You may have heard of collagen as a beauty buzzword and know it's important in terms of anti-ageing, but how much do you really know about this crucial skin component?
We asked skin experts to answer our collagen FAQs, and here's what they had to say...
What is collagen and why is it so important in terms of skin ageing?
"Collagen is our most abundant protein," says Dr Thurein Ne Win, senior dermatologist and clinical researcher at Plymouth University Hospital NHS Trust and resident dermatologist at Absolute Collagen. "It's commonly found in the skin, bones and connective tissue within the body, providing structural support, strength and a degree of flexibility where needed.
"Collagen is naturally produced in the body, however it gradually starts to deplete from the age of 25, which can lead to sagging of the skin and formation of wrinkles and fine lines."
What can be done to prevent the decline of collagen production?
"Our skin ages as a result of normal changes in the body as we age, combined with the damaging effect of external factors such as sun exposure, pollution, stress and diet," says Anthony Gonzalez, head of R&D at Avon, but we can help slow down skin ageing by making certain lifestyle choices.
"Diet is a great place to start, as it plays a surprisingly large role in the appearance and youthfulness of your skin," says Nu Tan, founder of Cosmic Molecule. "You get the specific component for collagen by eating a balanced diet of protein-rich foods, for example: broth, chicken, beef, eggs, legumes, nuts and whole grains."
Skincare can also help, Tan says, but you don't have to shell out on expensive products. "In terms of skincare, the best preventative measure is not your €100 anti-ageing moisturiser, it's your good old trusty sunscreen with a minimum SPF30.
"Another great product for your skin is a Vitamin C serum, as it is a great antioxidant that helps repair and prevent further sun damage when you're out and about during the day."
Other key ingredients can help, Gonzalez says, "such as glycolic acid, retinol".
Is it better to start using anti-ageing products at a younger age?
"Although there is no magic remedy to revert your skin back to its teenage years, it is possible to help replenish collagen supplies to improve its structure, which will have visible benefits," says Ne Win, who recommends that if you want to take a collagen supplement the best time to start is from around the age of 25. "Taking a daily dose of collagen from this point is where a user will see optimum skin rejuvenation and tissue renewal."
"Prevention is always better than cure," says Tan. "It's worth cultivating a good skincare regime at a younger age so it becomes routine."
What's the difference between taking collagen supplements and using skincare products?
While our experts all agree that SPF is hugely important in terms of protecting skin, they diverge when it comes to skincare versus supplements.
"Although creams and serums containing collagen can sometimes give your skin a slightly more plumped effect, this is usually due to the moisturising characteristics of some of the other ingredients included, rather than the effectiveness of the topical collagen itself," says Ne Win.
"If your diet is rich in essential fatty acids, antioxidants and proteins, there's likely no need for collagen supplements," says Gonzalez. "The reality is that few of us hit all three, so collagen supplements can help here, as well as topical skincare products that help stimulate collagen production."