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.
As we age, and especially during menopause, our bodies lose estrogen. This important hormone serves several functions—one of which is that it prevents a decrease in skin collagen and can keep your skin more lax and younger-looking.
“Studies have shown that topical and systemic estrogen therapy can increase the skin collagen content and therefore maintain skin thickness (though hormone replacement therapy is controversial for a number of reasons, and not necessarily recommended),” Liotta says. “Sebum levels are higher in postmenopausal women receiving hormone replacement therapy. Skin wrinkling also may benefit from estrogen as a result of the effects of the hormone on the elastic fibers and collagen.”
Some of the side effects of hormone replacement therapy include nausea, headaches, leg cramps, and vaginal bleeding. It’s important to discuss this option with a doctor to decide if it’s right for you.