How do you replenish lost collagen?

What is collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It makes up 30% of the total protein and 6% of the total body weight. Collagen is found in bones, muscles, skin, tendons, cartilage, blood vessels and the digestive system. It is the substance that holds the body together. There are at least 16 types of collagen in the body, but 80-90% consists of types I, II and III.

Collagen provides structure and strength to the tissues. It helps the skin to stay firm and wrinkle free. The natural aging process and other factors like poor diet, smoking, sun exposure etc deplete collagen levels in the body over time. This leads to common signs of aging like sagging skin, fine lines, wrinkles and joint pain. So it becomes important to replenish the lost collagen to maintain youthful skin, hair, nails and joint health.

What causes collagen depletion?

There are several factors that cause collagen loss in the body:


As we age, the collagen production in the body slows down. The cellular turnover rate declines by 1% every year after we turn 20. The fibroblasts that produce collagen reduce in number and become less active. The collagen fibers also accumulate damage over time due to cross-linking, glycation (reaction with sugars) and free radicals. This leads to thinning of the skin and formation of lines, wrinkles and creases.


Genetics play a key role in determining the collagen levels and how fast it declines with age. People born with lower collagen levels are likely to show early signs of aging. Ethnic differences also exist, with fair skinned people showing greater depletion compared to those with darker skin tones.

Nutritional deficiencies

Collagen synthesis requires certain vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, zinc, copper etc. Deficiencies in these nutrients hamper collagen production. Vitamin C deficiency can cause scurvy which is characterized by skin lesions and bleeding gums due to very low collagen.

UV exposure

UV radiation from the sun is very damaging for collagen. It destroys the collagen fibers and inhibits fibroblasts. This leads to disorganization of the collagen structure and premature skin aging. Chronic UV exposure causes marked depletion of type I and III collagen.


Smoking introduces toxins like nicotine that damage collagen. It accelerates the breakdown of collagen and elastin which leads to sagging skin and deeper wrinkles, especially around the lips and eyes.

Unhealthy diet

High sugar and processed foods promote a process called glycation which disrupts collagen fibers. Lack of protein in the diet also hampers collagen production. Deficiency of vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, copper, zinc etc needed for collagen synthesis has detrimental effects.

Excess alcohol

Alcohol dehydrates the body, allowing less new collagen to be produced. It also damages fibroblasts, reduces collagen and elastin levels and depletes antioxidants. These effects cause the skin to sag and wrinkle prematurely.

Repeated facial expressions

Repeated facial movements and expressions promote the breakdown of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid in the skin over time. This forms lines and wrinkles especially on the forehead, around eyes and mouth.

Weight fluctuations

Going through cycles of weight loss and gain stretches the skin, damaging its collagen. This makes the skin loose, inelastic and prone to wrinkles.


Chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis stimulate enzymes that break down collagen. Certain medications, infections and autoimmune disorders also cause inflammation and collagen loss.

Environmental pollutants

Environmental pollutants like smog, cigarette smoke etc generate free radicals that damage collagen fibers, causing them to become rigid and fragile.

How can you replenish lost collagen?

Here are some effective ways to boost collagen levels in the body:

Eat collagen promoting foods

* Proline and glycine rich foods – Eggs, meat, beans, nuts, seeds, soy, cabbage, celery, bone broth etc
* Vitamin C foods – Citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers, broccoli, kiwi etc
* Copper foods – Seafood, organ meats, sesame seeds, lentils, cocoa etc
* Zinc foods – Oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts etc
* Antioxidants – Colorful fruits and vegetables

Take supplements

* Collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen – Great bioavailable source of major collagen types
* Vitamin C – Essential for collagen synthesis
* Copper, zinc – Needed for cross-linking collagen fibers
* Antioxidants like vitamin E, carotenoids, polyphenols etc to combat free radicals

Topical collagen

Apply creams, serums or masks containing collagen and collagen boosting ingredients:

* Marine collagen
* Hyaluronic acid
* Ceramides
* Retinoids
* Copper peptides
* Vitamin C
* Alpha hydroxy acids
* Peptides

Alternative treatments

* Acupuncture – shown to increase collagen production
* Microneedling – triggers collagen remodeling through controlled injury
* Laser therapy – stimulates fibroblasts to make more collagen
* PRP injections – plasma rich in growth factors to boost collagen growth
* Radiofrequency – heats skin to contract collagen and elastin

Lead a healthy lifestyle

* Quit smoking and excessive drinking
* Practice sun protection with hats, clothing and sunscreen
* Manage stress through meditation, yoga etc
* Get enough sleep and manage fatigue
* Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
* Include exercise in daily routine
* Avoid repetitive facial expressions
* Maintain stable weight
* Treat any underlying inflammatory conditions

Foods that help replenish collagen

Certain foods are particularly beneficial for stimulating your body’s own collagen production:

1. Leafy greens

Leafy greens like spinach and kale are loaded with vitamin C which is essential for collagen synthesis. They also provide plant compounds that protect collagen from damage.

2. Garlic

Garlic contains sulphur compounds including allicin that support collagen cross-linking. This makes the fibers strong and flexible.

3. Soy products

Soy contains genistein, an isoflavone that helps block enzymes that break down collagen. Edamame, tofu, tempeh and miso are great options.

4. Blueberries

Blueberries are packed with collagen protecting antioxidants like anthocyanins. Vitamin C in blueberries also assist in collagen formation.

5. Tomatoes

Tomatoes provide lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that shields collagen from UV damage and destruction by free radicals.

6. Bell peppers

Bell peppers are an excellent source of vitamin C needed for collagen synthesis. The red and yellow varieties also have collagen boosting beta-carotene.

7. Broccoli

Broccoli contains vitamins C and A, both of which help stimulate new collagen production. The sulforaphane in it also inhibits enzymes that can break down collagen.

8. Oranges

Oranges are packed with vitamin C, the antioxidant that is like a collagen builder. They also provide citrus bioflavonoids that protect and strengthen collagen.

9. Eggs

Eggs provide proline and glycine, amino acids that make up about 25% of collagen. Lysine is also required for cross-linking collagen strands.

10. Bone broth

Bone broth is abundant in glycine, proline as well as gelatin which acts like a collagen filler to minimize wrinkles.

Lifestyle factors that preserve and boost collagen

In addition to diet, these healthy lifestyle practices can help maintain youthful collagen levels:

Quit smoking

Smoking damages collagen and elastin leading to accelerated skin aging. Quitting smoking improves microcirculation and tissue oxygenation allowing better collagen production.

Practice sun protection

UV rays degrade existing collagen and inhibit its synthesis. Regular use of broad spectrum sunscreens prevents photoaging and collagen destruction from the sun.

Manage stress

Chronic stress increases cortisol which inhibits collagen synthesis and accelerates its breakdown. Stress management techniques like yoga, meditation and deep breathing help control excess cortisol.

Get enough high quality sleep

Lack of sleep elevates cortisol and reduces growth hormone, lowering collagen production. Adequate quality sleep allows the body to regenerate collagen.

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise improves circulation, delivers collagen building nutrients to the skin and stimulates tissue regeneration. It helps preserve muscle mass supporting collagen.

Avoid excessive alcohol

Heavy alcohol use dehydrates the skin and body, depletes vitamins and antioxidants, and damages collagen fibers leading to premature aging.

Hydrate with water

Dehydration reduces collagen production in fibroblasts. Drinking plenty of water supports the optimal structure and renewal of collagen.

Maintain a healthy weight

Major weight fluctuations stretch the skin accelerating collagen and elastin breakdown. Stable weight helps avoid excessive loss of skin collagen.

Collagen boosting ingredients to look for

There are several natural ingredients proven to enhance collagen synthesis when applied topically:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is essential for collagen production. It provides antioxidant activity and assists in cross-linking collagen fibers for better structure.


Retinoids like retinol stimulate new collagen production by increasing fibroblast activity and inhibiting collagen breakdown.


Peptides like Matrixyl and argireline act on signs of aging by supporting collagen synthesis and preventing its deterioration.

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid retains moisture and combines with collagen to provide volume and fullness to the skin.


Resveratrol is a polyphenol antioxidant that protects existing collagen from free radical damage and boosts collagen production.


Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide helps build keratin and collagen and reduces collagen breakdown in the skin.

Copper peptides

Copper is required for cross-linking collagen molecules. Copper peptides support collagen renewal and improve skin firmness.

Coenzyme Q10

This potent antioxidant minimizes collagen damage from UV exposure and oxidizing pollutants in the environment.

Green tea extract

The polyphenols in green tea like EGCG inhibit collagen breakdown and help combat photoaging when applied topically.


This soy derived isoflavone inhibits enzymes like collagenase that are responsible for breaking down collagen in the skin.

Medical and cosmetic procedures for collagen stimulation

Some medical and cosmetic procedures can restore lost collagen by stimulating its production:

Laser skin resurfacing

Ablative and non-ablative lasers damage the skin in a controlled manner to trigger new collagen production and tissue remodeling. Results can last several years.

Chemical peels

Medium-depth and deep chemical peels remove damaged skin and trigger skin regeneration and collagen remodeling for improvement in texture and tone.


Microneedling creates microscopic punctures in the skin prompting release of growth factors and collagen production. This reduces scars and fine lines.

Radiofrequency skin tightening

Radiofrequency devices heat up tissue mobilizing collagen for tightening and contouring effects. The heat also stimulates new collagen.

Ultrasound skin tightening

Focused ultrasound energy heats up the deeper dermis layer of the skin causing immediate collagen contraction as well as long term collagen rebuilding.

Injectable fillers

Injectable dermal fillers based on hyaluronic acid fill in facial folds and creases through volume expansion. They provide a collagen boosting effect.

Platelet-rich plasma (PRP)

Injected PRP triggers collagen remodeling through growth factors and cytokines present in the concentrated plasma. It rejuvenates the skin.

Sculptra injections

Injections of Sculptra (poly-L-lactic acid) stimulate collagen production leading to gradual increase in facial volume and smoothing of wrinkles and hollows.

Home remedies to boost collagen

Here are some easy DIY home remedies that can help stimulate natural collagen production:

Aloe vera gel

– Contains glucomannan which promotes collagen synthesis and hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin

Avocado mask

– Rich in antioxidants like vitamins A, C, E that protect and restore collagen

Egg white mask

– The collagen building amino acids like proline and glycine help tighten and lift the skin

Honey mask

– Has antioxidant polyphenols that increase collagen production and support skin health

Blueberry yogurt mask

– Blueberries and yogurt provide antioxidants to boost collagen levels

Olive oil massage

– Replenishes skin with antioxidants and oleic acid to stimulate collagen renewal

Coconut oil scrub

– Coconut oil has skin nourishing fatty acids and polyphenols to promote collagen growth

Coffee scrub

– Caffeine in coffee protects skin collagen from degradation by UV radiation and enzymes

Rosehip oil

– Rosehip oil is rich in antioxidants that diminish damage from free radicals and encourage collagen regeneration

Chamomile steam facial

– Chamomile has potent anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce collagen breakdown


Collagen is the structural protein responsible for firm, youthful skin along with healthy joints, bones and other tissues. Many factors like aging, sun exposure, poor diet, smoking etc can accelerate collagen breakdown. Luckily, there are many diet and lifestyle strategies like consuming collagen boosting foods, applying topical creams with collagen stimulating ingredients, quitting smoking, practicing sun protection etc that help replenish lost collagen. Certain medical procedures like laser treatments, microneedling and ultrasound therapy can also promote long lasting collagen renewal. Implementing some of these science-backed methods can counteract collagen loss for more radiant, smooth and supple skin.

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