Collagen Degradation and Wrinkles: An Introduction
The skin is the largest visible organ of the body affected by internal changes (genetics and metabolism) and external factors (UV radiation, pollution).
Collagen is a protein that is a part of all the connective tissues in the human body. Collagen is found in the skin, muscles, ligaments, and even bones.
About 35% of the entire protein content in an adult’s body is made up of collagen.
The three main functions of collagen include:
- Giving structure to tissues
- Repairing damaged tissues (skin renewal)
- Keeping skin supple and strong
What is Collagen Degradation?
Collagen degradation or collagen loss is a condition where a person loses essential collagen components in the body. There can be many reasons for collagen degradation. Some of them include:
- Natural aging
- Free radical damage
- Excessive use of tobacco
- Excessive exposure to UV rays
- Intake of excess sugar
When the collagen in the body decreases, it results in the skin losing its elasticity and suppleness. The thickness of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin) reduces too. The skin sags and gets easily damaged. One of the major signs of collagen degradation is the formation of wrinkles.
Wrinkles are creases, folds, and lines that form on the skin, making smooth skin look saggy and wrinkled. Wrinkles are also called rhytide. Wrinkles are very common in the elderly. Thanks to unhealthy lifestyles and environmental factors like UV exposure and pollution, people lose the collagen content in their skin early on and develop wrinkles.
With the right amount of collagen in the skin, broken or injured collagen and elastic fibers are regenerated quickly, and the skin maintains the same smooth and supple texture. Because of collagen degradation, such broken and injured fibers are replaced by altered fibers that are not the right fit. This is termed misrepair.
Generally, the original fiber gets regenerated in its place. For people with collagen degradation, a long collagen fiber is replaced in that position. Long fibers do not shrink back into their original state, and hence your skin loses its ability to stretch and shrink smoothly and forms wrinkles.
Importance of Collagen
- Collagen gives your skin elasticity and makes it taut and supple. The right amount of collagen can keep wrinkles at bay.
- Collagen is known to prevent joint pain and postpone the development of arthritis.
- According to a study, foods rich in collagen tripeptide can stabilize cholesterol and bring down the risks for cardiovascular diseases.
Genetics and Wrinkle & Collagen Degradation
The STXBP5L gene helps produce the binding protein called Syntaxin-binding protein 5. This is also called Tomosyn, which is the Japanese word for ‘friend.’ This protein plays an important role in photoaging.
A genome-wide study that analyzed the signs of skin aging in 502 caucasian women identified that the severity of wrinkles and other signs of aging increase as the women grow older.
The study also concluded that the T allele of the rs322458 SNP in the STXBP5L gene is beneficial in bringing down the risks of aging signs, including collagen degeneration and formation of wrinkles
The MMP1 gene produces a protein that helps in breaking down collagen for everyday development. The 2G/2G genotype of the rs1799750 SNP of this gene results in a higher breakdown of collagen, leading to collagen degradation. This results in the formation of wrinkles and other signs of aging
Non-genetic Influences Causing Collagen Degradation And Wrinkles
UV rays are of three types - UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C rays. The UV-C rays have short wavelengths and do not reach the skin’s surface. Both UV-A and UV-B rays can reach all the layers of the skin.
UV exposure is the cause of 80% of aging signs.
UV rays promote the development of free radicals in the skin. These free radicals can damage collagen and elastin fibers. Continuous damage to the collagen fibers results in the skin becoming loose, saggy, and wrinkled.
People with fair skin are more affected by UV rays than those with darker skin. This also increases the risk of collagen degradation and the formation of wrinkles.
As you age, your body produces lesser amounts of collagen and elastin fibers. This naturally leads to collagen degradation and wrinkles.
A study analyzed the effects of smoking on the formation of wrinkles. 160 smokers, 67 individuals who had smoked in the past, and 123 non-smokers were chosen for the study. The study showed that people who smoked had a higher degree of facial wrinkling than those who did not smoke. Nicotine in cigarettes damage collagen and elastin and leads to the formation of wrinkles.
The accumulation of Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) in the skin results from excess sugar consumption, natural aging, and diabetes. More AGEs in the skin increase the chances of degradation of collagen.
Vitamin C Deficiency
Vitamin C deficiency is known to bring down collagen production in the body.
Recommendations To Improve Collagen Production And Prevent Wrinkling
Make sure you include fresh vegetables, fruits, and greens in plenty in your diet. All these are antioxidant-rich and prevent free radicals from affecting collagen fibers. Fruits and vegetables that are rich in vitamin C also help fight collagen degradation.
Below is a list of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
- Onions, garlic, leeks
Some vitamin C-rich foods include:
- Red pepper
- Brussels sprouts
Stay away from both active and passive smoking to make sure your skin stays taut and smooth for a longer time.
Sunscreens and Protective Aids
Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. If you are staying out in the sun, reapply every 3-4 hours. Use protective gear like hats, gloves, and umbrellas to keep away harmful UV rays from falling directly on your skin.
Consider Collagen Supplements
If your skin has already started showing signs of wrinkles and collagen loss, consider collagen supplements. Collagen supplements can be had orally or applied on the skin as topical solutions.
Retinol OTC Products
Retinol is also called Vitamin A. Retinol Over-the-Counter skincare products can be used to boost collagen production in the skin. Retinols, along with vitamin C, are very effective in preventing wrinkles and collagen degradation.
Dermatological treatments like micro-needling, laser therapy, chemical peels, and radiofrequency are all created to improve collagen production in the skin. Each of these treatments comes with its own benefits and side effects. It’s important to be wary of the side effects and costs of the treatment before opting for it.
- Collagen degradation is the loss of collagen proteins in the body. Collagen loss affects all parts of the body, including the skin.
- Collagen degradation can cause skin problems like sagging of skin, loss of skin thickness, and wrinkles.
- Wrinkles are creases and lines that form in the skin because of the loss of collagen. Wrinkles are one of the first signs of skin aging.
- Aging causes collagen degradation and wrinkles. Factors like free radical damage, tobacco use, exposure to UV rays, and glycation can all accelerate collagen loss.
- Certain genetic variations in the STXBP5L and MMP1 genes have been associated with collagen degradation
- Including antioxidant-rich foods, staying away from all kinds of tobacco, using sunscreens regularly, and trying out vitamin C and retinol-based skincare products can all help improve collagen production naturally.
- Dermatological processes like micro-needling, chemical peeling, and laser therapies aim to improve collagen production and bring down signs of wrinkles.
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