When it comes to your skin, collagen plays a huge role in how you visibly age over time, and for a good reason. Collagen is the main structural protein that both your skin and body naturally produce on its own. However as we age, our skin’s and body’s ability to produce it declines over time, resulting in wrinkles, sagging, thin skin, and more — so there’s no wonder why this conversation of “restoring” collagen has become all the rave. But can you naturally really restore it once you’ve already lost it?
Fortunately, it is possible to naturally restore healthy collagen production in your face even after it’s already started to decline. But should you?
Benefits of restoring collagen for the skin
- Diminishes and prevents wrinkles
- Helps skin to retain moisture
- Supports skin structure
- Promotes a firm and bouncy look
- Improves skin’s elasticity
Even if you’re not worried about wrinkles and your physical appearance, supporting healthy collagen production will always benefit the overall health of your skin. And when you’re ready to start restoring it naturally, there are skincare products that have the power to promote collagen production — but not just any skincare.
However before we dive into our recommendations, it’s helpful to understand how collagen serves our body and how skincare can play a crucial role in supporting its production.
What is collagen and how does it support our skin?
As mentioned, collagen are types of naturally-occurring proteins found in your body that provide structure for your skin. It’s one of the major building blocks for your skin, bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. You can think of it like the “glue” that holds everything together which helps to maintain healthy joints and skin’s elastic nature. So you can especially thank collagen for giving you that firm, voluminous, and bouncy skin everyone starts out with.
However, as we age, it gets harder for our body to naturally produce it which results in its breakdown and overall decline.
Signs of collagen loss in face
- Crepey and sagging skin
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Sunken under eyes
- Drooping and hollowed cheeks
- Overall loss of volume
- Loss of skin’s bounce
What destroys collagen?
We know that over time our body’s natural ability to produce collagen declines, but time isn’t the only culprit. Some lifestyle habits can also contribute to a decrease in collagen production.
- Ultraviolet rays, aka sunlight, cause collagen to break down faster. With sun exposure, those UV rays damage the skin by entering the dermis (the second and thickest layer of our skin) which causes collagen to break down faster. UV rays also carry with them damaging free radicals which result in oxidative stress that drains your healthy cells of energy.
- Sugar and refined carbs interfere with your body’s natural ability to heal itself which also impairs the collagen regeneration process.
- Smoking, overall, slows your body’s natural ability to heal wounds and result in wrinkles and sallow, sunken skin.
- Lack of sleep gets in the way of helping your skin to naturally repair and regenerate itself. When we are getting enough sleep, our body takes that valuable time to heal and restore itself. So when you take that time away, the health of your immune system takes a hit, and with it, your natural collagen and elastin production.
- Stress triggers your body’s natural fight-or-flight response which diverts energy away from your skin and instead, to your other organs like your heart, brain, and lungs that’ll need that energy the most when in that “stress mode”. And when this happens, your skin isn’t receiving the energy it needs to produce collagen.
Thankfully, with a well-balanced lifestyle and diet, you can very well avoid a faster decline in your collagen production.
What skincare products work to restore collagen in your face?
Considering you’re making healthy choices in your lifestyle and diet — the main culprit for collagen breakdown still points to good old, ‘aging’. However, if you’re wanting to restore collagen in your face, incorporating retinoids and vitamin C into your daily skincare ritual will serve as one of your best allies for rebuilding collagen.
Retinoids serve as an excellent treatment for restoring collagen in your face. However, it’s helpful to know that retinoids work as this umbrella term for Vitamin A and all of its derivative counterparts i.e. Tretinoin, Retinol, Adapalene…etc. But don’t be fooled — the term, retinoids, include both dermatologist-grade retinoids, which is what doctors prescribe, and the over-the-counter retinoids that don’t require a prescription. And as you may assume, it’s the tailored derm-grade retinoids that will be most effective in naturally restoring collagen to your face.
More specifically, Tretinoin, known as a dermatologist-grade retinoid works to stimulate collagen production and increase cell turnover. What makes this retinoid so effective is its key ingredient, retinoic acid. This star ingredient is the reason that retinoids, like tailored derm-grade Tretinoin, tend to be 20 times more potent than retinol which will ultimately provide faster, more effective results. It’s through this active ingredient that allows derm-grade retinoids to increase and restore the production of collagen in the face to noticeably reduce and prevent the look of fine lines and deep wrinkles.
Do Retinol skincare products work as well as retinoids to help restore collagen?
While retinol is a type of retinoid, the sad truth is that while retinol has shown to have some benefits in collagen production, it was also found to be very unstable and even degraded over time. So the next time you come across a new retinol skincare product, whether online or in-store, think again about adding it to your cart or basket — chances are you may not be getting the results you’re hoping for.
Bottom line, if you’re serious about naturally restoring collagen in your face with skincare, tailored derm-grade retinoids, like Tretinoin, will serve as an ideal solution.
Vitamin C also serves as a great ally in restoring collagen in your face. This antioxidant not only does wonders when helping your skin to increase collagen production but also works to ward off any effects that’ll cause your collagen to further decay. To understand how truly beneficial vitamin C is in preserving and restoring collagen, we’ll break down how it works and how you’ll want to use it.
First off, vitamin C is the most abundant antioxidant in our skin which helps to prevent cell damage. It also works to neutralize free radicals found in UV rays. Our collagen also relies on it to first lay down a strong foundation to start and generate new collagen in the first place.
Simply put, no Vitamin C means no collagen production.
However, even though it’s the most present antioxidant in our skin, we actually can’t produce it on our own. Instead, we receive it through our diet that’s rich in green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits. But here’s the catch — while our body’s getting enough vitamin C through our diet, the antioxidant doesn’t actually make it to our skin when consumed. So, for the purpose of collagen production, applying vitamin C topically onto the skin is the only way to go.
What happens when you apply vitamin C onto your skin?
Once applied topically, vitamin C works to stabilize the collagen fibers in your skin which helps to minimize collagen breakdown and promote healthy collagen synthesis. With this support in collagen synthesis, the look of your skin can be dramatically improved. And since vitamin C is acidic, like your skin’s natural state, it can even work to accelerate the production of collagen and elastin making it the ultimate ally for your skin.
Another great benefit to applying vitamin C is that it helps to defend skin from free radicals found in pollution and other damaging factors in the atmosphere. These free radicals, found in UV light as well, can harm the skin’s dermis which affects skin cells, texture, color, moisture barrier, and disrupt collagen development itself.
Overall, incorporating a vitamin C skincare product into your routine will do wonders for your skin. With it, you’ll help to protect your skin from harmful environmental factors and prevent sagging to promote smooth, healthy, and hydrated skin.
Can you use retinoids and vitamin C together?
Now that we’ve established that retinoids and vitamin C are phenomenal for promoting collagen production, can they be used together to create the ultimate collagen-boosting routine?
According to Dr. Sheila Krishna, it’s totally fine to use vitamin C with over-the-counter retinol products or dermatologist-grade retinoids. This study indicated that a combined retinol and vitamin C treatment is effective at treating photoaging which proves that both are safe to use together. But even though they can be used together, we still recommend using them at different times of day to prevent irritation.
Our suggestion? Using a vitamin C serum in the morning and your chosen retinoid at night will serve as the ultimate ritual to restore collagen in your face.
How to rebuild collagen under the eyes
As the undereyes are such a delicate area on the skin, is it even worth it to try to rebuild collagen there? If you’re looking to minimize the fine lines around your eyes, you can consider applying retinoids to boost collagen and restore structure to that area — but gradually.
Instead of diving head-first into using an expensive retinol eye treatment, we recommend starting with a derm-grade retinoid, like Tretinoin, for your face and avoid the eye area entirely for now. You can start with using your retinoid every three days as a part of your nighttime skincare routine then gradually buildup the frequency as your skin starts to adjust.
Then, after around eight to twelve weeks when you start to see results, that’s when you can start considering whether you need a separate eye serum.
How long does it take for collagen to regenerate?
By no means will you see results instantly, but the key is to be consistent and patient. New collagen production can take up to 4 to 12 weeks to complete. It’s also good to know that while restoring collagen can help to smooth wrinkles and preserve your firm look, results aren’t permanent, making staying consistent with your collagen-boosting ritual a key step in continuing to see results.
How to prevent collagen loss
- Eating a healthy diet that’s rich in vitamins A and C and essential nutrients
- Maintain a daily skincare routine with vitamin C serum, derm-grade retinoid, and sunscreen
- Limit sun exposure to avoid damaging UV rays
- Get at least 7+ hours of sleep every night
- Avoid excessive amounts of stress
- Avoid smoking
By providing a healthy environment for your body and skin to operate, you’ll be more equipped to maintain healthy collagen production.
Our solution to restore collagen in your face
Even after the collagen’s been lost in your face, tailored derm-grade retinoids, like Tretinoin, and vitamin C will serve as your ultimate solution to naturally restore it and preserve it long-term. And you can do so by skipping an in-person trip to your dermatologist.
To make derm-grade retinoids more accessible, Dear Brightly connects you with a board-certified doctor for an online consultation to get a derm-grade tailored Tretinoin serum. Just share details about your skin and your doctor, if appropriate, will prescribe you a retinoid prescription — no trip to the doctor’s or pharmacy needed. Then, to complete your skincare routine, you can pair Dear Brightly’s vitamin C serum with your retinoid to preserve healthy collagen production and promote your most firm and protected complexion.
Mukherjee S, Date A, Patravale V, Korting HC, Roeder A, Weindl G. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clin Interv Aging. 2006;1(4):327-348. doi:10.2147/ciia.2006.1.4.327
Pullar JM, Carr AC, Vissers MCM. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Nutrients. 2017;9(8):866. Published 2017 Aug 12. doi:10.3390/nu9080866
Griffiths CE, Russman AN, Majmudar G, Singer RS, Hamilton TA, Voorhees JJ. Restoration of collagen formation in photodamaged human skin by tretinoin (retinoic acid). N Engl J Med. 1993;329(8):530-535. doi:10.1056/NEJM199308193290803
Seité S, Bredoux C, Compan D, et al. Histological evaluation of a topically applied retinol-vitamin C combination. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2005;18(2):81-87. doi:10.1159/000083708