Collagen research conducted in 2010 at the Institute of Chemistry in Gdansk has uncovered new findings on this master protein. There are more than 15 different types of collagen in our bodies. One specific type was the focus of this particular research, the collagen protein in the skin that ages over time. After 16 years of studying collagen, researchers concluded that the biologically active types of collagen, which incorporate themselves into the matrix of the skin’s connective tissue, are the most likely to have anti-aging properties.
Without collagen, humans would not exist. Collagen makes up one quarter of our total body protein. The protein was first discovered by the ancient Greeks, who gave collagen its name. It comes from the Greek work kollo. It was initially used it to bind things together. They would boil animal collagen in water to create a sticky glue-like substance. In fact, the glue we use today is derived from the same kind of collagen isolated and boiled by the ancient Greeks.
In 1954, Indian scientist G. N. Ramachandran discovered that collagen has a triple helix structure. You may be familiar with the double helix structure of a DNA molecule. Collagen, however, has an additional helix intertwined and is known as a super helix.
There are many functions of collagen in the body from holding bones and muscles together to helping the tissue under the skin maintain its structure. It also aids the heart in the pumping of blood by holding the cardiomuscular cells together. It is a very strong and flexible protein. A tendon that holds muscle to bone, for example, is just a large amount of collagen fibers bundled together.
For years, scientists have been trying to figure out how to produce synthetic collagen. There have been remarkable discoveries, but when it comes to skin care, synthetic collagen does not bind to existing collagen, thus not allowing it to reinforce the skin’s structure. Further research indicated that applications that aid in collagen production are most beneficial to fighting the effects of aging skin.
Collagen in our bodies decreases at a rate of 1.5 percent a year after the age of 25. Collagen cosmetics that are applied as topical solutions with the supposed effect of being absorbed and incorporated into the skin have proven to be ineffective. The process simply does not work like that. The skin will not allow collagen to penetrate because it is a lipid and collagen is polar. The skin cells, like every other cell in our bodies, have an outer layer of fats called lipids. Polar molecules, like collagen, have oppositely charged ends. When polar molecules meet fat cells, they do not bind to each other because of the repelling positive and negative charges. It’s like putting two negative sides of a magnet together—they will never touch each other. Similarly, the lipid layer of the skin and collagen will therefore always repel each other.
This will not work for wrinkle prevention. To support wrinkle prevention or reversal, collagen must be triggered within the body through consumption or application of agents that support collagen proliferation. When triggered in the body, this type of collagen is known as biologically active.
Collagen applications that claim to fight the signs of aging are not doing so unless they are helping the production of new collagen cells that are able to incorporate themselves within the existing matrix of connective tissues. You want to look for products that have been proven to aid in the production of new collagen cells. Any products that involve topical application of collagen and claim the skin can readily absorb it are likely fabricating their results.