When I was in massage school, we learned a lot about the skin: what it’s made of, how it’s structured, and how it responds to massage. We also learned about the effects of aging on different body systems, including the skin. As my anatomy and physiology professor was fond of saying, whenever we covered a section on aging: “Aging sucks!” Cells don’t reproduce as quickly, organs don’t function as optimally, and signs of wear and tear start to show. In the skin, it means you don’t produce as much collagen.
Photo Igor Cvoro © for Beauty Scene
What is Collagen?
Collagen is an interesting substance. It’s a prime component in your skin and teeth, as well as bones, cartilage, tendons and other connective tissue. Although all those structures seem different from each other, collagen functions similarly in all of them by providing tensile strength.
· In your teeth and bones, it keeps those structures from chipping or breaking. In the teeth it also supports gum tissue, which holds your teeth in place and provides a blood supply, and contributes to the shape of your mouth.
· In your cartilage and other connective tissue, it provides flexibility, strength, and cushioning to prevent injury from tearing, or bone rubbing against bone. It also adds flexibility and strength to blood vessel walls to prevent them from tearing under pressure.
· In your skin, it provides flexibility and strength to allow your skin to hold its shape, and snap back into place when stretched.
As you age, your body reduces its collagen production. Over time the structures that depend on collagen weaken leading to:
· Brittleness in your teeth and bones;
· Gum recession and loose teeth;
· Susceptibility to strains, sprains, and tendinitis;
· Joint pain and joint deterioration;
· Poor circulation from weakened blood vessel walls; and
· Wrinkled and sagging skin.
Not everyone experiences all of the effects of collagen loss as they age, and neither do we lose collagen at the same rate. For example, a woman who needed a knee replacement, from worn cartilage in her 50s might have the skin of that 50 year-old well into her 70s. Conversely, a 40 year old with no physical ailments might have the mouth wrinkles and sagging facial skin of someone in her 60s.
This is because your individual collagen production is based on heredity, and is also influenced by lifestyle.
For example, women with fair skin who spend a lot of time in the sun will wrinkle faster, because UV rays damage the skin cells that produce collagen.
Doctors and scientists have been working for decades to find ways to reduce the effects of collagen loss, and restore collagen levels. Some of these treatments are cosmetic and some are medical.
One of the latest treatments is an external natural lip enhancement product that you place against your teeth – similar to tooth whitening strips – to restore the natural shape to your lips. According to angellift.com, a dermal strip manufacturer/seller, these strips are designed to be worn for a short time each day and is supposed reverse the effects of receding gums and collagen loss in the lips without the more invasive injections or implants.
Dermal strips (aka. dermastrips) are one of the more common cosmetic procedures used to reduce wrinkles, and also for natural lip augmentation. Most modern dermal fillers are collagen, collagen stimulators, or your own fat cells. The product is injected beneath the top layer of skin and, depending on what it is made of, it can last anywhere from weeks months.
Implants are inserted surgically to restore fullness to the cheeks and lips. These products can be made of synthetic materials, like silicone, or from natural donor tissue. The silicone products last indefinitely while the natural tissue usually breaks down over time.
The most common medical treatment is the collagen injection in the knee. This injection is designed to rebuild the collagen that makes up the cartilage that cushions the knee cap. There is also a treatment called prolotherapy where a doctor injects a substance that’s supposed to stimulate collagen production within the knee joint. Prolotherapy is supposed to be more effective than simply injecting collagen because it actually stimulates your body to make its own collagen to strengthen and restore the knee joint.