The Science of Skin

How Collagen Can Keep You Looking Younger


Collagen is what gives your skin its incredible strength. As we age, our natural collagen production decreases, leading to the onset of wrinkles, fine lines, and other visible signs of aging. Replenishing this deficit in collagen can, therefore, help reinforce our skin’s natural structure and maintain a youthful complexion.

As the largest organ of the human body, our skin is an essential component of the integumentary system, which is responsible for a range of regulatory functions within our body such as maintaining homeostasis and acting as a protective barrier against an array of external factors — temperature, bacteria, chemicals, the sun, and more.

The outermost part of the epidermis is also referred to as the stratum corneum. This is made up of dead and flattened corneocytes held together by lipids. Below this, the basal layer produces new skin cells, which gradually move up through the basal layer to replace old or dead skin cells. As we age, this process of renewal slows due to the natural decline in collagen/protein production.

Getting to know your skin

The most powerful step in working with the natural signs of aging is knowledge. Having a basic understanding of our skin’s structure helps us understand what it needs to stay healthy, radiant, and youthful. Throughout the rest of this post, we’ll explain the basic layers of the skin, what they’re made of, and how increasing your daily collagen intake can help keep you looking younger.


Layer by layer

Our skin is made up of two primary layers: the epidermis and the dermis.

The epidermis is the top layer of skin and contains four different types of cells: keratinocytes, which form the skin’s water-proof, protective barrier; melanin, which gives the skin its pigment; Langerhans cells, which prompt immune response; and finally, Merkel cells, which allow the skin to respond to sensation.

The outmost part of the epidermis is also referred to as the stratum coreneum. This is made up of dead and flattened corneocytes held together by lipids. Below this, the basal layer produces new skin cells, which gradually move up through the basal layer to replace old or dead skin cells. As we age, this process of renewal slows due to the natural decline in collagen/protein production.

The dermis layer lies beneath the epidermis and is composed of three main cells: fibroblasts, macrophages, and mast cells. However, it also made up of several “matrix components” such as collagen, elastin, and extracellular matrix. It contains our hair follicles, sweat glands, sebaceous (oil) glands, apocrine glands, lymphatic vessels, nerve and blood vessels which provide nourishment and waste removal for both dermal and epidermal cells.

Like the epidermis, the dermis is divided into two layers: the superficial layer which sits just below the epidermis called the “papillary region” and a deeper layer known as the “reticular dermis”. The papillary dermis utilises intercellular connections to help supply blood and nutrients to the epidermis, while the reticular dermis is a thicker layer which contains essential cell “building blocks” such as collagen and elastin which give the skin its elasticity and strength.


Collagen and the skin

Although collagen naturally decreases throughout our lives (known as intrinsic, natural, or cellular ageing), photodamage to this protein can also lead to a rapid depletion of our bodies’ natural collagen reserve (known as extrinsic ageing). Prolonged UV exposure leads to a decrease in both the quantity and integrity of collagen, inhibiting their ability to “build” new skin cells. As a result, the strength and elasticity of the epidermis and dermis layers are compromised – leading to sagging and sun-damaged skin. epleted, the lack of stability at the DEJ and within our skin cells can lead to wrinkles and deeper lines.

Although collagen naturally deceases throughout our lives (known as intrinsic, natural, or cellular ageing), photo damage to this protein can also lead to a rapid depletion of our bodies’ natural collagen reserve (known as extrinsic ageing). Prolonged UV exposure leads to a decrease in both the quantity and integrity of collagen, inhibiting their ability to “build” new skin cells. As a result, the strength and elasticity of the epidermis and dermis layers are compromised – leading to sagging and sun-damaged skin.

Although collagen naturally decreases throughout our lives (known as intrinsic, natural, or cellular ageing), photodamage to this protein can also lead to a rapid depletion of our bodies’ natural collagen reserve (known as extrinsic ageing). Prolonged UV exposure leads to a decrease in both the quantity and integrity of collagen, inhibiting their ability to “build” new skin cells. As a result, the strength and elasticity of the epidermis and dermis layers are compromised – leading to sagging and sun-damaged skin. depleted, the lack of stability at the DEJ and within our skin cells can lead to wrinkles and deeper lines.

While the loss of existing collagen is, undoubtedly, a major factor in the appearance of chronically aged skin, a study from the American Journal of Pathology suggests that the “failure to replace damaged collagen with newly synthesized material is also critical to the overall pathophysiology”. In addition, the ageing process, specifically that which occurs through photodamage, has been linked to the formation of free radicals within the body. As such, there is a great deal of research which suggests that signs of aging may be counteracted through a combination of steps.


How to combat skin-aging

While the loss of existing collagen is, undoubtably, a major factor in the appearance of chronically aged skin, a study from the American Journal of Pathology suggests that the “failure to replace damaged collagen with newly synthesized material is also critical to the overall pathophysiology”. In addition, the ageing process, specifically that which occurs through photo damage, has been linked to the formation of free radicals within the body. As such, there is a great deal of research which suggests that signs of aging may be counteracted through a combination of steps.

The best-known strategies aimed at maintaining the structural integrity and radiance of our skin include sun avoidance, the application of sunscreen in order to reduced skin exposure to harmful UV rays, using hydrolysed collagen products to replenish collagen within the skin and promote natural collagen production, and using other anti-oxidants such as Vitamin C or liquid chlorophyll to reduce free radicals within the skin.


1. https://askthescientists.com/science-of-skincare/

2. https://askthescientists.com/skin-layers/

3 Chen, Ying, and John Lyga. “Brain-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skin aging.” Inflammation & allergy drug targets vol. 13,

3. (2014): 177-90. doi: 10.2174/1871528113666140522104422

4. Haake A, Scott G A, Holbrook K A. Structure and function of the skin: overview of the epidermis and dermis. The Biology of the Skin. 2001;2001:19–45.

5. James, William; Berger, Timothy; Elston, Dirk (2005). Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology (10th ed.). Saunders. Pages 1, 11–12.

6 .Chen, Ying, and John Lyga. “Brain-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skin aging.” Inflammation & allergy drug targets vol. 13,3 (2014): 177-90. doi: 10.2174/1871528113666140522104422

7. Varani, James et al. “Decreased collagen production in chronologically aged skin: roles of age- dependent alteration in fibroblast function and defective mechanical stimulation.” The American journal of pathology vol. 168,6 (2006): 1861-8. doi:10.2353/ajpath.2006.051302

6 . Chen, Ying, and John Lyga. “Brain-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skin aging.” Inflammation & allergy drug targets vol. 13,3 (2014): 177-90. DOI: 10.2174/1871528113666140522104422 journal of pathology vol. 168,6 (2006): 1861-8. doi:10.2353/ajpath.2006.051302


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