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Reasons You Lose Collagen As You Age

2 min read

older woman examining wrinkles in mirror

By Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD

Around the age of 25, the body starts to slowly lose its structural protein, called collagen. Eventually, the loss of collagen shows up as fine lines, dryness and loose skin. Although collagen loss is part of the natural aging process, there are many lifestyle factors that can speed it up, giving you an aged appearance sooner than you would like. 

Why You Lose Collagen As You Age

You can’t completely stop the natural loss of collagen that occurs as you age. How fast you lose collagen may be related to your genetics. But, there are many different lifestyle factors that can exacerbate collagen loss. Here are a few things that speed up collagen loss: 

  1. Smoking. Have you ever noticed that chronic smokers frequently look older than their chronological age? Smoking is a major trigger of oxidative stress that damages collagen and speeds up aging.
  2. Sun damage. The sun is one of the worst culprits of collagen degradation. Sun-damaged skin inhibits the formation of certain proteins that help protect collagen.
  3. Pollution. While you may not be able to avoid pollution completely, depending on where you live, you can try to use fewer toxic products in your home and work environments. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s website for more information on limiting your exposure to toxic chemicals that could damage collagen. 
  4. Chronic stress. Uncontrolled, excessive stress triggers the formation of free radicals that damage collagen. Physical and emotional stress speed up the aging process.
  5. An unhealthy diet. A diet full of processed foods and sugar increases the formation of free radicals. If your diet is lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables, you’re probably not getting enough antioxidants to neutralize free radicals, which leads to collagen destruction. Additionally, the body needs a wide variety of nutrients to make collagen. many of which are abundant in fruits and veggies.

Changing your lifestyle to support healthy collagen can make a big difference in the appearance of your skin. 

How to Slow Collagen Loss

Luckily, there is a lot you can do to slow the loss of collagen. Here are a few ways to keep your skin healthy and beautiful:

  1. Eat an antioxidant-rich diet. A diet full of fruits and vegetables provides antioxidants to help decrease damage caused by free radicals. Specifically, nutrients like Vitamin C and Vitamin A help to generate  new collagen in the skin. 
  2. Collagen supplements.Taking collagen supplements helps stimulate the production of new collagen in the skin. 
  3. Use sunscreen daily. Protecting your face from sun damage is the best way to keep collagen intact. Stay out of the sun during the warmest hours of the day or wear a hat when outside.
  4. Actively manage stress.Regular exercise, meditation and spending time in nature are ways to manage stress and reduce the impact it has on the skin. 
  5. See your dermatologist.There are many skin treatments — from lotions to lasers — that can help decrease the appearance of wrinkles. 

With a healthy lifestyle you can support your existing collagen and keep the beautiful, smooth skin of your younger days.

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