Collagen is the term for a group of proteins which play an important role in human connective tissue. These large protein molecules are derived from subunits of tropocollagen. Tropcollagen is an interesting molecule in that its’ molecular structure models its’ physical property of elasticity.
Composed of three intertwined helices, tropocollagen resembles three springs, and these helices are able to stretch and bounce back and hence are equated to skin elasticity by many beauty products.
However, as most products containing collagen are creams, my question is how is the collagen in the cream absorbed into the skin? In order to give the skin increased elasticity, it would need to be absorbed deep into the skin. However, as skin is an effective barrier to small molecules such as water under most conditions, how is it possible that such enormous molecules such as collagen could be absorbed? It seems to me that applying collagen on the skin to make it more “springy” is a little like trying to respring on old bed by throwing a bag of springs on the bedspread.
Some collagen beauty products come in capsule form. So is taking collagen orally likely to improve skin tone? I’m not convinced.
Collagen in the body is assembled from amino acids in our diet, so it is not possible for collagen in the diet to move directly into the skin. Rather, it requires the collagen to be broken down into amino acids and then reassembled into human collagen. This begs two questions.
1) How digestible is collagen? Can the body break it down or does it just pass straight through the body?
2) Do we not get enough of the amino acids required for collagen synthesis in our normal diets anyway?
Beauty products seem to be an area where manufacturers are keen to use “science” to prove how good their products are. However, having watched numerous TV ad’s I am less than impressed. Often when they describe “tests” of their products they make statements such as “9 out of 10 women thought they looked better after 10 days.” Confirmation bias perhaps? If one has just spent a lot of money on a beauty product surely one is going to be looking for a positive result after 10 days? Also, I’ve noticed on various before and after shots there seems to be quite a difference between the lighting used (and possibly even the use of makeup?).
So is collagen the biggest con in the beauty industry? If so, it certainly wouldn’t be the only one. Perhaps someone out there has some information which proves that it does have a positive effect? If so, I’d be interested in hearing about it.