Beauty Is Wellness, In Depth: Collagen

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Eat Pretty, In Depth is a new long-form feature that takes a deep dive into a topic that's important for your beauty and health. If there's a subject you'd like me to explore in depth in the future, contact me at jolene@beautyiswellness.com.

Collagen & Your Beauty

There’s a collagen craze that’s been building in the beauty world for the past several years, and, in all honesty, it’s not something I’ve been too eager to jump on board with. For one, the word collagen is one I associate with images of unnaturally plumped lips or skin, and animal parts that make me squeamish. And collagen shots, gummies, hot chocolate, and tons of other sweet collagen drinks have totally turned me off too. But the truth is that there’s way more to collagen than injectables and collagen-fortified junk food. And more reasons to consider it than just its skin benefits. Let’s explore.

Collagen is an incredibly important and abundant protein in your body; you'll find it in your skin, muscles, tendons, bones, nails, teeth— even blood vessels. The middle layer of your skin, the one that makes up your skin’s bulk and gives strength to that gorgeous outer layer you see, is primarily made up of collagen. There’s no question, you definitely want this stuff in your body as you age! However, as with most great things, we make less of it as the years pass by.

When collagen starts to degrade (due to natural aging, a diet that's not beauty-friendly, stress, smoking, UV damage and general free radical overload), the skin loses its support and strength— and wrinkles, sagging skin, and loss of volume happens. To mask this trend, you could get a temporary injection of collagen into trouble areas (or use it to plump up lips, cheeks, etc.), but there are risks to that route. You could also opt for LED light treatments to stimulate new collagen production, though these treatments can be costly and they work best with continued use. Collagen supplementation in your diet plays the long game by slowing collagen loss and rebuilding collagen to maintain a youthful complexion, at a much more affordable cost, with benefits beyond skin appearance. I’ve been experimenting with collagen and am seeing skin that looks a bit more hydrated (and I’m actually using less facial oil and moisturizer), and I’ve heard raves from clients and friends who added collagen to their diets and saw healthier-looking skin. From what I can tell, those who see the biggest results already have dry skin, or skin that’s showing early wrinkles. Many of the studies done on collagen show a greater improvement in older women, some post-menopausal, with skin that’s on the dry side; so if you fit into any of these categories, you may stand to benefit the most from adding collagen to your body!

So, what/how/when to supplement collagen? Should we reach for that collagen candy after all? How about collagen pills? Powders?

What to look for— a collagen peptide or hydrolyzed collagen formula, and a high-quality source that aligns with your diet.
— Jolene Hart

You have a LOT of choices when it comes to adding collagen into your diet. I have no doubt that these choices will continue to expand rapidly in the years ahead. Just know that some sources of collagen are more proven to be effective than others. At the moment, there’s good evidence that collagen peptides (basically just small proteins that contain a few specific amino acids) improve skin hydration and increase the water absorption capacity of the skin (both of which can lead to a significant visible difference in skin, since better hydrated skin often means plumped, less visible wrinkles), as well as improve skin elasticity. You can readily find collagen peptides in powder form, making it easy to add to smoothies and other foods. Collagen may also improve the appearance of your skin by reducing the depth of visible wrinkles, which is quite exciting for a big range of ages.

Collagen Choices

If you’re an omnivore, you can choose from collagen peptides sourced from cow, pig, fish, eggs, or chicken. Bovine collagen seems to be the easiest to come by in products on the market today, followed by chicken and fish. Full disclosure: I personally don't eat red meat or pork, and haven’t for 25+ years, so bovine or porcine collagen is not something I desire to add into my diet. I haven’t tried these types of collagen to speak to their effects. However, studies done on several of these collagen types are compelling (usually results showing after 4 to 8 weeks of supplementation). Both Verisol, a brand of bovine and porcine collagen, and BioCell, a brand of chicken collagen, are well-studied for their positive skin effects. The brands Vital Proteins and NeoCell offer some of the highest quality collagen peptide powders on the market.

Marine collagen peptides easily penetrate the gastrointestinal wall and through blood circulation are mainly deposited in the skin.
— Jan 2016 study in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity

Lately I’ve been experimenting with marine collagen peptides, as much of the research I’ve found was done with marine collagen and shows that it is quite bioavailable (it appears even more so than bovine or porcine collagen), and is type I collagen, which is the type found abundantly in the skin. I’m a fish-eater, so I feel comfortable with this source. Again, it’s a personal thing. Food is a personal thing. I encourage you to always be very personal with your food choices, and to choose what nourishes and makes you feel best.

Beyond the promise of improved skin hydration and less noticeable wrinkles, one of the benefits that has led me to incorporate collagen into my diet is its ability to heal and seal the gut lining, which is a need that many of us (especially those with skin issues) have. Any food that supports digestive health is a major beauty food in my eyes! For additional gut benefits, bone broth delivers collagen and an array of health-supporting nutrients, and is worth a look if gut health and nourishment is your primary concern. Organic chicken broth is something I have chosen to put into my diet now and then postpartum, and it’s a fantastic source of collagen and beauty minerals that nourish your skin and heal your gut, if needed. Other collagen benefits that have been studied or are being researched include nail and hair strengthening, reducing cellulite, as well as reducing joint pain.

Sadly, collagen does not exist in plants, so there’s no comparable vegan or vegetarian collagen alternative to collagen peptides and bone broth, even though I’ve heard recipes like ‘vegan bone broth’ being touted. I think the idea of vegan bone broth is a great one, as broth is an incredibly nutrient-dense, healing food, but it’s not actually not ‘bone’ broth so choosing it for collagen-building will not yield the same results. For vegans who want to build and preserve collagen, I recommend eating plenty of collagen-building nutrients (see below) from whole foods, filling your plate with antioxidant-rich foods to fight free radical damage to collagen, and cutting down on inflammatory foods like sugar that break down collagen prematurely (this approach is helpful to anyone). There are also a few plant-based collagen-building supplements on the market; like this vegan and gluten-free supplement from Reservage that combines several components of collagen, including vitamin C, amino acids and silica, that may be of interest to vegans and vegetarians.

How Much Collagen do I Need?

One other thing to note about collagen supplementation is serving size. If you’re using collagen, or you intend to, check out how many grams you’re getting in each serving. 2.5 to 5 grams of collagen is a dose range that has been studied often and shown to produce results, whereas I find that brands routinely offer you scoops in the 5 to 15 gram range, and often recommend you taken them multiple times a day. Basically, you can buy a really high-quality collagen product and stretch your money by dialing down the daily serving size— and still see results. Also note that collagen is high in protein, so it may be helpful if you’re looking for beauty-friendly protein sources to add to your diet, and you may also want to cut down slightly on other protein in a smoothie, for example, if you’re going to be adding protein from collagen.

2500 mg of collagen peptides daily increase skin procollagen by 65% and elastin by 18% over an 8-week period.
— 2014 study on Verisol collagen

Another exciting thing to note is that some of the studies done on collagen supplementation show that some of the skin benefits like elasticity and moisture continue for weeks after stopping the collagen supplement. Basically, this could indicate that you’re making a real change to your skin because you’re providing your body with the building blocks it needs to make more, or better, collagen than you were before.

 

Collagen Supportive Nutrition

Regardless of your chosen diet, it helps to fill your meals with components of collagen (like high-quality protein, silicon, sulfur) and the beauty nutrients that support collagen production (like vitamin C and zinc). Here's where to find them:

  • Vitamin C. (strawberries, leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, colorful raw peppers, citrus, kiwi) An essential cofactor in collagen synthesis.
  • Protein. Specifically the amino acids glycine, lysine and proline (pastured eggs, bone broth, legumes). Other top beauty proteins come from plant sources like quinoa, sea vegetables, raw nuts and seeds, hemp and pea protein, lentils and tempeh, as well as animal sources like wild salmon and sardines.
  • Vitamin A. Key for collagen regeneration. (Leafy greens, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, pastured eggs)
  • Lycopene. Supports collagen synthesis. (Tomatoes, watermelon, red peppers, sweet potatoes)
  • Sulfur. An important component of collagen. (Arugula, garlic, cabbage, pastured eggs, and radishes)
  • Silicon. Collagen contains lots of silicon. (Cucumbers, celery, radishes, red cabbage)
  • Zinc. Essential to the collagen formation process. (Pumpkin seeds, cashews and oysters)
  • Manganese. Required for collagen production. (Hazelnuts, teff, amaranth, black and white beans)
  • Copper. Helps develop collagen. (Sunflower seeds, oysters, shiitake mushrooms, almonds, lentils, asparagus)
  • Anthocyanidins. Bioflavonoids that protect and strengthen collagen. (Blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, eggplant, red cabbage, red onions)
  • Omega-3s. Maintain healthy cell membranes. (Flax seed, chia seed, wild salmon, walnuts)
collagen-beauty-nutrition

 

*For collagen recipe inspiration, you can download the free NeoCell & Delicious Living Collagen Kitchen ebook (I contributed the delicious Blueberry Cashew Collagen Smoothie recipe!).

--GIVEAWAY--

To win a 10 g tub of Vital Proteins Marine Collagen AND a 10 g box of Vital Proteins Marine Collagen individual travel-size sticks (both sourced from wild caught red snapper) [a $97 value], Leave a comment on either this post, or my Instagram post featuring these Vital Proteins products by the end of the day on May 3rd. Winner will be chosen at random.

CONGRATULATIONS TO INSTAGRAM USER @Christiineneeeee who won the collagen giveaway!

 

References:

Oral Intake of Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides Reduces Skin Wrinkles and Increases Dermal Matrix Synthesis, 2014.

The Effect of Oral Collagen Peptide Supplementation on Skin Moisture and the Dermal Collagen Network, 2015.

Effects of a Nutritional Supplement Containing Collagen Peptides on Skin Elasticity, Hydration, and Wrinkles, 2015.

Skin Antiaging and Systemic Redox Effects of Supplementation with Marine Collagen Peptides and Plant-Derived Antioxidants, 2016.

Is Coffee a Beauty Food?

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Browsing a popular beauty site, I did a double take at the headline ‘7 Surprising Beauty Benefits of Coffee.’ Coffee— a beauty food? I instantly clicked, wanting to get to the bottom of the claims. You see, coffee— caffeine specifically— is one of the ‘Beauty Betrayers’ named in my book Eat Pretty; it may have well-documented health benefits, but it’s not exactly the beverage that you should be gulping for beauty.

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Get Your Silkiest Skin Ever

Youthful skin is not only wrinkle-free, it’s smooth as silk. And while it might feel effortless to maintain soft cheeks in your younger years, at some point (earlier than we expect!) the natural shedding of our skin cells— an essential process for smooth, glowing skin— begins its decline. Warm weather signals an uptick in our cell turnover (the rate at which our skin cells naturally loosen and fall off, revealing new skin underneath), but that doesn't mean that your skin will always be smooth and glowing in the summer. The sunscreen we’re applying daily to prevent wrinkles can exacerbate textural issues when it mixes with sweat and makeup. The result is a dull, uneven, clogged complexion.

But we’re not stuck with rough. My prescription for your silkiest skin ever is a combo of beauty foods, products and practices to restore the smoothness of your cheeks. This regimen helps even your skin, head to toe, so other problem areas like your shoulders and décolleté will benefit as well.

Get younger-looking skin right now with these four steps:

1.     Boost the skin-smoothing vitamin A in your diet. This multitasking beauty nutrient is essential for balancing the sebum production in our skin, repairing and renewing our cells, and encouraging natural cell turnover. Excellent seasonal sources of vitamin A include greens (dandelion, collards, romaine, kale and spinach are great picks), carrots, cantaloupe, red peppers and peas. Be sure to add some healthy fats to your vitamin A-rich foods to help you absorb the fat-soluble nutrition.  

2.     Reduce inflammation. Lowering aging inflammation is always a good idea for your skin (since it contributes to wrinkles, redness and blemishes), but it’s especially important for maintaining a smooth, happy complexion. Reduce the quantity of inflammatory foods in your diet (I call them the Beauty Betrayers, and you can find a complete list in my book Eat Pretty), like refined sugar and processed foods.

3.     Practice more frequent (but gentle!) manual exfoliation. Using a soft muslin cloth or gentle washcloth to slough off dead cells and stubborn sunscreen can transform the texture of your skin. The trick is to slow down and never tug, rub or pull. Soak your cloth in warm water, wring it out, and use it to wipe your face, along your jawline and down your neck to your collarbone once a day or a few times a week after you cleanse.

4.     Find a scrub or enzyme exfoliant that pairs well with your skin. Some scrubs and alpha hydroxy acids can be harsh on skin, and leave them more susceptible to sunburns. If you have reactive skin, try honey or an enzyme exfoliant formulated for sensitive skin as a gently exfoliating mask. And if your skin can handle a little more intensity, go for a stronger enzyme exfoliant (pineapple, papaya, honey and berries are naturally exfoliating ingredients) or a scrub. Both skin types can also benefit from the use of skin care that contains retinols to increase cell turnover‑ask your dermatologist about those, or look for a gentle, over-the-counter version.

 

Image ©J E Theriot

Eat Pretty: My Second Baby Arrives Today!

Dear readers,

As I write this post, I'm propped against the island in my kitchen, with a 1-month old baby strapped to my chest. My multitasking skills have been put to the test over the past few weeks as I worked, with every free moment, to get the word out about the launch of another baby that I've been working on for over 2 years: Eat Pretty.

Back in the fall of 2011, when I first decided to pitch the idea for a book about the fundamentals of beauty nutrition (brimming with fresh, colorful, delicious recipes that would make any reader want to pack her diet with beautifying foods), I had no idea that it would enter the world at very the same time as my little boy, Jack. I've been through a range of emotions this month, from elation to exhaustion, from extreme stress to overwhelming peace. My little boy was born. And now, the book is here.

I want this book to empower and inspire, to transform the way you view simple daily activities like snacking, sleeping, exercising and caring for your skin, and to give you tools and information that hasn't been made available to you before. The Eat Pretty approach to beauty helped me out of a deep beauty rut, at a time when breakouts, eczema, allergies, digestive issues and weight gain were a daily frustration. I want you to have access to this information too, so you never have to feel stuck, or less than your best.

Even if I haven't been able to make this, the launch day for Eat Pretty, into a blockbuster celebration, there has already been so much amazing feedback and love for this book, and it's allowed me to share it in ways I never expected. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to so many in the beauty and health community, and to so many members of the media who have picked up Eat Pretty, loved the info inside, and chose to share it with others. Your endorsement of the book means more than I can ever express!

I hope you, my readers, will pick up a copy as well, since this book was written for YOU! It's filled with over 200 pages of information that is absolutely essential in understanding your body and beauty— the info inside gives you the tools to look and feel your best by creating a lifestyle that supports you as an individual. Inside, you'll find a book broken down by seasons, with grocery shopping lists,  beauty intentions, and pampering rituals that help you embrace all that nature has to offer you during each season of the year. The book wouldn't be complete without an explanation of the nutritional info that will transform your skin, hair, nails, mood and weight, and chapters that help you connect your digestion, hormone balance, sleep patterns, emotional wellbeing and pH balance to your appearance. It's the information I sought years ago, and couldn't find.

Now it's in one place, in one pretty package.

Thank you for your support of Eat Pretty!

In beauty and health,

Jolene

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Sleep-deprived, makeup free, hair in a messy mommy ponytail— and happy as ever holding my two babies!

Digestive Helper? Testing GoodBelly Probiotic Products

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Digestive health is one of the secrets to great skin, but I'll be honest— not all of my readers and clients are excited about eating probiotic-rich sauerkraut, kimchi and miso. So I'm always on the lookout for tastier ways to boost the healthy bacteria in our gut, and I jumped at the chance to sample a few of GoodBelly's probiotic-packed offerings.

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5 Everyday Dishes with Natural UV Defense

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It’s August, and by now you’ve likely worked your way through a few tubes of natural sunscreen.

But if you really want to get smart about protecting your beauty from sun damage this year, you’ll pack your diet with a few major nutrients that amp up your skin’s natural ability to defend against UV damage, promote healing and reduce the negative effects of the sun.

For natural sun protection from the inside, go for lycopene, beta carotene, vitamins C + E (they’re a power couple when eaten together), and omega 3s. If you think it takes work to get these nutrients in your diet, think again. The following 5 dishes—all common summer foods— deliver a major dose of sun-protective sustenance. They’ll give you extra sun defense (though don’t ditch your sunscreen) that will boost your anti-aging power all summer long.

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Post Your Beauty Food Pics + Win a BIW Coaching Session

 

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Post your beauty foods pictures on the Beauty Is Wellness Facebook page by 10/31/12. I'll pick ONE entrant to receive a personal beauty and health coaching session valued at $250. For everyone else, there's a major discount!

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Zinc: How to Boost This Essential Beauty Mineral

Acne can be caused by poor dietary choices, but there are other, more subtle factors behind persistent skin issues, including a zinc deficiency. Consider that the top sources of dietary zinc come from animal products and it's not a shock that a vegetarian or vegan could be lacking in this essential beauty mineral.

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