A fibrous protein called collagen is responsible for keeping your skin taught and firm. As you age or expose yourself to environmental risks such as tobacco or ultraviolet radiation, the proteins degrade, leading to sagging skin and wrinkles. Although you can't stop aging, there are things you can do to promote new collagen synthesis and protect your body's largest organ -- the skin.
Get Enough Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a nutrient found in high concentrations in the upper layers of the skin, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Ascorbic acid, as vitamin C is known, plays an essential role in collagen synthesis and may protect the skin from the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation through its antioxidant properties. Topical application of vitamin C may increase collagen production; however, solutions must be acidic -- with a pH below 4 -- to be absorbed properly. A diet rich in vitamin C can also contribute to healthy skin. Include foods such as citrus fruit, broccoli and tomatoes in your meals.
There are lots of good reasons to give up tobacco use -- not the least of which is the threat of an array of cancers. At a more superficial level, smoking decreases the production of collagen, resulting in wrinkles. A study published in the "British Journal of Dermatology" in 2002 found that smokers had an 18 and 22 percent decrease in types I and III collagen, respectively, compared to nonsmokers. Talk to your physician about a smoking cessation program to improve your health and promote collagen production for firmer skin.
Skip the Tanning Booth
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun or a tanning booth is another factor that influences collagen production. A study published in the "American Journal of Pathology" in 2004 found that UV exposure reduced the synthesis of type I collagen, resulting in premature deterioration of the skin known as photoaging. To protect your skin, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends seeking shade when outdoors, wearing sunscreen and covering up with clothing. Forgo tanning booths, and keep in mind that tanned skin is tissue that has already been damaged.
Take in Vitamin A
A study published in the "Journal of Investigative Dermatology" in 2000 found that topically applied vitamin A stimulated the production of collagen in naturally aged, sun-protected skin and in photoaged skin. Talk to your doctor about a retinol cream and include more vitamin A in your diet. Sources of vitamin A include sweet potatoes, spinach, apricots, broccoli and fortified cereals.
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C and Skin Health
- MedlinePlus: Vitamin C
- British Journal of Dermatology: Smoking Affects Collagen Synthesis and Extracellular Matrix Turnover in Human Skin
- American Journal of Pathology: Solar Ultraviolet Irradiation Reduces Collagen in Photoaged Human Skin by Blocking Transforming Growth Factor-Beta Type II Receptor/Smad Signaling
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Skin Cancer Awareness: Protect Your Skin
- Journal of Investigative Dermatology: Vitamin A Antagonizes Decreased Cell Growth and Elevated Collagen-Degrading Matrix Metalloproteinases and Stimulates Collagen Accumulation in Naturally Aged Human Skin
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin A
- The International Dermal Institute: Structural Changes Associated With Aging Skin