The foundation of youthful skin hinges upon one key factor: collagen. It’s what gives elasticity, firmness, resiliency, and suppleness to the skin, which is the body’s largest organ. As we age, however, production of this essential protein decreases and sagging, thinning skin is the result. To maximize stimulation of collagen production and guard it from breakdown, slathering your skin with the usual anti-aging creams and serums isn’t enough.
If you’re a regular CB reader, you know that most of our experts don’t believe in collagen supplements or drinks. Check out our definitive guide to understanding collagen supplements, and why most of them don’t really work. Your body just can’t absorb it. To make your body make more collagen, you need to fill your body with the building blocks of collagen instead. This means eating and supplementing with collagen-producing ingredients. And of course, avoiding foods that break down the collagen you already have.
Great skin starts on the plate. “Just as your other organs react to the consequences of what you eat, so does your skin,” says Jessica Katz, a nutritionist based in New York City. Sugar has been cited in a recent study as causing collagen to become almost irreparable by cross-linking fibers. Prevention is key, and thus a diet low in sugars and high in colorful fruits and vegetables helps protect the skin. “Avoid refined sugars and refined carbs, as well as fried foods,” she advises.
“When my clients look totally radiant, I look at their food diaries, and I see a high consumption of plant-based, healthy foods.” Fruits and vegetables make the most impact: “The high water content of fruits and veggies is very hydrating and prevents your skin from looking dull and slack,” Jessica explains.
We put together a list of the best collagen-boosting foods as well as the supplements you can take to help trigger your body’s collagen production. (Hint: most of these supplements don’t actually contain collagen.)
WHAT TO EAT
Have plenty of vitamin C-rich fruits and veggies.
Besides its well known immune-boosting benefits, vitamin C also has beauty benefits. “It neutralizes skin-damaging free radicals which cause collagen breakdown and aging,” Jessica explains. Most importantly, it facilitates the production of amino acids that are the major components of collagen. Dark greens like kale, spinach, asparagus, and broccoli, as well as citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, and lemons are all rich in vitamin C.
Eat lean organic protein.
Just like our muscles, collagen needs protein to stay strong. Integral to the production of strong fibrous tissue, collagen and elastin require protein for their production. Lean meats, nuts, and fish are all great sources of protein. For a food that does double duty, egg whites not only contain protein, but are also rich in those crucial collagen building blocks, lysine and proline.
Eat lots and lots of lycopene.
Red vegetables such as beets, red peppers, and tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that acts as a natural sun blocker, protecting skin from the sun and increasing collagen production. While beet soup may not replace your go-to SPF, meals peppered with crimson colored ingredients can help shield you from sagging, sunburned skin. (P.S. Watermelon is a great sweet choice.)
Eating chocolate can firm your skin. Sounds like a dream, right? Fortunately, it’s not a complete fantasy. Cocoa, particularly dark baking chocolate, is high in zinc. This mineral repairs damaged cells, protects collagen and elastin, and reduces inflammation, aiding in the collagen-production process. Non-dessert foods rich in zinc include wheat germ, pumpkin and squash seeds, spinach, white mushrooms, and oysters.
WHAT TO SUPPLEMENT WITH
If plates laden with collagen-boosting foods seems like a lot to digest, a supplement may be for you. These pills claim to work from the inside-out to support increased collagen production. However, Jessica stresses to rely first on a natural diet and then supplementing your diet with powders and pills, as opposed to relying solely on pills for glowing skin. “If you just reply on supplements alone, you are missing the synergistic effect of consuming whole foods: the synergy of the various nutrients, fiber, water content, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, proteins, etc. It’s hard to derive comparable benefits from a supplement, but they can be a powerful combination when consumed together,” she tells us. Here are a few formulas that are causing some buzz in nutritional beauty:
GliSODin Brightening Supplement, $85
These nutricosmetic capsules are not marketed as a collagen supplement per say, but they contain the collagen boosting ingredients discussed above. These capsules contain ingredients like SOD, lemon balm, hesperidin, Borage seed oil, CoQ10, and tons and tons of lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant that acts as a natural sun blocker, protecting skin from the sun and increasing collagen production. Meanwhile, the other ingredients help reduce oxidative stress, brighten skin tone, and strengthen the skin’s protective barrier.
Evolution_18 Overnight Vanilla, $48
Swap out your dessert with this sweet treat made with real Tahitian vanilla. Packed with antioxidants and infused with collagen building blocks. This powder has biotin, hyaluronic acid and coconut oil. It will give your hair, skin, and nails a major boost of hydration. It also contains magnesium, which melts away stress and primes you for a good night’s rest.
Reserveage Nutrition Collagen Booster, $30
These capsules are also filled with collagen boosters. They contain a couple of collagen ceramides (lipids that help retain hydration), hyaluronic acid (natural fluid that adds moisture and volume to the skin), resveratrol (a powerful antioxidant), and chondroitin (a molecule found in connective tissue).
The Beauty Chef Glow Inner Beauty Powder, $70
This daily beauty powder is made with 24 certified-organic, bio-fermented, and probiotic superfoods to support digestive health and collagen synthesis. In a clinical trial, GLOW was reported to enhance skin luminosity, clarity, hydration, and texture.
Read this next
Here are more top collagen-supporting foods that aren’t bone broth.
Plus, take a look at our definitive guide to collagen supplements.
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