The Collagen Conundrum

Collagen and elastin are the proteins in your skin responsible for firmness and flexibility.  As you age, these proteins decrease in your skin and you get skin thinning and wrinkles.  Unfortunately, eating collagen does absolutely nothing to increase the quantity or quality of collagen in your skin.  Your body just breaks the collagen down into the protein components, then uses it like any other protein.

Luckily there are some procedures which trigger your skin to increase the growth of collagen and improve your appearance, although the effects take 2-3 months to be fully realized.  Plastic surgery is the best for getting rid of excess skin, but does not improve the quality of your skin.

For deep skin tightening without pain or “down time” from visible skin damage, think about EXILIS UTRA or similar devices which work by radiofrequency heating. Exilis has better effectiveness due to Ultrasound technology getting the RF deeper and because higher power can be used with safety due to the continuous auto-tuning performed by the machine based on the impedence of the skin in the current treatment area (for example higher over bone).

For surface wrinkles and other skin irregularities think about various laser treatments.  These involve some discomfort and often a period of abnormal appearance of the skin until the new skin growth occurs.  Full skin resurfacing often requires anesthesia and prolonged recovery time, but the ICON system uses lasers and Intense Pulsed Light applicators with cooled surfaces to decrease pain, and the ICON 1040 laser creates a microinjury with a pattern more like ultra-fine microneedling, so the “down time” is minimized.

Non-invasive methods of collagen stimulation, like Exilis and Laser take 3 months to appreciate the full effect.  The fastest changes in your facial skin appearance are achieved with fillers and botulinum toxin which can quickly increase volume and relax muscles.  Over weeks to months, the body is stimulated to improve collagen growth in the area of the fillers, prolonging the effect for months.  

Often, the best results are achieved with combinations of more than one treatment.  To maintain your skin, protect your investment, and decrease the speed at which your skin loses collagen, you can use topical skin programs which stimulate collagen and protect the skin from environmental oxidants and sun damage.  We prefer Epionce products, particulary with use of the Lytic product to prepare the skin to accept deep treatments, and they are available for purchase here.

The two most important preventive measures are to not smoke and not tan.  A healthy diet also contributes to skin health since nutrients like vitamin C are required by your body to make collagen.

Dr. Chastanet hiking in the Grand Canyon Rachel Chastanet MD Dr. Chastanet is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Obesity Medicine. She practices at Chesapeake Weight Loss & Aesthetics in Chesapeake, VA.

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