What is collagen?

Sue Hitzmann
Collagen is a protein that comprises over 25 percent of our total body protein and is the dominant molecule in connective tissue. Scientific research on collagen has been going on for the last two decades, and we now know that there are more than 16 different types of collagen, each with different roles, properties and lifespan.

Collagen creates a triple helix structure that holds everything from bones, muscles and joints stable, and it helps the skin maintain its structure. Although scientists have been able to develop synthetic collagen, it doesn’t seem to bind to the existing collagen. Thus, it doesn’t really have any effect to reinforce the structures under the skin.

Collagen is our body’s most abundant protein. About one-third of all proteins in our body are collagen, and about 90 percent of skin tissues owe their structure to collagen. It’s continually undergoing a process of breakdown and repair, a cycle called turnover, to ensure our body remains in peak health. Because the skin is made up of so much collagen, it’s more adept at handling stress and repairing cells after damage. You know this if you have ever slightly burned your arm while cooking. A few days later, your skin looks likes it’s on its way back to normal. If you’ve ever felt sore after a hard workout or a day of skiing, you know that your body will feel normal again in a few days. What happens is the damaged muscle tissues (and tendons and ligaments, all rich in collagen) get repaired relatively quickly. Your body’s turnover factory will remove damaged tissue and replenish it with new, stronger tissue.

From The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You by Amy Wechsler.

Collagen is a protein that strengthens the body's tissues and organs. It makes up roughly 80 percent of your skin, but it breaks down as you age, especially if you've spent a lot of time in direct sunlight. As your collagen levels decrease over time, your skin may wrinkle or sag.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Collagen is a protein-rich connective tissue that gives shape and support to many tissues, including the skin. Watch the animation to see the effects of aging on the skin