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Why Collagen Is the Biggest Thing in Skin Right Now

January 1 | 3 minute read

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Words by Arabella Roden

Originally published on | April 24

It’s the skincare buzz word that has everyone talking.

From supplements to smoothies to serums, collagen is taking pride of place on ingredient lists, with promises of miraculous firming, smoothing and age-rewinding attached.

But why is it suddenly so in focus?

For answers, we turned to Emer Gillen, Skincare Expert, Educator and Facialist for ELEMIS – the British brand known as the leaders in collagen skincare (and now available exclusively at MECCA). 

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“From our mid-twenties, we start to lose about 1 percent of our collagen production per year, and lifestyle factors like stress, diet and environment can accelerate this even further.”

– Emer Gillen, Skincare Expert, ELEMIS

What is collagen, and what does it do for your skin?

The most abundant protein in the human body, collagen has a fibre-like structure and is a major component not just in your skin, but in your muscles, bones, tendons and connective tissue, too.

Up to 80 percent of the dermal layer of skin is made from collagen, where it “helps skin cells renew and gives the skin firmness, plumpness and smoothness,” says Gillen.

Produced naturally by the body, our collagen levels begin to drop around age 25: “From our mid-twenties, we start to lose about 1 percent of our collagen production per year, and lifestyle factors like stress, diet and environment can accelerate this even further,” the expert explains.

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Boosting collagen in your skin

Over time, you’ll notice changes in your skin like sagging and fine lines – and while these are totally natural, Gillen emphasises that it’s “never too early or too late” to focus on maintaining the collagen you do have.

“Your skincare routine should support your skin’s collagen production and protection. At ELEMIS, we believe in never putting the skin into ‘early retirement’ – always stimulating the skin and creating the right balance of what it needs,” she says.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as just applying collagen to the surface. “Collagen molecules are so large that they can’t penetrate the skin successfully, so applying topical collagen simply won’t make a difference for collagen production,” says Gillen – however, she notes that it does play another role in skincare: it’s a humectant, which means it helps lock in moisture and keeps skin hydrated.

So, does that mean taking collagen supplements is the way to go? The answer is surprisingly complex. “While supplements can help with collagen production, they are not all created equally,” Gillen explains. "Digestive acids break down collagen back into amino acids within our stomach... [So] when looking for a supplement, we recommend looking for one that contains ingredients known to help with collagen production – instead of just looking for collagen itself." 

She adds that any supplement should be clinically tested with proven results. 

Overall, the expert takes a holistic approach that incorporates both lifestyle and skincare: “Collagen health is skin health – the two are one,” Gillen explains, advising avoiding the classic culprits of UV damage, lack of sleep, smoking and excess alcohol, which all negatively impact collagen levels.

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The real collagen skincare

Gillen has a “three-pronged” approach to skincare: protect with SPF and antioxidants (like vitamin C), restore with hydration and barrier-supporting actives, and renew with exfoliants and probiotic extracts.

Here’s her typical collagen skincare routine: “Start with Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm; this not only will remove all the day's dirt, pollution, makeup and SPF, but also supports the lipid barrier and leaves the skin beautifully balanced – never stripped, dried or compromised.

“Follow with your treatment cleanser, the Pro-Collagen Energising Marine Cleanser; it supports your skin with a smoothing blend of gentle acids, skin-boosting minerals and replenishing seaweeds in a nourishing gel cleanse experience.”

Next, Gillen smooths and gently retexturises skin with the ELEMIS Dynamic Resurfacing range: “The daily exfoliating Dynamic Resurfacing Facial Pads and glow-boosting Dynamic Resurfacing Super-C Serum are two of my absolute favourites,” she tells The MECCA Memo; then, she'll press in a few pumps of the hyaluronic acid and mineral-rich Pro-Collagen Marine Moisture Essence.

Finally, she layers on Pro-Collagen Marine Cream, a “whisper light cream-gel” moisturiser that helps to support your skin’s collagen production with intensive hydration, as well as antioxidants from the marine extract Padina pavonica (found throughout ELEMIS' Pro-Collagen range).

For extra hydration around the delicate eye area, Gillen recommends tapping on the Pro-Collagen Eye Revive Mask.

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