Obviously topical skin care products play a huge role in collagen production and preservation. The most important thing you can do is wear sunscreen regularly to protect your collagen from UV damage. It’s the leading cause of skin aging—accounting for some 80% of damage3.

From there, you’ll want to use topical ingredients that are shown to promote collagen production such as vitamin C, retinol, peptides, and AHAs. Vitamin C is vital for the collagen synthesis process—plus as an antioxidant it can protect your collagen layer from free radicals. Retinol works with your skin’s retinoid receptors to upregulate collagen production over time. And glycolic acid has been shown to spur collagen4 by engaging your skin’s wound response. There’s less research on peptides, but a growing body of evidence shows that some select options can encourage collagen production5 in the skin too.

But here’s the catch: Only use these if you can tolerate them. If you use them at concentrations that overwhelm your skin, they’ll end up causing more damage to your collagen layer rather than helping. Vitamin C, for example, is a sensitizing ingredient for many skin types—especially when using potent versions at potent doses: If you find that a 20% vitamin C makes your skin flush or irritated, you’re better off finding a lower percentage or a more mild version. Retinol, too, is notoriously hard for folks to handle: Stick to encapsulated versions, or only use it a few times a week, max.

Alexandra Engler

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