A review article in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology highlights how collagen is currently being used and sourced, as well as its possible future uses.

“Collagen” is already a byword when it comes to rejuvenation—a multitude of products, both prescription and over the counter, have collagen as its major component in the hope of refreshing or even turning back the clock of skin aging.

The continuing popularity of collagen as a component in these numerous formulations is attributed to an understanding of its composition. We have extensive knowledge of collagen, its properties, and how it contributes to the structure of the human body. As a vital component of connective tissue, it is an integral component of skin, bone, and soft tissue. In the aging skin, for example, the weakening of collagen fibers and loss of volume contribute to the atrophic, wrinkled appearance seen as undesirable by many. Beyond its notoriety as a beauty enhancer, collagen can be used in many other applications, from repairing and replacing joint cartilage, to addressing defects in tendons, the cornea, and lung tissue.

Collagen is also readily available and easily sourced. Traditionally it was refined from the bone, skin and cartilage of cattle. While bovine-sourced collagen is still the most common, concerns about its allergenic properties as well as the rare but frightening possibility of the transmission of ‘mad cow disease’ have prompted manufacturers to look for other sources, whether artificial or synthetic.

These potential applications, as well as possible sources for collagen, are summarized in a 2017 article in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. While recognizing that the majority of collagen formulations is indeed used for cosmetic purposes, identifying which type of collagen should be specifically used or manufactured is less discussed.  The authors point to type I Collagen as the most often used for rejuvenation of the skin, and recommend increasing the sourcing and development of this type.

With the concerns surrounding bovine collagen, and the relative expense of synthetic collagen, the authors suggest obtaining it from marine sources as a viable alternative. Collagen derived from the skin and bones of fish, sponges, and jellyfish possess similar profiles with bovine collagen in terms of biocompatibility, with less allergenic potential. The overwhelming abundance of marine life also makes it a more fertile, less expensive source of collagen and the authors propose devoting research into the processing and refining of marine-sourced collagen.

While indeed promising to be a boon to product developers in the cosmetic industry, this can also lead to the development of newer and better collagen-based biomaterials for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. The authors fully endorse this, as they do believe that benefiting both consumer and patient, industry and medicine, is indeed a win all around.

Written by Jay Martin, M.D.

Reference: Rodríguez, et al. “Collagen:  A review on its sources and potential cosmetic applications”.  Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 10 October 2017. DOI:  10.1111/jocd.12450

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