And what actually is collagen anyway?
Dry skin. It’s not pleasant but chances are we all experience at some point in our lives and, often, it gets worse around winter time every year.
Just what you need. Winter can be tough enough with the shorter days affecting your sleep pattern and energy levels without having your skin adding extra stress to your life.
Stress and Skin
For some people this subject can be a nightmarish version of the chicken and the egg — was it stress that made your skin dry? Or is your dry skin stressing you out?
It is true that stress can cause your skin to dry out because one of our body’s responses to stress is that your skin’s ability to heal itself is slowed¹.
Unfortunately this means that, whichever ailment appeared first, the combination can become a downwards spiral over winter if your skin condition stresses you out.
Chill and Skin
What happens if you’re someone who loves Winter? Warm clothes, the possibility of a jolly fat man falling down your chimney and brisk walks around the park with mulled wine. You aren’t stressed at all, you’re totally chilled. But your skin is still is still dry.
At least you know that it was the skin that started first but now stress is creeping into the fold, so what happened and how can you prevent it in future?
Well, when the temperature drops outside so does the humidity level and this causes your skin to lose moisture as it evaporates quicker.
“In fact, your skin loses more than 25 percent of its ability to hold moisture in the winter.”²
So all that fresh winter air can actually be causing your skin more harm than good. To compound this, we’re usually wrapped up warm but leave one part of our body exposed more than the rest — our face.
Face the Cold
It’s not a bad thing to leave your face uncovered during winter (unless you should be wearing a mask, how times change) but another affect on our skin can be a phenomenon known as Winter Acne.
Another response to dry skin is that your body produces more of something called sebum:
“an oily substance that is a key component of acne. Too much of this oil causes the skin cells to stick together and clogs pores.”³
Ergo, winter acne! Or, at least a feeling that your skin isn’t as radiant as usual. It doesn’t sound like our bodies are helping us much when the weather gets cold.
When talking about skin so much I think it’s worth considering what we actually mean when we mention it.
Yes, yes we all know what skin is but, could you give a scientific description that would explain how the environment can effect it so much? No? Me neither, so I’ll let someone more qualified take it away.
“Healthy skin provides an active interface between the internal and external environments of the body and enables permanent adaptation and acclimatization of an organism during its lifetime.”⁴
Translation: our skin is the boundary between the world outside and the world within, and because the world outside is always in flux our skin is also constantly adapting. And what is the most important component of this protective barrier? Collagen.
I’m sure you’ve heard the word before but if you’re like me, you nodded along for a long time before you found out exactly what it is, and if you’re still nodding even now, let me shed some light on how collagen can help stop your own skin from shedding.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is a major component of connective tissues that make up much more than just your skin⁵. But, in reference to your skin, collagen maintains its structure by helping to retain water and keep it smooth and strong.⁴
Now, this is where it can get confusing because there are over 20 different types of collagen⁶. But don’t worry, I’m not going to take your through a science lesson and test your memory next week.
Luckily, there is one type that makes up 90% of the body’s collagen and conveniently it’s called Type I.⁷ This is what provides the structure of your skin.
While it is essential for us to understand that our bodies naturally create collagen daily to support our needs⁸, there are sources that can come from our diet that help boost our levels when we are in need.
Type I Collagen Sources
- Egg whites
- Citrus fruits
- Red and yellow vegetables⁹
There are debates over the effectiveness of different sources of collagen in terms of animal vs plant but they both have benefits. For instance:
“Supplementing with fish collagen has been shown to greatly benefit the skin and promote good health overall.”¹⁰
“There are herbs and superfoods that can even improve, strengthen, and prolong the health of the skin. These foods include aloe vera, turmeric, licorice, pomegranate, cinnamon, and dill.”¹¹
Dry Skin Hero
Regardless of your preference of source, additional collagen in the form of dietary choices or supplementation has been proven to promote the health of your skin and keep it from drying out in winter months.
“ In a study of healthy women with visible signs of aging, daily supplementation with collagen for 12 weeks dramatically improved the appearance of participants’ skin, decreasing visible lines and wrinkles, and beating back dryness and scaling.”¹²
So there you have it, winter can be tough on our skin but you can help protect your own protector by making sure you get enough collagen.
And now, hopefully, you know what collagen is. Maybe next time it comes up in conversation you might actually be able to join in!