The 7 Most Effective Topical Ingredients To Stimulate Collagen Production In The Skin

Adding these skincare ingredients to your beauty routine will help your skin build more collagen to maintain a firm and supple appearance.

Once you reach your 30s, your skin loses more and more of its firmness and elasticity with each birthday. To blame is the depletion of collagen — the most abundant protein that gives skin strength, structure, and support — that starts from as early as the mid-to-late 20s. Collagen is basically the glue that holds all the cells together, giving skin suppleness, elasticity, and firmness. Without it, the skin becomes thin, more fragile, and susceptible to external damage, and fine lines and wrinkles appear more noticeable. But inevitably, after the mid-20s, collagen levels start to drop by 1.5% each year, and by the age of 45, your body will have lost about 30% of the total collagen content. Also, external foes such as UV damage, pollution, smoking, a poor diet, and even stress can accelerate the loss of collagen and speed up skin aging.

Since collagen is essential for maintaining skin integrity and because countless factors can deplete it, replenishing it and protecting it from degradation is key to resilient and supple skin. While you can do plenty of things to preserve your body’s collagen, experts agree that applying topical ingredients with collagen-stimulating effects is the best way to boost this protein in the skin. Collagen-boosting ingredients include retinol, vitamin C, niacinamide, alpha-hydroxy acids, and peptides, and their topical application is hailed to have a considerable impact on skin collagen.

Collagen-stimulating ingredients

Retinol

Retinol is one of the best ingredients to spur collagen growth and diminish aging signs. According to studies, it not only stimulates new collagen production in the skin but also reduces the degradation of collagen caused by UV damage.[1] This is due to retinol’s ability to speed up cell turnover and encourage the formation of fibroblasts, cells responsible for collagen production. Also, retinol is an antioxidant, so it can fight free radicals and reduce environmental damage, both known to deplete skin proteins.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a skincare staple for a handful of dermatologist-approved reasons and is a key player in the synthesis of collagen. This is because vitamin C is the essential cofactor for the two main enzymes required for collagen production and is a potent antioxidant that blocks external foes from breaking down skin proteins.[2] Since it hikes up collagen, vitamin C keeps skin firm and elastic while defending against photoaging and premature wrinkles. Also, vitamin C is an effective inhibitor of melanin (skin-darkening pigment) that brightens dark spots and promotes an even-looking complexion.

Niacinamide

A derivative of vitamin B3, niacinamide provides a ton of benefits when applied to the skin, mainly due to its ability to build proteins and lipids. Studies have shown niacinamide delivers antioxidant protection, supports epidermal barrier function, reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, increases skin hydration, and fades hyperpigmentation.[3] Technically speaking, niacinamide boosts collagen production, stimulates the synthesis of other essential proteins (keratin, filaggrin, and involucrin), and increases the levels of lipids that form the moisture barrier (ceramides and fatty acids).

Alpha-hydroxy acids

Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), such as glycolic and lactic acids, are chemical exfoliants that work by removing the top layer of the skin to reveal a fresher and brighter appearance. Aside from promoting cell growth, AHAs are also known to increase collagen levels when applied topically.[4] Plus, they act as humectants, so they keep skin moisturized by drawing water from the environment into the epidermis.

Bakuchiol

Bakuchiol is a great natural ingredient to kickstart collagen production and give your skin a boost of firmness and radiance. Interestingly, bakuchiol acts very similarly on the skin as retinol — the reason is often called botanical retinol — supporting cell renewal and producing new collagen. Better still, bakuchiol is a more potent antioxidant than retinol, much gentler, and does not cause the common redness and irritation of retinoids. In a 2014 study, the topical use of bakuchiol for 12 weeks resulted in considerably fewer fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation and much smoother and firmer skin.[5]

Centella asiatica

Another collagen-boosting ingredient often used in skincare products is Centella asiatica, or as most know it, cica. It turns out that asiatic acid, madecassic acid, and asiaticoside, the three major compounds in cica, can lead to a major increase in the skin’s total protein and collagen content. They also work to reduce moisture loss, fortify the skin’s antioxidant defense, and soothe inflammation and redness.[6]

Peptides

Peptides are short chains of amino acids found in every cell and tissue. The role of peptides is to send signals to cells to build more collagen, elastin, and other proteins needed by the skin to maintain its structure and resiliency. In other news, using topical products with peptides can encourage your skin to make more collagen. Ideally, look out for products containing Matrixiyl and epidermal growth factors, as these are the most researched peptides with anti-aging and collagen-stimulating effects.

What else

In addition to adding collagen-boosting ingredients to your skincare routine, there are other things you can do to preserve your skin collagen:

  • Eat healthily: Having a balanced diet rich in collagen-boosting foods, such as fish, tomatoes, eggs, berries, and leafy greens, can help supply your body with more collagen. Also, avoid sugar and highly processed and fried foods because they can destroy your skin’s collagen and make you age faster.
  • Use LED masks: Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have been heavily researched in the dermatological field and were shown to have a series of beneficial effects on the skin. Specifically, the red light was proven to stimulate fibroblasts to produce more collagen when regularly applied to the face. So using a LED mask like CurrentBody Skin LED Mask can help restore your skin firmness and minimize the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Radiofrequency treatment: Similar to LEDs, radiofrequency therapy is also known to significantly impact collagen. It uses energy waves to heat the deeper layers of the skin in order to encourage the production of collagen and elastin fibers. As a result, it minimizes fine lines, makes the skin appear firmer and tighter, and reduces sagginess. These are our favorite radiofrequency devices for home use.
  • Apply SPF every morning: Even though sunscreen does not directly increase collagen levels, it protects existing collagen from degradation. This is because sunscreen protects skin from sun damage, which is the main culprit that causes collagen to break down quickly. Ideally, apply sunscreen with at least 30 SPF every morning to strengthen your skin defense against UVA and UVB.

Footnotes

Women’s Concepts uses reliable sources, including dermatologists’ insights, clinical trials, and scientific journals, to find accurate information and support all the facts shared in our articles. All statements and claims have clear and legit references. Read our editorial policy to learn more about our sources of information, our process of researching and fact-checking the content, and how our team strives to keep all articles updated, completed, and trustworthy.

References
  1. Mukherjee S, Date A, Patravale V, Korting HC, Roeder A, Weindl G. Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clin Interv Aging. 2006.
  2. Telang PS. Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2013 Apr;4(2):143-6. doi: 10.4103/2229-5178.110593. PMID: 23741676.
  3. Levin J, Momin SB. How much do we really know about our favorite cosmeceutical ingredients? J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010 Feb;3(2):22-41. PMID: 20725560; PMCID: PMC2921764.
  4. Tang SC, Yang JH. Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin. Molecules. 2018 Apr 10.
  5. Chaudhuri RK, Bojanowski K. Bakuchiol: a retinol-like functional compound revealed by gene expression profiling and clinically proven to have anti-aging effects. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2014.
  6. Bylka W, Znajdek-Awiżeń P, Studzińska-Sroka E, Brzezińska M. Centella asiatica in cosmetology. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2013.
Who wrote this?
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu
Ana Vasilescu is the founder and editor-in-chief of Women's Concepts. She has over 5 years of experience working in the beauty editorial industry and dermatological research and was an acne sufferer for over a decade. Ana is now an IAO and CPD-accredited skincare consultant keen to teach others about the importance of a consistent routine. She covers a wide range of topics in skincare—from buzzy ingredients to anti-aging and acne advice. She holds a BA in Sociology and Political Sciences from the National School of Political and Administrative Studies. Find her on LinkedIn or Instagram.
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