Collagen is the glue that holds the body together. Without collagen, we would literally fall apart. More than 80 percent of the skin is composed of collagen. It is also the main component of ligaments and tendons. Collagen is the most abundant protein in all mammals. More formally, collagen is "the major insoluble protein in the extracellular matrix and in connective tissue," according to the MolecularCellBiology.com. Although collagen may be best known for its uses as a facial skin rejuvenator, it has important medical uses, primarily for burn victims.
Collagen and Burn Victims
Collagen is valuable in the treatment of burn victims It is used to heal and replace burnt skin and to create skin substitutes. It is also commonly used for people with radiation burns on their face.
Collagen and Joint Mobility
Collagen supplements are used for joint mobility. Evidence that collagen can help relieve arthritic conditions by acting as a joint lubricant. But Dr. Ray Sahelian, an expert on collagen and collagen products, says the evidence is too sketchy at this point to know whether collagen will help those with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, despite some promising research.
Collagen and the Skin
The most common use of collagen is as a skin revitalizer. According to The Patient's Guide.com, sun damages collagen proteins and connective tissue. This results in facial veins, wrinkles, saggy skin and thinning lips. Also, collagen degrades with age, so all of us will show signs of collagen damage as we get older.
Collagen Injections for the Skin
Injections of collagen are used to erase frown lines, crow's feet and smile lines. But, according to the Consumer Guide to Plastic Surgery.com, the use of collagen injections declined by 70 percent between 2000 and 2007. That's because soft tissue fillers such as Restylane last longer than collagen treatments. But collagen, both in human and bovine varieties, is still used. The effects last for two to six months. Treatments are quite expensive, typically in the range of $400 for one injection (as of August 2010). Women who are pregnant or nursing, or people with certain medical conditions, such as autoimmune disease, should not receive collagen injections.
Collagen cremes have been around for decades. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that they work. As Smart Skin Care.com notes, collagen molecules are too big to be absorbed by the skin. So collagen stays on top of the skin and is washed off. Collagen cremes may work as a moisturizer, but they won't strengthen your skin. Some companies claim they have developed transdermal techniques to deliver collagen deep into the skin, but the claims are not yet proven.