Sep 24 / Star Khechara

What is Skin Collagen?

Collagen is a complex protein and the most abundant protein found in the body. There are 4 types of collagen:
  • Type I: Most abundant collagen (90% of collagen is type I). Found in the Bones, Skin and Dentin
  • Type II: Found in elastic cartilage, which provides joint support.
  • Type III: Found in muscles, arteries and organs. This type of collagen constitutes 20% of adult skin
  • Type IV: Found in the basement membrane which (in skin) forms the support between the dermis and epidermis

What does collagen do in the skin? In the Diploma in Integrative Nutridermatology® we teach our students that the skin is similar to a mattress...

Collagen and the 'skin mattress'

Think of the skin like a mattress, the collagen is the strong supportive framework, the elastin is the springs and the foam filler is the hyaluronic acid. This strong skin scaffolding (collagen fibrils) decreases with age and becomes damaged due to various lifestyle and biochemical factors.

Imagine an ageing mattress that has started to dimple and sag because of the loss of structure. This is how collagen plays a part in wrinkle formation

Collagen is 35% glycine, 21% proline and hydroxyproline, and 11% alanine. This unusual amino acid content is imposed by structural constraints unique to collagen molecules

Braz J Med Biol Res. 2012

Are collagen supplements important?

No. Collagen is a protein that is made in the body in a process called Collagen Biosynthesis which happens in the ribosomes within specialised cells called Fibroblasts. Ribosomes fabricate collagen using  materials supplied in the diet:
  • Amino acids
  • Vitamin C
  • Manganese
  • Zinc

Are all required for the complex process of creating collagen molecules and collagen fibrils. In the Collagen Biosynthesis module of the Nutridermatology® Diploma we go into detail about protein synthesis, collagen formation, gene transcription, fibroblast health and the foods that build or destroy collagen. 

But the image below is an over-simplified version. As you can see the Fibroblast takes the amino acids that are eaten in the diet or synthesised by the body and uses them -along with vitamin C and enzymes - to build collagen molecules. These molecules undergo future transformation to create super-strong collagen fibrils.

Collagen fibrils have the same tensile strength as steel

The case against collagen supplements (and why we don't recommend then on our courses)

  • All proteins are species specific, humans build HUMAN collagen. Cow or fish collagen isn't usable by the human body.
  • Collagen is just another protein supplement which the body has to break down into amino acids for the amino acid pool. What enters the mouth as collagen can leave the Ribosome as ANY protein. It's not IKEA furniture, you can't just reassemble it once it's been 'flat-packed'
  • Even if it was miraculously reconstructed as collagen, there's no way to make it end up in your skin specifically as the genes decide where proteins end up.
  • It's a product of animal cruelty and here at SNI we stand for cruelty-free beauty.

There is no reliable evidence to suggest that orally ingested collagen becomes preferentially localised in the dermis as opposed to other parts of the body

Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 19.4 (2020)

It has been argued that the amino acids required for collagen synthesis can be consumed from a normal protein diet

Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 19.4 (2020)


  1. Poortmans JR, Carpentier A, Pereira-Lancha LO, Lancha A Jr. Protein turnover, amino acid requirements and recommendations for athletes and active populations. Braz J Med Biol Res. 2012 Oct;45(10):875-90
  2. Book: Biochemistry, Collagen Synthesis:
  3. Jhawar, Nikita, Jordan V. Wang, and Nazanin Saedi. "Oral collagen supplementation for skin aging: A fad or the future?." Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 19.4 (2020): 910-912.


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Star Khechara

Professional agehacker, author, speaker, founder of skin nutrition institute
About me
Ex-skincare formulator and beauty author turned skin-nutrition researcher and educator: Star distilled her 20+ years of skin-health knowledge into the world’s first international accredited skin-nutrition school to teach holistic health and beauty practitioners the verified science of skin-nutrition and cellular-level skin rejuvenation. 
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