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Collagen: What Is It For and Where Do We Get It?

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.

A multitude of products, both prescription and over-the-counter, have collagen as one of their major components 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 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 aging skin, for example, the weakening of these fibres 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 sources are 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, are summarized in a 2017 article in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. While recognizing that the majority of collagen formulations are indeed used for cosmetic purposes, identifying which type should be specifically used or manufactured is less discussed.  The authors point to Type I Collagen as the most often used for the 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 possesses 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.

Reference

  1. Avila Rodríguez MI, Rodríguez Barroso LG, Sánchez, ML (2018). Collagen: A review on its sources and potential cosmetic applications. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 17(1), 20-26. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12450
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