COLLAGEN TREATMENT: BEST OPTIONS AND PROCEDURES TO INCREASE COLLAGEN
Collagen induction therapy or CIT. A fancy name for turbo boosting the protein in your skin that gives it the soft, tight, smoothness associated with youth and beauty. So, how's it done? It's a bit of a paradox. You have to injure the skin first to make it look great. Not so much "injure" as in "controlled injury". This can be done using needles, heat, abrasion, light or a combination of these1. Read on.
When collagen levels are high, our skin is smooth, soft and vibrant. But as we age and our collagen production tapers off, our youthful, healthy skin naturally starts to wrinkle and loosen. Thankfully, with the help of reconstructive and aesthetic innovations—modern anti-aging gadgets—we can reverse the signs of chronological aging and sun damage using collagen treatments or collagen-stimulating treatments2. But there is no one size fits all when it comes to collagen treatment. In this guide, we’ll walk through the most effective collagen procedures that promote firmer and plumper skin. We’ll cover a range of collagen treatment types including skin needling procedures, laser therapies, and resurfacing treatment. But before we dive into the nuts and bolts of collagen treatment, let’s quickly cover some “collagen 101.”
WHAT IS COLLAGEN?
Collagen is the skin’s most abundant protein. It’s a naturally-occurring protein found in many tissues throughout the body including in our bones, tendons, muscles, blood vessels, digestive system and, of course, in our largest organ: the skin. So what is collagen good for? The structural protein has various functions across the body. But in the skin, collagen is responsible for repairing skin cells and maintaining the skin’s moisture, elasticity, and radiance. Collagen is produced by our fibroblast cells. But our fibroblasts start losing their mojo when we’re a mere 20 years old. In fact, it’s estimated that collagen production decreases by 1% year after year starting at the age of 20.
Over time, our fibroblasts may disappear altogether. This lack of collagen results in wrinkles, sagging skin, stiff joints, and other common signs of aging. Exposure to the sun and smoking also contribute to natural collagen loss over time. So now that we understand how important it is for healthy skin, can collagen be restored? Luckily, there are ways to harvest our body’s fibroblasts to restore the building blocks of healthy skin: natural collagen and elastin production.
HOW TO INCREASE COLLAGEN PRODUCTION
One widespread myth about boosting collagen levels is that you can apply it topically to the skin via creams and ointments or ingest it in your morning coffee. But, in reality, the collagen molecules in topicals and ingestibles are too big to cross into the lower layers of the skin. The trick to reinvigorating our collagen-producing fibroblast cells is getting under the epidermis (surface of the skin) AND the dermis (the “carpet” of the skin). The dermis is the thick layer of living tissue containing a host of blood capillaries, nerve endings, sweat glands, hair follicles, and other structures. Today, the most effective procedures to boost collagen work by removing the epidermis of the skin and inducing a controlled form of skin wounding. This controlled “injury” has been shown time and time again to ignite a positive wound healing response characterized by increased collagen production and dermal matrix remodeling1.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of collagen, let’s explore the most efficacious types of collagen treatment for reversing the dermal and epidermal signs of aging and sun damage.
SKIN NEEDLING COLLAGEN TREATMENTS
Skin needling procedures trigger a response underneath the carpet of the skin. Compared to ablative laser resurfacing, which we’ll cover later, the epidermis remains intact and is not damaged with skin needling treatments. But there is a wide range of different types of skin needling collagen enhancement procedures. They differ in terms of needle length and depth, application devices and speed, and the conditions they treat. Some devices emit controlled heat through the needles. This is termed radiofrequency needling. We’ll cover the two most broad skin needling procedures that stimulate collagen production in skin: mesotherapy and microneedling.
Microneedling—also called Collagen Induction Therapy or Percutaneous Collagen Induction (PCI)—is an increasingly popular needle resurfacing procedure that boosts collagen and improves skin texture3. Microneedling is a painless and minimally invasive collagen treatment that entails puncturing the top layer of skin with many tiny micro-fine needles so that the skin goes into repair mode.
This controlled inflammatory/healing reaction prompts the remodelling and production of new collagen (neocollagenesis) and elastin through growth factor release. The result? Improved skin texture, firmness, and thickness as well as reduced scars, pore size, and stretch marks. The most common form of microneedling is dermal rollering. This non-surgical procedure takes a quick 20 minutes and is completely painless as you’re given a prescription anaesthetic cream beforehand. And unlike other more aggressive collagen treatment procedures today—including ablative laser resurfacing and dermabrasion—microneedling does NOT require intensive post-treatment care or downtime. Afterward, you may experience mild to moderate redness, swelling or skin sensitivity for a mere three days. Microneedling is popular for people who want to correct early signs of aging (e.g. very fine lines around the eyes and lips; uneven skin tone or texture and superficial pigmentation. But how often should you microneedle? It’s recommended to start off with monthly treatments for 4-6 months followed by routine maintenance sessions every 2-3 months.
Mesotherapy uses a carefully curated blend of vitamins, enzymes, hormones, and plant extracts to tighten skin, encourage collagen production, and remove excess fat4. This active targeted solution is injected with one needle into the lower layers of the skin. Many mesotherapy solutions have a hyaluronic acid (HA) base, which occurs organically in our skin. HA helps us look young and fresh, but it naturally decreases with age. So when injected, HA mesotherapy infuses hydration for a plumping glow from deep within the skin.
Compared to microneedling, mesotherapy is more ideal for advanced aging, severely dehydrated skin, and other skin issues stemming from within the lower layers.
It also helps tackle cellulite and break down stubborn, localized fat at around 4mm. Mesotherapy may be injected manually using a fine needle and syringe or using a mesogun. A mesogun is designed to quickly and precisely inject the mesotherapy compound at predetermined depths.
LASER RESURFACING COLLAGEN TREATMENT
There are two types of laser resurfacing therapies for skin rejuvenation: ablative and non-ablative. The difference between the two is that non-ablative treatments improve photoaged and aging skin without destroying the epidermis.
ABLATIVE LASER RESURFACING
Ablative laser skin resurfacing is one of the most effective cosmetic procedures for improving aging skin5. The procedure works by delivering an intense wavelength of light to the skin, which removes the outer layers of aged or sun damaged skin. Ablative laser resurfacing therapies are used to treat fine to moderate wrinkles, uneven skin tone, sun damage, acne and scars, as well as age spots. Laser resurfacing, however, doesn’t remove deep wrinkles or sagging skin. The effects are also temporary, since as we age, we get new wrinkles! So follow-up treatments may be necessary.
NON-ABLATIVE LASER THERAPIES
Compared to ablative laser technologies, non-ablative approaches are less aggressive, potentially safer and effective with fewer side effects and minimum post-treatment downtime and care. Low-Level Laser Light Therapy (LLLT) is a rapidly growing non-invasive form of non-ablative laser treatment that increases pro-collagen, collagen, and fibroblast growth factors. This form of laser therapy aids skin rejuvenation by exposing cells and/or tissue to much lower levels of red and/or near infrared (NIR) wavelengths. This process provides the following benefits for our skin:
• Initiates the healing process and collagen regeneration.
• Minimizes inflammation, scars, burns, pigmentation, and cell death.
• Reduces wrinkles and skin laxity (loose skin). Plus, relatively new light emitting diode (LED) array-based LLLT devices have allowed this form of collagen treatment to be applied to much larger areas of skin.
INTENSE PULSED LIGHT
Intense pulsed light (IPL) devices are high intensity, non-laser light sources used to:
• Reduce wrinkles, signs of aging, and spider veins.
• Tighten the skin.
• Remove unwanted hair, scars, birthmarks and stretchmarks.
• Treat redness, irregular pigmentation, and sun spots.
IPL works by producing thermal injury to the dermis (photothermolysis) of the skin to stimulate collagen-producing fibroblasts and attract blood flow and nutrients to the treated area. In other words, IPL is another type of controlled injury that initiates the healing process to repair collagen at an increased rate.
The main difference between laser therapy and IPL is that IPL delivers multiple wavelengths of light energy. IPL can also treat a larger area of skin in a shorter time than laser therapy.
Some people, however, find IPL too painful and others find the recovery time undesirable. Most also require multiple treatment rounds before they start to notice the benefits. For certain conditions, like rosacea and spider veins, vascular lasers are more targeted and superior to IPL treatments.
Radio frequency (RF) devices heat multiple layers of skin with the purpose of stimulating the body’s natural collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid production. Among other age-related issues, RF energy has proven effective in facilitating skin and body tightening, wrinkle reduction, body contouring, fractional skin resurfacing, and microneedling.
FRACTIONAL RESURFACING COLLAGEN TREATMENT
Next level up from both microneedling and radio frequency is tying the two together in a collagen procedure known as fractional radiofrequency needling. This collagen treatment uses a device with needles of varying lengths, typically 1mm to 4mm. The needles pop through skin that has been numbed up, delivering powerful precision heating to the deeper layers. Radiofrequency needling stimulates collagen-producing fibroblasts, skin blood flow, and the release of growth factors. Together, these effects improve collagen production as well as:
• Facial lines and deep wrinkles
• Sun-related damage and pigmentation
• Enlarged pores and uneven skin tone and texture
• Surgical and acne scarring
ANTI-AGING SKIN TIGHTENING
What else is out there on collagen menus around the world? You can get a powerful combination of radio frequency (RF) with a conventional medical procedure called Pulse Electromagnetic Fields (PEMF). RF stimulates fibroblasts while PEMF releases a growth factor that triggers the skin’s regenerative process including new blood vessel formation and increased oxygen and nutrient supply to the skin.
IPL + RF SKIN TIGHTENING + FRACTIONAL RESURFACING
Just one round of this multifaceted collagen treatment corrects discoloration and uneven skin, treats sun damage and enlarged pores, and firms skin. Three for the price of one? Plus, it has fast and effective results with a low downtime of just 1 to 3 days.
WHAT IS THE BEST TREATMENT TO INCREASE COLLAGEN?
So what’s the best collagen treatment for encouraging glowing, flawless, ultra-hydrated skin? Which of the collagen-enhancing procedures is the ultimate for skin rejuvenation? It all comes down to the issue you want to correct. Do you have early or advanced aging you want to address? Or maybe you have acne or pigmentation issues? As always, finding out from an expert during a consultation is your best bet before embarking on a course of treatments. Speak to your dermatologist, plastic surgeon or aesthetic provider and weigh up your options.
- Litchman G, Nair PA, Badri T, Kelly SE. Microneedling. StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan.
- Fabbrocini G, et al. Collagen induction therapy for the treatment of upper lip wrinkles. J Dermatolog Treat 2012. PMID: 21810012
- Alessa D, et al. Microneedling options for skin rejuvenation, including non-temperature-controlled fractional microneedle radiofrequency treatments. Facial Plast Surg Clin North Am. 2020. PMID: 31779933 Review
- Stachowski J, et al. Mesotherapy: cosmetic applications. Int J Pharm Compd. 2006. PMID: 23974310
- Verma N, et al. Ablative laser resurfacing. StatPearls. 2020 Jan-. PMID: 32491406 Review
October 07, 2020