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Updated on October 25, 2021
Aging Skin? Do These 6 Things to Naturally Restore Its Youthful Glow
Aging gracefully is great and all, but it’d be nice if we could slow that process down just a bit...
Unfortunately, the first visible sign of aging is your skin—especially the skin on your face (sigh). Even if your hair, joints, and energy still feel (somewhat) youthful, your face may not have that same luster it had ten years ago.
Research shows that supporting your skin's integrity on a cellular and structural level can slow down signs of aging. Collagen, in particular, can support the deepest layers of your skin and help you maintain that youthful glow.
In this article, we’ll address what really happens as your skin ages, and what you can do about it.
Why Does Skin Age?
One of the most tell-tale signs of aging: Wrinkles.
It often feels like it happens overnight…You look in the mirror one morning and notice that your smooth skin has become thinner, drier, and less elastic.
So, where do these wrinkles come from?
Skin aging is a complex process marked by both internal and external factors. It begins with your extracellular matrix (ECM)—the tissue surrounding (and supporting) your cells. As you age, this structural support begins to break down, slowing the production of collagen (1, 2, 3).
The result: A loss of skin elasticity (AKA the appearance of wrinkles).
The primary culprit for the breakdown of your ECM is oxidative stress. Oxidation can come from natural processes in your body, but it can also occur due to sun damage (which is the primary external factor affecting skin health) (3).
When oxidation occurs, it produces (highly) reactive oxygen species (ROS). The unstable molecules of these ROS go on to cause damage as they interact with cells and tissues. At this point, your immune system gets involved and releases antioxidants to combat the damage created by ROS.
However, with age comes a decline in antioxidants—leaving you vulnerable to the detrimental effects of ROS (4).
Because skin aging occurs from natural and external processes, researchers have been on the hunt for a "fountain of youth".
While there is no magic pill, there are 6 things you can do to support the health of your skin and delay signs of aging.
6 Ways to Support Skin Health Naturally
If you want to tap into that fountain of youth, here are the 6 most effective ways to achieve healthy, youthful skin:
1. Use Sun Protection
Sunlight triggers oxidative damage and is one of the primary external causes of aging skin, but that doesn’t mean you should hide inside all day. Getting enough sunlight is vital for the production of vitamin D.
- Malabsorption of calcium and phosphorus (leading to decreased bone mineral density
- Increased risk of osteopenia and/or osteoporosis
- Neurological diseases
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Autoimmune disease
2. Consume Antioxidants
Because oxidative stress is one of the underlying causes of skin aging, antioxidants are your best bet in combating its damage (8).
The best way to get your antioxidants is through food. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and compounds, along with other phytonutrients that support the health of your body on a cellular level.
Excellent sources of antioxidants include (9):
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Red Cabbage
- Dark Chocolate
- Activated Tumeric
- Astaxanthin, found in krill oil
When buying antioxidant-rich foods, look for a variety in color. The more colors you have on your plate, the wider the range of antioxidants you'll be providing your body.
3. Avoid Smoking Cigarettes
Smoking cigarettes speed up the aging process of your skin and often results in wrinkles.
Here’s why: The chemicals in cigarettes directly damage your extracellular matrix (ECM) by degrading collagen and elastin. This leaves your skin looking dull and less elastic.
In addition to this, the nicotine in cigarettes narrows the blood vessels in your skin, impairing blood and oxygen flow to your cells (10).
4. Reduce Stress
Emotional stress can directly impact your skin’s health through several pathways, most notably inflammation and oxidative stress. Although reducing stress may be easier said than done, the potential benefits of lowering your stress levels are far-reaching for your overall health and well-being (11).
5. Drink Plenty of Water
Water is the main component of your body, making up (12):
- 45-75% of a person’s body weight
- 70-75% of a person’s muscle mass
- 10-40% of a person’s fat tissue
With that being said, it plays a vital role in your physiology and the maintenance of cellular processes. In short, every tissue and organ in your body needs water to function, and your skin is no exception (13).
When you're dehydrated, your skin becomes dehydrated—appearing dry and dull. If you want to keep your skin happy and healthy, be sure to drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.
Want to learn more about water? Read this article: 5 Benefits of Adding Collagen to Your Water
6. Take a Collagen Supplement
Collagen is known as the “glue” that holds the body together—while providing insulation and protection. So when collagen levels are depleted, the body feels like it’s falling apart—achy joints, stiff muscles, saggy skin.
Collagen makes up nearly 30% of the protein within the connective tissue of your extracellular matrix (ECM) (14). Your ECM is the part of connective tissue that provides scaffolding and structure, maintaining balance throughout the body. It occupies the space between your cells, connecting and holding everything in place (15).
When it comes to your skin, your ECM is its main support system. The stronger your ECM, the tighter and firmer your skin will be. While there are approximately 28 different types of collagen, Type 1 and Type 3 are the most abundant types in your skin. In fact, 80-90% of the collagen in your body is made up of either Type 1, Type 2, or Type 3 collagen (16, 17, 18).
With collagen being a vital component of your extracellular matrix, several studies have confirmed its potential to slow aging skin.
Collagen for Skin: What Research Says
Although you may find collagen-containing skin creams online and in beauty product stores, they’re mostly marketing ploys. Research supporting the external application of collagen is weak at best.
However, there are numerous studies looking at the benefits of an oral collagen supplement. And these studies have uncovered some impressive results in the anti-aging space.
In one study, researchers aimed to determine the impact of a drinkable collagen supplement on skin health. The double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was performed on 72 women aged 35 and or older for twelve weeks. The women were divided into two groups: One placebo group and one intervention group.
During the twelve weeks, skin assessments were conducted to assess skin hydration, elasticity, roughness, and density. At the end of the twelve weeks, the intervention group showed significant changes in all four assessment parameters with greater skin hydration, elasticity, and density, and reduced roughness.
Whatsmore, the collagen supplement’s positive effects were substantially retained when the researchers reassessed the participant's skin four weeks later (19).
In another study, 69 women aged 35 to 55 were randomized to receive either 2.5 grams or 5 grams of collagen or a placebo once daily for eight weeks. Skin assessments for elasticity, moisture, and roughness were carried out at week four and week eight of the study.
After just four weeks, researchers noted a statistically significant increase in skin elasticity, with positive effects on both skin moisture and roughness (20).
In yet another study, supplementation with collagen on a daily basis for 60 days led to a noticeable reduction in skin dryness, wrinkles, and smile lines. In addition, a significant increase in collagen density and skin firmness was observed after 12 weeks (21).
Collagen and the Extracellular Matrix Proteins
Collagen isn’t the only component of your extracellular matrix (ECM) that contributes to youthful skin. Elastin and fibrillin are two more components of the ECM that play a key role in skin health...
Elastin is a protein that’s highly elastic in nature (hence the name) and allows tissues to resume their shape after stretching or contracting. As you can imagine, having a healthy amount of elastin in your skin is paramount for skin firmness, resilience, and elasticity (22).
Fibrillin is a glycoprotein that works with elastin, providing a scaffolding for elastin to sit on (23).
Research shows that collagen supplementation can support healthy elastin levels by increasing elastin synthesis while simultaneously slowing its decline. Collagen specifically curbs the activity of something called matrix metalloproteinases (MMP), which plays a role in aging by deteriorating the proteins in your ECM (24, 25).
One study showed that after just eight weeks of collagen supplementation, participants' skin had an 18% increase in elastin, along with a 6% increase in fibrillin. This increase in ECM synthesis resulted in a statistically significant reduction in wrinkles (26).
The Bottom Line
Although aging is a natural process, there’s a lot you can do to slow it down.
Collagen is one of the most well-studied nutrients for skin health. It not only supports the integrity of your extracellular matrix directly, but it also enhances your ability to produce other skin-supportive proteins like elastin.
If you're looking for ways to slow down the effects of aging on your skin, supplementing with collagen should be your first step. In addition, lifestyle practices like stress-reduction, drinking enough water, consuming antioxidants, and using sun protection are steps that can be taken to support your skin's health.
As a doctor of Physical Therapy, Senior Wellness Expert, and co-founder of NativePath, Dr. Walding has helped millions of people improve their quality of life from the inside out—by speaking, writing, and educating others on how to live life a little more #OnThePath.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.