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Do collagen supplements benefit the skin?


AT MOAS 2022

– When patients ask if collagen supplements can benefit their skin, what should you tell them?

According to Ava Shamban, MD, a dermatologist who practices in Santa Monica, Calif., limited data exist to suggest that consuming collagen-dense foods can directly benefit skin or joint health. And in her opinion, more research is needed to establish knowledge of the effects and physiologic mechanism of collagen supplementation.

Dr. Ava Shamban, dermatologist, Santa Monica, Calif.

Dr. Ava Shamban

“Collagen is the most abundant protein in the skin; it is found only in animal flesh like meat and fish that contain connective tissue,” she said at the annual Masters of Aesthetics Symposium. “We produce less collagen as we age. External factors can slow down our collagen production, including smoking, sun exposure, lack of sleep/exercise, and alcohol consumption.”

Though human studies are lacking, some trials have found that collagen supplements may improve skin hydration and elasticity. “Maybe there’s some benefit, but the digestive process breaks collagen down into amino acids, so I don’t buy it,” she said.

At the meeting, Dr. Shamban discussed other topics related to the effect of supplements and nutrition on the skin:

Can Nutrafol reverse permanent hair loss? “It definitely doesn’t do that,” she said. “Can it help regrow hair? Perhaps.” Nutrafol is an over-the-counter supplement that aims to relieve moderate hair thinning or strengthen hair to prevent breakage, and is physician-formulated with medical-grade ingredients that target root causes of thinning such as stress, lifestyle, hormones, and nutrition.

As for biotin, “we now know that high levels of biotin can actually cause hair loss,” she said. “If you have advanced hair loss, supplements may not work for you. There is no hair regrowth supplement that can bring back a dead hair follicle. Can it help a miniaturized hair follicle? Maybe. Platelet-rich plasma injections have been shown to stimulate hair growth, but only if the follicle is miniaturized, not if it’s totally gone.”

How does the human microbiome affect skin? In a review of sequencing surveys of healthy adults, “the composition of microbial communities was found to be primarily dependent on the physiology of the skin site, with changes in the relative abundance of bacterial taxa associated with moist, dry, and sebaceous environments,” the authors reported . “The microbiome is the genetic material of all the microbes that live inside the body, including bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses,” Dr. Shamban said. “The more diverse the microbiota is, the healthier it’s considered. That diversity is enriched through a diet full of various vegetables and fruits.”

Nearly all adults are colonized with Cutibacterium acnes (formerly Propionibacterium acnes), but only a minority have acne, which highlights the importance of studying diseases in the broader context of host genetics, immune or barrier defects, the microbiome, and the environment, she added. For example, the decreased diversity of the skin microbiome in people with atopic dermatitis has been linked to a reduction in environmental biodiversity in the areas surrounding their homes.

Do adaptogens have a role in skin care? Adaptogens such as ashwagandha, elderberry, ginseng, licorice root, neem, moringa, and reishi mushrooms have been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries and are purported to promote adaptability, resilience, and survival of living organisms in stress. They appear to affect the neuroendocrine immune system and at low doses may function as mild stress mimetics.

“The idea is that combining adaptogens into skin care can reinforce and support the skin’s resistance against stressors that can accelerate visible signs of aging,” said Dr. Shamban. “They share some similarities with antioxidants in that their main purpose is to protect the body from external stressors such as UV rays, oxidation, and pollution.” More studies should be conducted to verify effectiveness, she said, “but Eastern practices that have incorporated it for centuries shouldn’t be fully dismissed. Most doctors believe adaptogens are safe, but how they interact with the mechanics of the body’s stress response system remains a mystery.”

Embrace the consumption of micronutrients. Inspired by work from dermatologist Zoe Diana Draelos, MD, Dr. Shamban advises patients to eat a “rainbow of different colored foods” every day, especially those rich in vitamins A, C, and E. Green foods are generally rich in vitamin E, brown foods are rich in trace minerals, and blue/purple foods are rich in antioxidants. “It’s always best to get nutrients from a rich, healthy diet, but sometimes our skin requires extra help,” she said.

A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study by French researchers, which showed that skin is prone to seasonal changes during the winter, particularly in exposed areas, also looked at whether a daily micronutrient supplement with ingredients that included green tea extract, blackcurrant seed oil, and magnesium, had an impact on the negative effects of winter weather on the skin. “The data indicate that oral micronutrient supplementation can be a safe treatment, with no serious side effects, and may prevent or even eliminate the negative effects of winter on the skin,” she said.

Dr. Shamban disclosed that she conducts clinical trials for many pharmaceutical and device companies.

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