Let’s talk about collagen: How to unlock the fountain of youth within – National

Let’s talk about collagen: How to unlock the fountain of youth within – National

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Collagen is all around—or rather, in us. It’s the most universal structural protein in our skin. Our fervent quest to preserve and restore it is the fuel driving a multi-billion-dollar beauty supplement and skincare industry.

But does it work? Are the collagen-infused coffees and smoothies really making a difference?

I decided to consult with Dr. Danny Guo, a dermatologist and the Medical Director at Rejuvenation Medical in Calgary. We talked about what happens to the collagen in our skin as we age and how to fight against depletion.

Time is not on our side

In his practice, Dr. Guo is asked daily about collagen loss in one way or another. It’s not unusual for a patient to come to the clinic and point to the fine lines on their face, rings on their neck, or crepey skin on their décolleté, inner arms, or backs of hands. With a flicker of earnestness in their eyes, they ask, “Can you fix this?”

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This is his cue to launch into a spiel on what collagen is to the skin. He tells me the conversation is similar, regardless of the location of the wrinkles. This vital protein is responsible for our skin’s suppleness, firmness, and texture. It also protects our blood vessels from damage.

The truth, like it or not, is that collagen depletes slowly from the day we are born. Dr. Guo emphasizes, “The rate of decline is really, really low up until age 20.” After that, we lose about one per cent of collagen every single year. If you are a female, brace yourself; you lose about 30 per cent of your remaining collagen within the first five years after menopause.

So, what can we do?

The first step is acceptance. Time and genetics are two things we can’t control. There is no way to stop the aging of our skin entirely. “What we can do is significantly slow it down,” offers Dr. Guo. “But the most important thing is prevention.”

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That brings us to the second step: understanding what we can control—foremost, preventing exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. “UV radiation is responsible for 90 per cent of the visible aging of your skin,” warns Dr. Guo. So, “even if you just wear sunscreen, you’re in pretty good shape.”

The third step is to ensure your efforts are not in vain. Investing in clinical skin treatments or in an at-home skincare regime can add up. Aside from sun worship, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol and smoking cigarettes will accelerate the breakdown of collagen in your skin and diminish the long-term results of any supplements or treatments.

How to restore and rebuild collagen

If you’re thinking it’s a matter of adding collagen in or on our bodies, it’s not that straightforward. “If you have a vitamin D deficiency, you can take a vitamin D supplement, which will be absorbed and implemented in your system. Collagen supplements don’t work that way.”

Our bodies produce collagen, so promoting that process from within requires a supply of ingredients to effectively boost it. If you take a closer look at the labels of many collagen supplements, you may (and should) notice that it reads “hydrolyzed collagen.” It’s not collagen in its whole form. It’s collagen peptides; pieces of the whole structure.

“It works similarly to how protein helps build muscle—it’s broken down into amino acids before absorption,” Dr. Guo further elaborates. “Think of it as providing your body with the ‘right building blocks’ to recreate what is needed to replenish collagen in your skin, blood vessels, joints, and other organs.”

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What to look for in a supplement

Dr. Guo recommends a hydrolyzed collagen powder, the kind you can mix into a smoothie, coffee, or juice. Dr. Guo cautions that to see results you will need to down those collagen peptides daily, so aside from choosing a collagen source, taste is an important consideration.

Factor in that it takes “at least 12 weeks… sometimes even up to six months” to notice an improvement in your skin.  If your skin is in its prime, you are less likely to see a significant improvement.

Now that you know how collagen works in our bodies, and how a supplement can support collagen production, check out this list of mostly Canadian brands that make hydrolyzed collagen powder. We feature one product from each line to highlight the different types of sources available and how they can be used. There’s even a vegan option!


This BC-based and family-owned brand makes one of the best-selling collagen lines on Amazon. It’s sourced from grass-fed and pasture-raised cattle. It’s free from hormones and antibiotics. This batch includes 10g of clean hydrolyzed collagen per serving. If you look at the list of ingredients, it shows the breakdown of the protein content and the 17 amino acids, the building blocks, that are contained in the product.

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This made-in-Canada pure hydrolyzed collagen peptides powder is sourced from wild-caught North Atlantic fish (cod, pollock, and haddock). It’s non-GMO verified and meets stringent standards for heavy metals. It’s also third-party tested. Each serving contains 10 g of collagen.


Like its other Canadian counterparts, the hydrolyzed collagen is sourced from pasture-raised, grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free cattle. It’s also third-party tested. This is a good option to get more than just a boost of hydrolyzed collagen. Adding hyaluronic acid, L-tryptophan, L-glutamine, Vitamin C, and Biotin to boot gives a skin-boosting bonus and optimizes absorption. This is a good choice if you think you may have deficiencies that could inhibit absorption


These handy packets are perfect for travel, gym bags, or the office. You never have to miss a day of feeding your internal collagen-making machine. withinUs prides itself on the purity of its marine collagen, which is sourced from the scales of wild-caught, sustainably-sourced fish from the South Pacific Ocean. It’s also third-party tested for impurities and heavy metals to ensure its premium-select grade label. Each travel stick pack contains 5 g of hydrolyzed TruMarine® Collagen.

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Unlike many other collagen supplements, this version contains two ingredients not associated with joint or beauty benefits but known for supporting immune and cognitive function: Reishi mushroom and Lion’s Mane Mushroom. It also includes coconut and oat milk to give your coffee that creamy texture. The vitamin C source is the Acerola Fruit. NOTE: When adding a collagen creamer to your coffee, blending, shaking, or using a frother is recommended to achieve the optimal consistency.


You may already know this brand—it’s the one Jennifer Aniston uses. The actress is also the Chief Creative Officer at Vital Proteins. However, the inspiration behind this brand is the company’s founder, an avid runner searching for a way to reduce the joint pain in his knees. This powder has one simple ingredient: hydrolyzed bovine collagen peptides. Plus, the feeling that celebrities are just like you. (Or is it the other way around?)


If you follow a vegan diet and lifestyle, collagen is off-limits. However, there are many products devoted to helping in the formation of collagen in your body that are vegetarian- and vegan-friendly. Each capsule of Biosil contains two active ingredients: Silicon and Choline. Like many other supplements on this list, it takes a minimum of 12 weeks of consistent use to see noticeable improvement in your skin, nails, and hair.

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Stay tuned for  Part II of “Let’s Talk About Collagen” where we dive into collagen skincare products – how they work, and the best products to try. 


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