Sep 27 / Star Khechara

Skin collagen foods: boosting collagen with nutrition and diet

In our article 'What is skin collagen' you learned what collagen is and where we get collagen naturally. You understand that the body creates it's own collagen via a process called biosynthesis.

Now let's look at how to increase skin collagen naturally and how to increase collagen with diet and nutrition. Spoiler alert: you'll discover that plant-based nutrition and phytochemical-rich superfoods are the best collagen boosting foods 

Nutrients required for collagen biosynthesis

Amino acids: Proline, Glycine, Lysine, Serine and Threonine
Vitamins: Vitamin C and B6
Copper and Manganese

The primary amino acid sequence of collagen is glycine-proline-X or glycine-X-hydroxyproline. X can be any of the other 17 amino acids, and every third amino acid is glycine. 1/3rd of collagen is Glycine

Only Lysine and Threonine are 'essential' amino acids meaning they need to be eaten in the diet as opposed to Serine, Glycine and Proline which are synthesised in the body. Although research suggests that Lysine and Threonine can be synthesised by gut bacteria

20% of circulating Lysine and Threonine (essential for Collagen biosynthesis) in adult humans is synthesised by the gut bacteria

Surg Clin North Am. 2011

How do these nutrients form collagen?


Lysine makes up only 3-4% of the amino acids in collagen but it has an important function in the constitution of the cross-links between the molecules to built the fibrils. Lysine is found in these plant-based foods: spirulina, pistachio nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, edamame, almonds, garlic, avocado, spinach.


Threonine is needed for synthesising the non-essential amino acids: Glycine and Serine (important collagen amino acids). Threonine is found in these plant-based foods: spirulina, goji berries, most seeds + nuts, sweet potato.

Proline & Glycine

Synthesised using Threonine so they're not essential for dietary intake. But vitamin C is required to modify them.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is need for the Hydroxylation of Lysine and Proline. Hydroxylation adds more hydrogen to form strong hydrogen bond; a very important part of the collagen biosynthesis process. Vitamin C is found in these plant-based foods: ALL FRUITS (and most veggies): oranges, pineapples, kiwi, cherries, strawberries, grapefruit, grapes...

Vitamin B6

Deficiency of Pyridoxine (B6) has shown to negatively affect proline synthesis which in turn has an impact on collagen synthesis. Vitamin B6 is found in these plant-based foods: Spinach, banana, avocado, peanuts, garlic, peppers, pistachio nuts, coconut, pineapple


Manganese is required for the activation of prolidase, an enzyme that functions to provide the amino acid proline for collagen formation in human skin cells. Manganese is found in these plant-based foods: Pineapple, almonds, spinach, sweet potato, green tea.


Copper-based enzymes are required for cross-linking the Tropocollagen molecules to assemble into Fibrils. Copper is found in these plant-based foods: Pineapple, dates, chia seeds, seaweed, sesame seeds, potatoes, radishes, sundried tomatoes, kale

Phytochemicals and functional beauty foods that support collagen

In our accredited program Diploma in Integrative Nutridermatology® we remind our students that collagen formation isn't solely the job of the amino acids, vitmains and minerals that play a role in the construction of this skin protein, it's also about the powerful phytochemicals - the unsung heroes - that protect the collagen at the cellular level.

  • Beta-glucan
  • Chlorophyll
  • Ellagic Acid
  • Resveratrol
  • Lignans
  • Catechins
  • Taraxerol
  • Phytosterols

All help maintain collagen levels in the skin. This is why collagen formation is all about those powerful plant foods and not about 'eating more protein' or taking expensive collagen powders
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Beta Glucan

A polysaccharide found in oats and seaweed responsible for skin regeneration, skin immunity boosting, anti-wrinkle properties, Regeneration of collagen- producing cells
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Chlororphyll - the green pigment in green plant foods such as spinach, lettuce, parsley and the skin of cucumber - has shown to reduce facial wrinkles and increase type I procollagen. Chlorophyll is a recognised antioxidant and is hypothosised to play a role in reducing epidermal DNA damage
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Ellagic acid

This compound in berries (especially Raspberry) and Pomegranate has been proven to prevent UV-instigated skin-ageing by preventing collagen breakdown, weakened the affects of UV triggered skin-thickening and wrinkling, and lessened the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
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Found in the skins of red grapes, Resveratrol inhibits collagenase (enzyme that breaks down collagen). Resveratrol is known to be a powerful anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant

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Phytoestrogens can increase the output and thickness of collagen fibres. Plant lignans are the richest main source of phytoestrogens in people that don't eat Soya. Flaxseed is the richest source of plant lignans and they are made more bioavailable by milling for crushing (the oil contains no lignans).
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This polyphenol found in white tea, green tea, cacao and some fruits is theorised as a skin-age preventer. It’s known as a strong anti-inflammatory. The most potent catechin is (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) which is found in the highest amount in white tea (tea tips and flower buds) where it’s been shown as a powerful collagenase and elastase inhibitor - inhibiting the enzymes that break down the extracellular matrix proteins; collagen and elastin.
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An anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing compound found in Butterfly Pea Flower (a blue flower made into tea) which inhibits the enzymes that destroy elastin (elastase) and hyaluronic acid (hyaluronase
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Aloe sterols are potent phytochemicals found in Aloe vera gel, juice and powder increase skin-hydration, production of hyaluronic acid, skin-elasticity and collagen content.


  • Bin Du, Zhaoxiang Bian, Baojun Xu. ‘Skin Health Promotion Effects of Natural Beta-Glucan Derived from Cereals and Microorganisms: A Review.’ Phytother. Res. 28(2) 2014 Pages 159–166 Soyun Cho. ‘The Role of Functional Foods in Cutaneous Anti-aging’ J Lifestyle Med. 2014 Mar; 4(1): 8–16.
  • Bae, J., Choi, J., Kang, S., Lee, Y., Park, J., & Kang, Y. (2010). Dietary compound ellagic acid alleviates skin wrinkle and inflammation induced by UV-B irradiation. Experimental Dermatology, 19(8), e182-e190
  • Silke K. Schagen. ‘Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging'. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1; 4(3): 298–307.
  • Lucia Bacciottini et al. ‘Phytoestrogens: food or drug?’ Clin Cases Miner Bone Metab. 2007 May-Aug; 4(2): 123–130.
  • Liu, T., Li, N., Yan, Y., Liu, Y., Xiong, K., Liu, Y., Xia, Q., Zhang, H., & Liu, Z. (2020). Recent advances in the anti-aging effects of phytoestrogens on collagen, water content, and oxidative stress. Phytotherapy Research, 34(3), 435-447.
  • Tamsyn SA et al. ‘Anti-collagenase, anti-elastase and anti-oxidant activities of extracts from 21 plants.’ BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2009, 9:27
  • KMiyuki Tanaka et al. ‘Effects of Aloe Sterol Supplementation on Skin Elasticity, Hydration, and Collagen Score: A 12-Week Double-Blind, Randomized, Controlled Trial’ Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016; 9: 435– 442
  • Soyun Cho, M.D., Ph.D. ‘Dietary Aloe Vera Supplementation Improves Facial Wrinkles and Elasticity and It Increases the Type I Procollagen Gene Expression in Human Skin in vivo’ Ann Dermatol. 2009 Feb; 21(1): 6–11.
  • Maity N, Nema NK, Sarkar BK, Mukherjee PK. Standardized Clitoria ternatea leaf extract as hyaluronidase, elastase and matrix-metalloproteinase-1 inhibitor. Indian J Pharmacol. 2012;44(5):584-587.


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Article by Star Khechara

Professional agehacker, author, speaker, founder of skin nutrition institute
About me
Ex-skincare formulator and beauty author turned skin-nutrition educator: Star distilled her 20+ years of skin-health knowledge into the world’s first international accredited skin-nutrition school to teach skin therapists, facialists, face yoga practitioners and estheticians how to help their clients feed the skin from within for cellular-level rejuvenation and vibrant beauty. 
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