Wednesday, September 11, 2013

what IS collagen?

collagen-3 and fat give you a nice, plump smooth face.

oh my gosh, you're losing that baby face! you need more collagen, right? right?

i recently worked on a skincare brand whose ingredients stimulate the growth of collagen-1 and, more importantly, collagen-3.

unfortunately, when we presented the advertising idea to the client, they thought that most women did not know what collagen was. (except - as one woman said - more is better, right?)

these days, in order for us to believe in beauty products, their effects have to be based on real science. however, when it comes to communication, most of us are buried in the chaos of our day-to-day lives and don't have time to read all the complicated processes that are usually based on biology and chemistry.

and also, for some women, words that bring back bad memories of high school biology and chemistry can cause anxiety. i know that just thinking about meeting my bookkeeper or accountant can shoot me right back to the day before a test in 11th-grade math (i barely made it out of that class).

so let me start this way.

your face is like a sofa cushion or a mattress.

reverse the before and after to visualize the aging process

the leather or velvet or cotton duck is your skin or epidermis. the secondary layer (sometimes foam or cloth lining) is your dermis.

underneath that is all the fat that holds it up. that is the stuffing. lots of fat - like a kid - gives you a smooth plump face.

the springs and the structure that give your skin bounce and lift is the collagen.

the easiest way to imagine it is little trees that grow up and spread out under your skin - turning into your sofa/mattress springs. collagen grows in little ropy strands and holds things up and together.

(if you have more stuffing (or fat) than collagen, the fat squeezes through under your skin, making it lumpy. in other words, cellulite. this rarely happens on your face - or i've never seen it. )

on your face, as you get older, your fat thins out, like an old mattress or sofa,  and your collagen gets weaker.

so your face doesn't just lose its smooth plumpness, it also loses its lift and resilience. and so it gets wrinkly.

see those little trees getting all saggy and weak and the fat getting thin?

darn! get that girl more collagen!

not so fast - there are 28 kinds of collagen! and only ONE will make you look younger! you can eat them, drink them, slather your face with them, get them injected and most of them will not do you much good (on your face).

ready for a little more science?

the nice, bouncy collagen that holds your face up in a pretty way is called collagen-3. that's the kind that is in young skin.

as you get older, there is a tougher kind of collagen, called collagen-1. collagen-1 is also found in bones and scar tissue. it is hard and lumpy and brittle.

[the ONLY kind of collagen that you can ingest that will actually affect your skin is collagen-2 and it has to be prepared very carefully. only one brand i know of, called bio-cell, seems to have done it properly by also mixing it with hyaluronic acid (this is not a weird crazy chemical, but something your body produces naturally as lubrication) - but let's save this conversation for another time.]

wait! what about lasers? yes! these days, there are lasers and radiowaves and microwaves that heat your skin to stimulate collagen growth. the idea is that they damage the collagen layer underneath your skin and your skin rushes to heal itself.

the drawback is (only ONE person seems to admit this in public, my friend mary schook) they damage your shrinking reserves of collagen-3 and stimulate collagen-1. you know that brittle, lumpy collagen. the kind that crumbles.

let's look at what happens to collagen when you cook it.

raw and soft (admittedly unattractive)

looks yummy but not how you want your face to look either
i realize we switched metaphors here. if you are still reading...

so now you have this nice crispy collagen under your skin. and like a shrink-wrapped gift, it is taut and shiny and lifted. and your remaining collagen-3 has been cooked. that tight, thin, papery look also happens if you do lots of peels and retinol. you know what i mean. 

but in six months to a year, the collagen-3 starts to break down.

now what?

um... rewind.

so before you start lasering your face, try big doses of vitamin c to get that sofa a little puffy again. it IS possible.

check out mary schook's video here.

ok - remember those little trees or your sofa springs - now do you know what collagen is?