But skin isn’t the only thing collagen effects; in fact, it’s a major component of lots of parts of your body, too, including the padding that keeps your joints from grinding together, your cartilage, blood vessels, tendons and even your eyes. Suffice it to say, you’re a big fan of collagen, even if you don’t know it yet.
From an aesthetic perspective, though, collagen plays a much simpler, if equally pivotal role. “Collagen basically keeps our skin looking healthy and youthful. It provides strength as well as elasticity for supple skin,” says nutritionist Brooke Alpert. The trouble is that collagen production begins to slow down as you age, which is one of the main factors in the emergence of fun little things like fine lines and wrinkles. So, naturally, the solution to having gleaming, newborn-esque skin forever and ever is just to give your body oodles and oodles of collagen, right? Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.
Considering that those who benefited most from collagen supplements in the studies were those who generally ate the least amount of meat (and were possibly, therefore, not getting enough quality protein), it’s worthwhile, whether you decide to try a supplement or not, to turn your attention to optimizing your body’s own collagen-making machinery. That means getting adequate protein overall, from meat, poultry, fish and plant proteins such as beans, nuts, seeds and grains. And you need to get enough vitamin C — found in foods such as citrus fruits, berries, bell peppers and green, leafy vegetables — which is also essential for collagen production.