Collagen is a protein that resides in the second layer of skin called the dermis. According to DermNet, the dermis is where skin cells regenerate and grow. The upper layer of skin is called the epidermis and its primary function is to protect the dermis and the body's internal organs. The epidermis controls the body's fluid loss. The collagen in the dermis determines the strength of the structural base for your skin.
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The dermis remains solid and intact for many years, but with age, free radical absorption and sun exposure, skin begins to lose its strength and stability. Young skin quickly heals and repairs itself. Aging skin is not as resilient and with loss of elasticity and collagen, loses its shape. Lines and wrinkles form where collagen previously plumped up the underlayers of skin.
Topical creams created to replace collagen may only moderately reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. According to the Mayo Clinic, topical over-the-counter wrinkle treatments have not undergone rigorous medical testing and are not regulated by a federal agency. The most effective anti-wrinkle creams contain ingredients such as kinetin and copper pertides, which may slightly stimulate collagen production.
Collagen is comprised of protein that contains significant amounts of the amino acids hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine. According to the George Mateljan Foundation, consumption of foods that contain proline and lysine may contribute to the formation of healthy collagen. Meat and foods that come from animal sources contain both amino acids. Egg whites in particular contain significant amount of lysine. From plant-based sources, wheat germ is the most effective source of the two amino acids.
Vitamin C is a necessary ingredient to turn proline and lysine into usable collagen builders. According to the "Journal of Nutrition," healthy bone development and collagen formation rely heavily on sufficient amounts of vitamin C in the diet. Vitamin C also protects cells from damage done by free radicals that damage collagen. The most effective sources of vitamin C are bell peppers, papaya, oranges, broccoli and strawberries.
Phytonutrients are important nutrients that can help to prevent collagen breakdown. Phytonutrients found in green tea have been shown to provide essential nutrients to protect collagen structures. Berries and dark-colored fruits are other effective sources of the collagen building nutrients. Fruit-based sources of phytonutrients include blueberries, cranberries, cherries and raspberries.