One of the most important substances naturally occurring in our bodies is collagen. It supports the skin, bone, and cartilage that helps us stay young and active and healthy. As we age our collagen breaks down and our body produces less. This has an impact on how we look and how we function. The good news is that advances in medical science can help the human body produce more collagen and even insert more collagen, to help keep us vibrant and beautiful.
As noted by Medical News Today:
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, found in the bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. It is the substance that holds the body together. Collagen forms a scaffold to provide strength and structure. Endogenous collagen is natural collagen, synthesized by the body. Exogenous collagen is synthetic. It comes from an outside source, such as supplements. Endogenous collagen has a number of important functions. Breakdown and depletion is linked to a number of health problems. Exogenous collagen is used for medical and cosmetic purposes, including the repair of body tissues…Collagen is a hard, insoluble, and fibrous protein that makes up one-third of the protein in the human body… Collagen is secreted by various cells, but mainly by connective tissue cells. It is found in the extracellular matrix. This is an intricate network of macromolecules that determines the physical properties of body tissues. A macromolecule is a molecule containing a large number of atoms. With age, collagen weakens, leading to wrinkles and cartilage problems. In the dermis, or the middle layer of skin, collagen helps form a fibrous network of cells called fibroblasts, upon which new cells can grow. It also plays a role in replacing and restoring dead skin cells.
Losing More Collagen Than You Need or Helping to Maintain It
Collagen breaks down in women at a different rate than in men, and by the time women reach menopause there is a dramatic decline in the amount of collagen that is found in their bodies. This can be further impacted by sun damage, poor diet, smoking and excessive alcohol, too much sugar and/or drug use.
There are some things that may help to counter collagen loss without medical intervention, but they are not guaranteed. Primarily these are focused around consuming healthy food that includes nutrients that may promote or support collagen. This means a diet full of protein rich foods, vitamin C, zinc, copper, and taking collagen supplements. (Source). Collagen supplements are made from the bones, skin and other connective tissue of animals, although there are some vegetarian and vegan alternatives that include soy and silica. (Source).
These dietary supplements may help, but in reality, the only way that is known to increase collagen is under a doctors care.
Medical Grade Collagen Can Help
There are two ways that doctors typically use collagen to help in the field of cosmetic medicine and aesthetics. One of these is through the intentional creation of an injury to cause collagen production at the source. The other is through the injection of collagen. Sometimes these methods are combined.
It is well documented that collagen can promote wound healing. In fact there are National Institutes of Health studies that demonstrate the efficacy of using collagen in wound dressing for injuries. (Source). Accordingly, collagen sponges are seeded with proteins that help to build the materials the body needs to reconstruct and heal the wounded area and they can be an effective delivery mechanism of antibiotics. At the same time, when facing wounds that collagen is used to help heal, it becomes important to balance between the wound healing and scar formation. This is because collagen plays a major role in the formation of scars. Luckily, as doctors, we have the tools to help combat that.
On top of wound healing, collagen “has an array of dental, orthopedic and surgical applications, including cosmetic surgery. It is used as a healing aid for burn patients, in bone reconstruction and as an artificial skin substitute. Most medical collagen is derived from cattle or pigs, but more expensive human collagen is available from cadavers, placentas and aborted fetuses. Cosmetic uses include skin and hair products.” (Source).
The sources of collagen make it highly controversial, which has led scientists to look toward other sources, including marine collagen and sourcing collagen from the patient’s own body (much the same way PRP treatments source blood from the client to reuse on behalf of the client).
Presuming no ethical issues with the source of collagen, the uses in cosmetic and aesthetic medicine that are remarkable include skin resurfacing using collagen-based materials, as described by the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, and skin rejuvenation through wrinkle filling with collagen, as described by WebMD.
It is pretty remarkable that modern science has brought us the capability to turn back the clock on people without resorting to surgery and to enhance people’s healing when they do have surgery. To learn more about how collagen should be a regular product and ingredient in your clinic or spa, be sure to attend SCALE 2019 Music City. We look forward to seeing you there in May.