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When it comes to anti-aging skin care, collagen is really the gold standard for achieving a youthful, glowing complexion. Collagen creams and treatments are definitely having a moment, but if you're still not fully sure how they work, you've come to the right place.
Shop TODAY consulted top dermatologists to find out what collagen can do for your skin. We also got them to suggest a few collagen products that are worth trying. Now, it's time to get glowing!
What is collagen?
Before learning why collagen creams and treatments are so popular, Shop TODAY was curious to know: Why is collagen such an important part of our skin? And we were impressed to hear what an important role it plays in keeping our complexion looking youthful.
"Collagen is the main molecule in the skin that provides structure and support. Think of it like the frame of your mattress," Dr. Joshua Zeichner, board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital's department of dermatology, said. "After the age of 30, collagen production starts to decline. This contributes to the fine lines and wrinkles, crepey appearance and prominent pores that occur with age."
Put simply, collagen is a protein that helps lift, tighten and plump up skin and over time, age and sun damage can break down the natural collagen in your skin.
What are the benefits of collagen creams and treatments?
Dermatologists offer in-office procedures to counteract the natural loss of collagen, but if you prefer to take action into your own hands, collagen creams and at-home treatments are a more convenient solution.
Many products don’t actually contain collagen itself but rather collagen peptides, or collagen that has been broken down into smaller components.
"Theoretically, these smaller peptides can penetrate the skin and stimulate collagen production," Dr. Sejal Shah of New York City's SmarterSkin Dermatology told us.
According to Dr. Debra Jaliman, a New York City-based dermatologist and author of the book "Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist," collagen peptides have been shown in studies to improve the skin’s barrier function and that's encouraging since collagen itself is a somewhat tricky protein to work with.
"Collagen molecules are large and don’t penetrate the upper skin layer as many think. They do, however, help plump, hydrate and brighten skin. It helps to fill in fine lines and wrinkles. When our skin is hydrated and plump, it helps prevent new fine lines and wrinkles from forming," she said.
Collagen creams often function more as moisturizers and can be used in conjunction with other skin care solutions as part of a well-rounded anti-aging routine.
"To stimulate collagen better, use a retinoid or vitamin C," Boston-based dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch said.
Who should be using a collagen cream or treatment?
Wondering if collagen creams are right for you? They're typically safe for most skin types.
"Topical collagen can be used across all skin types, including those who are oily or even if you have sensitive skin. It is commonly used alongside other active ingredients to improve tolerability of the active ingredient," Zeichner said.
Just as you would do before incorporating any other new products into your routine, do a patch test before applying the cream all over your face.
Natural collagen production starts to decline as early as your 20s, so incorporating a product into your routine that helps provide similar benefits — reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, hydration, etc. — isn't a bad idea.
"Typically, though, these products are suggested in your late 20s or at the very least when you turn 30," Skotnicki said.
They're also ideal for anyone who's dealing with dry skin who can stand to benefit from a collagen cream.
"Collagen creams do provide moisture so enhancements in skin moisture and consequent smoother skin can result from collagen cream use," Dr. Robert Anolik, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, said.
Collagen-boosting skin care products to try
At only $8, this is one budget beauty find that rivals the more expensive competition with its powerful ingredients. "The anti-wrinkle cream delivers skin strengthening hydroxy acids to brighten and firm the skin along with collagen to help plump and hydrate," Zeichner said.
Plump skin is youthful skin, and Olay Regenerist's collagen peptide cream moisturizer works overtime to hydrate, smooth and firm your complexion, tackling fine lines and wrinkles along the way. Board-certified dermatologist Mary Lupo gave it her seal of approval and noted that pentapeptide, the main ingredient, is pretty transformative and pairs well with another rock star ingredient, vitamin B3+.
Hirsch suggests giving this reasonably priced moisturizer a try and it's easy to see why. The lightweight day and nighttime cream offers complexions a healthy dose of hydration, plumps up skin and helps fill in lines and wrinkles. Not too shabby for $9, right?
Finding products that work well for multiple skin types isn't a walk in the park, but this collagen serum is suitable for normal, dry, oily and combination skin.
"It contains hyaluronic acid, is super hydrating and full of antioxidants. If you have normal to dry skin, I recommend it. I would tell someone with acne-prone skin to avoid it because it does has avocado, coconut oil and shea butter," Jaliman said.
Over 9,600 Amazon shoppers have given this bestseller a five-star rating, and the paraben-free formula is made with plenty of natural ingredients that help lend skin a gorgeous glow. "It hydrates and softens rough skin cells with collagen and elastin proteins. Safflower seed oil also provides emollient benefits, coating and protecting the outer skin layer," Zeichner said.
Hirsch suggests trying this affordable collagen moisturizer that also contains other beneficial ingredients like vitamin C and green tea. The peptides in the product tackle fine lines and wrinkles, while several antioxidants protect your natural collagen and hydrate skin.
Whether you're dealing with wrinkles, dull skin or uneven skin tone, this anti-aging moisturizer can help whip your complexion into shape.
"It not only contains peptides, which noticeably firm and smooth the skin’s appearance, but also the powerhouse antioxidant vitamin C. Lastly, it includes Vichy’s mineral-rich volcanic water which has been shown to strengthen and support the skin’s barrier," Shah explained.
Searching for the fountain of youth? This serum is about as close as you'll get to it. The powerhouse product starts to reduce wrinkles in 28 days and helps renew skin cells to give you a smooth, lifted complexion. "It contains collagen peptides, along with niacinamide (vitamin B3)," Jaliman said.
If you're dealing with dryness, loss of elasticity or fine lines and wrinkles, this moisturizer is ready to come to the rescue. It works equally well for normal, dry and combination skin and is cruelty-free and gluten-free.
"This cream helps to hydrate and firm your skin and is good for aging skin. It also contains niacinamide, a potent antioxidant that helps with skin texture and improves the appearance of enlarged pores and dullness," Jaliman said.
Shah recommends this protein-packed hydrating cream for anyone whose anti-aging routine could use a boost of moisture.
"It contains a complex of peptides to moisturize and plump the skin. It also has Pygmy Waterlily extract, which is a source of antioxidants and nutrients, so it can help combat free radical damage and boost collagen synthesis," she told us.
For more stories like this, check out:
- 7 skin care products you should be using, no matter your age
- Caffeine deserves a spot in your beauty routine — here’s why
- I finally tried retinol in my 40s — and I wish I'd done it sooner
- From anti-aging to exfoliating, these 18 items are perfect for your whole body