Does Collagen Help With Acne
Time to read 6 min
Your cart is empty
Time to read 6 min
The health of your skin can be complicated and requires a delicate balance of moisture, inflammation, exfoliation, cleansing, and active ingredients. Too much of one thing, like retinol or salicylic acid, can induce a reaction, leaving your skin inflamed and irritated. So, can collagen really help your skin issues like elasticity, hydration, and wrinkles? What is collagen's role in skin health? Read on to find out.
Pores are tiny holes in your skin that allow you to release sweat and oils. Below your pore is your follicle, where a single hair and an oil gland reside. This oil gland secretes sebum, an integral part of your skin’s barrier, that keeps your skin soft, safe, and moisturized. If your pore's opening is blocked with dead skin, oils, dirt, or bacteria, inflammation will develop, causing acne. There are a few different types of acne, like:
Whitehead - a small, closed, clogged pore that manifests as a small white bump
Blackhead - a previously open whitehead that has changed from white to black due to the blockage’s interaction with the air
Papules - these look similar to whiteheads but are larger and red around the base.
Nodular/Cystic Acne - this acne type develops deep below the skin and feels hard to the touch.
There are a lot of factors that can cause pore blockage, as oil and skin cell production can be altered by lifestyle factors.
Acne is most often associated with puberty, but that is not the only time you can get hormonal acne. Both sexes produce hormones called androgens, and their production can vary due to the menstrual cycle, sexual maturation, or due to medication. Androgens are a derivative of testosterone and modify the body’s ability to produce sebum. Higher sebum production is correlated to a higher incidence of acne.
The products you use on and around your face should be chosen carefully for those with sensitive or oily skin. Some ingredients are more likely to clog pores, which may have components like essential oils, fragrances, or preservatives that cause acne. If you have sensitive skin and can’t seem to kick your acne, take a look at your hair products, sunscreen, laundry detergent, skincare, or hand soap to see if they are non-comedogenic because they may be the cause!
Sebum isn’t intrinsically bad, it gets a bad reputation because too much of it causes acne, but too little can affect your skin’s ability to protect itself. Your skin’s “barrier” is an arrangement of dead skin cells into a wall-type structure. Next to the under-layer of the skin, you’ll see skin cells adhered tightly against each other. Closer to the surface, loose skin cells are held together by sebum.
The skin’s barrier can renew itself rather quickly, but it needs the right conditions. For proper function, the skin’s barrier needs to be hydrated, lightly exfoliated, held together by skin lipids and sebum, at the right pH, and in the right environmental conditions.
The relationship between skin barrier and acne is complex: the lack of ceramides and certain fatty acids facilitates clogging of pores from within. Besides, skin barrier dysfunction leads to inflammation that contributes to acne.
Inflammation can come from physical irritation like a helmet, a reaction to a product, picking at your skin, UV radiation, or inside your body. Studies have shown that skin cells that have upregulated inflammatory markers induce changes in the skin, such as increased oil production or over-thickening of the outermost layer of dead skin cells. Inflammation also increases the enzyme activity that breaks down skin matrix components, further weakening it.
I’m sure you’ve heard of your gut microbiome, but believe it or not, your skin has a microbiome too. Some strains of bacteria are helpful and live on your skin to suppress the growth of other more harmful bacteria, while others can create infections, fungal growth, barrier disruption, and acne. Most commonly, an overgrowth of Cutibacterium acnes is to blame for acne in the teenage years.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and has many uses, such as skin hydration, boosting internal collagen production, helping maintain elasticity, and improving the appearance of wrinkles. But did you know that collagen can help with acne, too? Adding a collagen product to your routine helps prevent acne and hydrate the skin.
Your skin barrier heavily depends on moisture. Without proper moisture levels, dry or dead skin cells will build up on the surface, blocking your pores. Moisture also helps protect your skin from irritants that may damage the barrier or allow bacteria into the follicle. Collagen supports your skin’s barrier function by reducing transepidermal water loss, meaning that your skin holds onto its hydration much better and is more resilient to stressors.
Inflammation of the skin is the first step in the development of many types of acne, eventually causing a buildup of dead skin cells and an increase in the production of sebum. The same enzymes that govern the breakdown and construction of elastin and collagen in the dermis - specifically a group of enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases - also initiate inflammatory processes that can cause acne. Supplementing with collagen deactivates many of these inflammatory processes and prevents tissue degradation.
Though taking a collagen powder does help remodel your tissue, it is still being determined if it works specifically for scarring when taken orally. There is evidence that collagen injections (for filler) or the use of collagen along with microneedling work for scar improvement, so it may contribute to an overall routine to resolve scarring and heal faster, but not resolve it alone. Taking collagen supplements may help decrease active acne and reduce the appearance of acne scars.
Collagen’s best use is for its anti-aging capabilities and protection from UV radiation. Taking collagen prevents the degradation of the elastin and collagen that holds the skin up, keeping it looking plump, moisturized, and healthy. UV radiation, smoking, and pollution all contribute to oxidative stress, which causes wrinkles, melasma, and other types of discoloration. For the collagen that has already been degraded in your skin over time, collagen supplements induce tissue remodeling, rebuilding the damaged areas under your skin and helping your body produce collagen on its own. It also helps safeguard against any mutations or inflammation that may arise from sun damage.
When people with acne take collagen for skin, it should be taken in its most bioavailable form, tripeptides. Regular collagen peptides are broken down into their amino acid form. Learn more about the effects of collagen tripeptides in this article.
Topical collagen may help make improvements in skin hydration on the outside but will not help your body make new collagen below the surface.
To help maintain healthy skin, ensure that you:
- Do not exfoliate too often.
- Wash your face with a gentle cleanser to leave behind your skin’s natural oils.
- Keep your skin moisturized.
- Use products with ceramides.
- Limit your use of active ingredients, especially when combined.
Also, make sure you change your pillowcase or anything else that comes into contact with your face - like a helmet - at least every other week.
Collagen can help maintain the integrity of your skin’s protective barrier and reduce inflammation, both of which cause acne.
No. However, if you are allergic or sensitive to collagen, you may experience a mild inflammatory reaction like a rash.
Collagen helps remodel your tissue, but taking oral collagen doesn’t necessarily heal your scars. Collagen may, however, support the healing process and help improve the look of the surface of the skin.
Madeleine is a Medical Copywriter who was born in Upstate New York. She graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology in 2019. She is a digital nomad who travels full-time.
Felipe is a hardworking and self-motivated dermatologist with a great passion for skin diseases and therapeutics. He has experience in specialised clinical care, researching scientific literature, and writing scientific articles.