If you’ve stepped foot in a beauty store within the last few months, you’ve seen it: the word “collagen” splashed across every other cream, serum, and on countless supplement pills and powders. Skincare enthusiasts have become obsessed with collagen for a solid reason: this protein found in our tissues and organs is the key to keeping our skin supple and firm.
But collagen isn’t always kind. It’s an ephemeral visitor that begins to bid farewell beginning as early as our 20s. If you’ve started noticing hollowness in your cheeks or tear troughs and fine lines on the delicate, thin skin under your eyes, those are all typical signs of a slow down in collagen production.
Of course, we don’t take any loss of youth lying down these days, which is why products as disparate as drugstore cleansers and $300 moisturizers are making similar promises: restoring collagen in your skin. If a moisturizer, procedure, or smoothie truly can reduce signs of aging, it’s worth its price tag—and if it’s a marketing gimmick or a far-fetched goal, we’re here to tell you so you can blow your money on something far more fabulous.
We asked experts to separate collagen fact from fiction. Here are all of the ways you can rebuild collage in your skin—and a few that aren’t going to do the trick.
CREAMS AND SERUMS
Is there any point at all in stocking up on incredible skin creams and serums, or should we save all our pennies for lasers and professional treatments? When it comes to creating new and healthy collagen, maintaining a strict skin care regimen can increase skin turnover and regeneration, elasticity, and suppleness, Liotta says. It can also slow the degradation of the skin’s collagen and elastin—but beware of products that make lofty collagen claims. Products will charge you an arm and a leg for ingredients that sound lovely but aren’t clinically effective.
“Use sunscreens to block or reduce skin exposure to UV radiation, retinoids in order to inhibit collagenase synthesis [collagenase is the enzyme that breaks down collagen] and to promote collagen production, and anti-oxidants to reduce and neutralize free radicals,” Liotta says. “Use antioxidants, such as vitamins C, B3, and E, polyphenols and flavonoids, to reduce collagen degradation by reducing the concentration of free radicals in the tissues. Then use cell regulators, such as retinols, peptides and growth factors, to act directly on the collagen metabolism and stimulate the production of collagen and elastic fibers.”
ROC Retinol Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, $24.99, ulta.com.