How to boost collagen in your face by changing your diet

A daily cup of bone broth is one way to increase collagen, according to experts
A daily cup of bone broth is one way to increase collagen, according to experts - RUSS ROHDE

Collagen is one of the most common proteins that exists in our bodies. It provides a framework for almost everything, including healthy skin, hair, nails, bones, muscles, even teeth and eyes. As we age, our collagen level declines, falling at roughly 1.5 per cent a year for both men and women (although when women hit menopause their collagen levels fall more steeply). Declining collagen levels can mean everything from thinning hair and more wrinkled skin, to brittle nails and slower muscle recovery.

Robust collagen, not surprisingly, is seen as the holy grail of beauty, with many of us prepared to go to great lengths for bouncy skin and a supple body. Hence the booming market in collagen supplements. But some are inevitably prepared to go further than others in their quest for vitality.

Luton Town Footballer Andros Townsend once said he thinks it’s his daily intake of five or six chicken feet – steamed for 20 minutes in the microwave – every night to maintain his collagen levels, that keeps him spritely (as well as hyperbaric chambers and red-light therapy).

Nutritional therapist Sonia Wahlroos applauds the protein intake from the chicken feet, but says: “Even though chicken feet are high in collagen, eating them doesn’t mean this converts to collagen in the body. Collagen synthesis isn’t really just a simple question of eating more protein or a product containing collagen because it gets broken down into amino acids in the stomach. So yes, a diet high in protein will contribute to collagen production, but in order to boost your collagen levels your diet must also be rich in antioxidants, in particular vitamin C, as well as a good range of fruit and vegetables. The regularity is good though, as is a daily top up of certain food groups.”

The interesting thing about collagen is that once you are producing more of it, it causes a domino effect. The more collagen you have, the more the body is able to produce. Wahlroos is on the fence about collagen supplements, saying that she will always favour food over supplements, as the absorption levels of nutrients is always better. Many of her clients decide to take them, but she says a healthy diet comes first.

What about collagen supplements?

Consultant dermatologist Dr Ophelia Veraitch is less convinced that ingesting collagen either in supplement form or in foods will have much of an effect on our skin. “I don’t know any dermatologist who will say that buying expensive collagen supplements will make much of a difference to skin volume and appearance. It’s more important to make sure you’re protecting your skin from UV rays every day by wearing an SPF.”

There are some in-clinic treatments you can do such as Thermage FLX, a particularly effective radio frequency treatment either on its own or combined with a Fraxel Laser which will stimulate collagen production and have significant anti-ageing results. The results can last for up to 18 months and some patients have likened it to a mini face lift.

Also, the newer polynucleotide injections using fish-derived DNA have been found to stimulate the production of collagen and in some cases elastin, so they too can be effective.

Here are five ways to boost your collagen levels naturally:

1. Vitamin C

Pupinder Ghatora, a pharmacist and the founder of Ingenious Collagen supplements, says a natural way to boost collagen is to up your daily intake of vitamin C. “Studies have shown that vitamin C is essential for replenishing collagen and helping our blood clotting systems. As well as citrus fruits, look for any orange vegetables – pumpkins and sweet potatoes at this time of year are good sources of vitamin C.”

Experts say your diet must be rich in antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, to boost collagen levels
Experts say your diet must be rich in antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, to boost collagen levels - Yana Iskayeva

2. Bone broth

A daily cup of bone broth may be a more palatable option than chicken feet for boosting collagen, says Wahlroos, providing you are also including vitamin C in your diet. “Bone broth is naturally high in collagen. You don’t have to go to the trouble of making it yourself as there are plenty of good ones available off the shelf, but even a simple broth made out of a chicken carcass, peppers, leeks, celery and carrots is effective and tasty.”

3. Eggs

Wahlroos is also a fan of protein of eggs for boosting collagen. “Eggs are a great source of protein. A two-egg omelette with a leafy salad and some peppers is one of my go-to lunches for protein and vitamin C,” she says.

4. Avoid too much sugar

Ghatora says it’s also important to avoid certain foods as they destroy collagen; sugar is one of the worst offenders. “There are two types of sugar. There is fructose sugar in fresh fruit and vegetables, which is easy for the body to process, and then there is glucose sugar also known as refined sugar, which can be more damaging to the body. A clinical study in 1992 revealed that glucose sugar degrades collagen, reducing its elasticity, making the collagen more brittle, so that it loses its strength and resilience. To put it bluntly, sugar is speeding up the ageing process. In an ideal world, all our sugar needs should be met from fructose sugar found in fruit and vegetables.”

5. Go easy on alcohol

Ghatora also suggests going easy on the alcohol. “A 1972 Lancet study revealed that alcohol consumption reduces collagen synthesis, showing that the higher the alcohol content in the blood, the greater the reduction in collagen synthesis.” However it is also true that high cortisol levels from stress is also bad for collagen production, so if the occasional glass of wine helps you relax and unwind then don’t worry too much about it.

7. Wear sun protection on cloudy days

Dr  Veraitch says the best thing we can do for collagen in our skin is to protect it using sunscreen. “As we get older, collagen loss in the skin leads to loss in volume. Make sure you’re protecting your skin from UV rays every day by wearing an SPF because UVA rays which even come through on a cloudy day will speed up the decline in collagen production.”