But as we age, collagen production begins to decline, which results in wrinkles, sagging skin, and hyperpigmentation (dark spots on the skin). However, collagen in the body can be increased by adding foods or supplements rich in collagen peptides to your diet.
Traditional Chinese Medicine physician Lim Sock Ling explains the TCM perspective on collagen, “The liver blood, and kidney “essence” promote healthy hair—meaning glossy, thick, and smooth.” TCM draws a correspondence between a lack of collagen in a person’s hair or skin with certain energetic deficiencies in the body. Physician Lim says, “A deficiency of yang in the heart can cause the complexion to appear dull, and a lung qi deficiency may cause the skin to appear dry. The spleen helps to remove dampness from the body, which prevents an accumulation of dampness that can encourage eczema or acne.”
TCM food therapy follows a “strengthening like with like” philosophy, says Physician Lim. Because most collagen is an animal product, it is considered “nourishing to the flesh” in TCM philosophy.
So, what are the benefits of collagen?
Collagen supports healthier skin, bones, hair, and more.
- Improves skin elasticity, moisture, and radiance.
- Strengthens bones and helps to prevent osteoporosis
- Supports the teeth
- Improves joint mobility
- Builds muscles
- Strengthens nails and hair
- Smooths hair
- Supports healthy eyes
Collagen can also help women struggling with symptoms of hormonal changes. Often TCM practitioners recommend collagen for women to help with symptoms of menopause (alleviate obesity in menopause and improve muscle mass during menopause) and endocrine disorders such as PCOS or thyroid conditions (the amino acids in collagen naturally balance methionine and restore the amino acid equilibrium that favors healthy hormonal balance). Some of the collagen benefits for women include firmer, smoother skin and glossier hair.
Physician Lim says individuals who spend a lot of time outdoors, such as athletes, may also appreciate collagen for skin support, as well as muscle and bone strengthening.
Finally, those who are sleep-deprived or sit in front of computer screens for long periods may also benefit from consuming more collagen or taking a collagen supplement as blue light can indirectly cause collagen to break down.
Are you wondering how can you get more collagen benefits? It may be as simple as making a few easy changes to your diet.
Boosting your collagen levels may be as simple as making a few changes to your diet. In fact, there are many foods you can eat to help increase your collagen intake. You can also take supplements to enjoy more collagen benefits.
Research shows that marine-derived collagen (MDC) can be an effective way to get the collagen boost and antioxidants your body needs. To get more MDC in your diet, TCM recommends certain seafood and parts of the fish. These include fish maw, which is the swim bladder from a large fish such as sturgeon, and sea cucumber. For an easier way to include MDC in your diet, you may also want to consider a supplement that contains marine collagen.
TCM practitioners also recommend including more chicken in your diet. Not only does consuming chicken broth or a supplement provide collagen benefits, according to Physician Lim, it can also help replenish health and boost immunity. Chicken is also thought to help encourage collagen production in the body because it contains amino acids required to make collagen.
Eating a moderate number of eggs may help boost collagen levels. This is because eggs contain a B vitamin called choline. The body converts choline into glycine. Glycine is an amino acid that helps with collagen production.
Foods high in vitamin C
Foods high in vitamin C encourage the body to make collagen. Some examples include blueberries, papaya or citrus, and vegetables such as broccoli, leafy greens, and cauliflower. Make sure you’re eating your fruits and veggies!
Physician Lim encourages the consumption of Goji berries to help promote collagen and elastin production, reduce hyperpigmentation, and reduce oxidative stress.
Avocados are nutrient-dense fruits with low sugar content. One of the many nutrients they contain is choline. The body converts choline to an amino acid to help with collagen production. Another good reason to enjoy some avocado toast or guacamole!
TCM health foods
Some TCM health foods with collagen benefits include bird’s nest, white fungus, and peach gum. While not as familiar to most Americans, these collagen-rich health foods tend to be popular in the Asian-Pacific region and are often available in supplement form.
Facial Acupuncture and Collagen Benefits
In addition to adding more collagen to your diet, you may want to consider facial acupuncture, also known as micro-needling. This procedure may encourage collagen synthesis to help smooth the skin.
Micro-needling means an acupuncturist makes many micro-wounds with fine needles to stimulate fibroblast and blood flow to the skin. Note that if you have had a facial Botox treatment, wait at least four weeks before receiving facial acupuncture. And if you have any silicone implants in your face, you should avoid micro-needling altogether. Collagen may be just what you need for smoother skin and thicker hair. But collagen benefits more than your skin and hair. A healthy collagen diet also can help improve your bones, skin, and muscles. And if you’re struggling to get the collagen you need in your diet, consider trying a collagen supplement.
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