Take collagen to give your fit body the firm skin it deserves

A few common yet unwelcome physical changes that commonly accompanies major weight loss include loose skin and stretch marks.

Skin is an incredibly elastic and regenerates by replacing dead cells. However, the different layers each have different types of cells.

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Learning about layers

The cells on the outer layer (the epidermis) are constantly shed and replaced with new cells, while the skin cells under the epidermis tend to have a lower turnover rate.

These lower layers, called the dermis and sub-dermis, consist of elastic connective tissues, fibres, blood vessels and various other components that can stretch or contract.

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Keep it tight

When you lose weight, especially when it happens rapidly, your skin loses structural integrity as you lose the fat and muscle tissue that kept the elastic components in place.

And the pace of your weight loss may also leave insufficient time for your skin’s elasticity to adapt.

In addition to weight loss, age, poor nutrition, dehydration, excessive sun exposure and smoking can all affect skin elasticity.

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Stretch mark saga

Stretch marks are a form of scarring that becomes more visible following weight loss. The damage occurs when the middle skin layer (dermis) tears due to excessive and consistent stress.

The dermis makes up roughly 90% of skin’s thickness and its elastic fibre and collagen composition helps to retain the skin’s shape and tautness.

The dermis can lose its elasticity when it is placed under severe stress due to excessive weight gain, significant muscle development, or during pregnancy, and can subsequently tear, which then forms stretch marks.

Hormonal changes associated with puberty, pregnancy, exercise (mainly weight lifting) and hormone replacement therapy can also influence stretch marks.

The implicated hormones (called glucocorticoids) prevent the body from forming more of the collagen and elastin fibers that keep skin taut. This impacts the skin’s structural integrity and makes it easier for it to tear when placed under stress.

Severe pulling or repetitive forces on the skin from activities like heavy weight lifting or gymnastic-type activities can also reduce dermis elasticity, also causing stretch marks.

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Collagen is the main structural protein in the: connective tissues, cartilages, bones, nails, derma and hair. Synthesis and types of collagen. Vector illustration for medical, science, and educational use. skincare

Susceptible areas

This pulling and stretching can happen anywhere on your body, but is more likely to occur in places that have larger fat deposits.

The most common places that experience loose skin or stretch marks include the abdominal region, especially near the belly button, the back of the upper arms, underarms, breasts, back, inner and outer thighs, hips and buttocks.

Collagen to the rescue

Thankfully, there are numerous treatments available that may help to reduce stretch mark formation and firm loose skin.

Some of the most commonly used options include supplements and creams that provide or stimulate collagen growth and the formation of new elastin.

Collagen is a complex protein that makes up 30% of the body’s protein and contains 19 different amino acids, which are vital building blocks for tissues, including skin.

Collagen is present in our muscles, connective tissues such as ligaments and tendons, and in skin, hair and nails. From an aesthetic perspective, collagen helps to give our skin elasticity and firmness.

There are at least 28 different types of collagen. The most common are types 1 to 5, with type 1 the most plentiful, accounting for 90% of total collagen in our bodies. It is also a vital form to create firm skin because it has a densely-packed fibre structure.

In supplement form, collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen offer the most effective products for skin health. Hydrolyzed collagen undergoes a process called hydrolyzation, which breaks down collagen into peptides for optimal absorption.

Diet double-up

You can also get collagen and other important skin-supporting nutrients like elastin from your diet, which generally come from protein-rich food sources.

Other important diet-derived nutrients for skin health include essential fats, vitamins A, C, D and E, and zinc, which support natural collagen and elastin production.

Optimal hydration is also vital to maintain skin elasticity. Aim to drink at least two litres of water a day for skin health and vitality.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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