Lately, drinking collagen or taking collagen supplements daily has been suggested it may improve fine lines and wrinkles and even reverse the signs of aging over the course of several months.  We know that we lose 1% of collagen per year starting at age 20.  It seems sensible then if we are aging and losing this scaffolding of the skin, replacing it would counter-act skin aging.   Is skin anti-aging really that simple?  To answer this question, we asked Dr. Norris at Nicole Norris MD Medical Spa in Peru, Illinois to weigh-in on what she recommends for collagen replacement.

She begins, “I think someone asks me about oral collagen supplements for treating lines and wrinkles at least once a week.  From what I have read, it is very difficult to discern whether noted improvements in the skin are due to hydration, as most of these supplements are mixed with liquids, or to the actual absorption of collagen through the gut. Oral collagen supplements from fish or animals are broken down by our stomach acid into amino acids chains and it is unclear if those amino acids ever reach the skin or reform into collagen.  Collagen supplements are typically made of ground up chicken, fish, pig or cow parts which can greatly vary in their collagen concentration and in some studies have shown to harbor trace heavy metals pending the animal’s diet.  It is difficult to sort out which supplements are reputable and safe.  Although there are oral collagen studies out there that show benefit to the skin, joints, nails, hair, and wound healing, there are just as many studies that show no benefit and possible harm.   With all this uncertainty about oral collagen supplementation, I ask my patients to stick with what we know.  Good skin comes from healthy diets, avoiding UVA and UVB radiation, genetics and collagen-inducing treatments that stimulate the body to make its own new collagen.” 

We then asked her to further explain what she means by collagen-inducing treatments.  Dr. Norris goes on, “Thank goodness our skin is a regenerative organ!  When our skin is injured, even minimally, it repairs itself.  Minor injuries to the skin stimulate a healing cascade that give us new skin which includes new collagen (scaffolding) and elastin.  In cosmetic dermatology we use this innate body process to our advantage for collagen induction to either prevent or treat the signs of aging.  In my practice, the most popular collagen induction treatment is microneedling.”

Most of us have heard of microneedling, but we want to know exactly what it entails.  Dr. Norris replies, “Microneedling in the medical setting utilizes an instrument engineered with 6-8 tiny needles on the tip that puncture the skin at different depths depending on the settings and the operator’s technique.  It is important that the needles puncture vertically and do not drag across the skin.  Microneedling pens or rollers sold to beauty consumers drag across the skin tearing important structures and do more harm than good.  I tell my patients to give these over-the-counter devices to someone they don’t like!  Microneedling in my office is done after the patient has been numbed with topical numbing medication and is very tolerable.  Patients are typically red when they leave the office and are allowed to wear make-up as soon as the next day, if needed.  Results from microneedling are increased by doing a series of 3-4 treatments separated by a month and compounded when we use various other treatments with microneedling.  Since we are creating direct channels into the dermis (deep layer of the skin) we can get great absorption of products like Defenage, Platelet-rich fibrin (PRF), Biorevitalization , Exosomes and Carboxytherapy, pending what we are treating.  Microneedling can seem scary at first but it is rare for a patient to have this procedure once and not want to have more of them. I think the take home message is that while the science of oral collagen supplementation for anti-aging is in its infancy, microneedling is a tried and true way to induce collagen in the skin that is safe and effective for all ages and skin types.”

If you are interested in learning more, call Nicole Norris MD Medical Spa for your personal anti-aging consultation. 815-780-8264