Collagen is essential for supporting health and beauty. Even though a lot of people are aware of their collagen intake through food and supplements, but they do not actually understand how it is absorbed by the body and through what mechanism it is effective for the body. Here, we will introduce the relationship between collagen and body organizations in an easy-to-understand manner.
“Fibroblasts” are cells originally found in the dermis of the skin to create collagen and skin elasticity. The skin structure will weaken if these cells are not healthy = aging.
In the dermis, “dermal stem cells” are located closer to blood vessels than fibroblasts. These cells have the function of becoming various kinds of cells and making more copies of themselves through division. Dermal stem cells can turn into damaged fibroblasts and produce new healthy fibroblasts. Growing dermal stem cells leads to generation of new fibroblasts and will increase the ability of collagen production in the body.
Since collagen is a kind of protein, when it is absorbed in the body, it is decomposed into amino acids, dipeptides and tripeptides in the gastrointestinal tract. After being absorbed and taken in in the small intestine, it is transported to various parts of the body via blood. Hence, just because you have ingested collagen-rich food or supplements, it does not mean that there will be direct effect of collagen on the skin.
Recent research results show that ingestion of collagen peptides, rather than increasing the amount of collagen in the skin, increases the moisture content of the skin.
Collagen is widely known as a component that maintains skin firmness and elasticity. However, as introduced in “Basic Knowledge of Collagen”, it is one of the proteins that make up the human body. It affects not only the skin but also various body parts such as bones and blood vessels.
It takes a long time for collagen to be metabolized. After being created in the body, it takes 10 to 20 years to decompose. Because it stays in the body for a long time, it will combine with sugar (this is called saccharification) if there is sugar present in the blood.
Once collagen saccharifies, it loses its original supple structure resulting in decreasing skin firmness and elasticity.
The skin produces many degrading enzymes after being exposed to UV rays. Since these degrading enzymes degrade collagen, collagen in the skin is also affected. If it is temporarily exposed to UV rays, it will be naturally repaired through the skin repair system. However, collagen will be decomposed when it is exposed to UV rays every day. As facial skin is exposed to UV rays on a daily basis, collagen in the skin is always damaged when people are in their 30's. If it is left untreated, it will cause wrinkles and sagging. To maintain beautiful skin, it is important to protect the skin from UV rays with sunscreen from a young age.
Hyaluronic acid, elastin and proteoglycan, which are often mentioned with collagen, are also present in the dermis like collagen and interact directly and indirectly with collagen.
In general, hyaluronic acid and proteoglycan have the characteristic of retaining moisture; it is said that 1g of hyaluronic acid can hold 6L of moisture. Further, collagen takes a long time to metabolize but on the contrary, hyaluronic acid can be metabolized very quickly. About half of the hyaluronic acid in the skin is decomposed and created in one day. As elastin gives skin elasticity, if any of these ingredients, including collagen, is lacking, skin condition will deteriorate.
Since collagen molecules are so large, even if they are applied directly to the skin, they will not penetrate into inside of the skin. Most of the collagen contained in cosmetics are decomposed to lower molecular weight to improve its skin penetration.
In order to increase the level of collagen in the skin, it is important to not only “apply” collagen to skin surface but also increase skin's ability to “create collagen” from within. For our research from now on, it is expected to focus on the dermis that produces collagen.