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Are collagen masks a scam?

A guide to help you decide whether you need to get the viral collagen mask

The body's natural collagen production decreases as we age, with visible signs such as wrinkles, sagging skin and joint pain
The body's natural collagen production decreases as we age, with visible signs such as wrinkles, sagging skin and joint pain (Pexels)

While collagen supplements have become a major category in the wellness segment, collagen masks, which dissolve into the skin, are the newest fad. 

Before you buy into any collagen mask hype, you need to understand how it works and whether it is beneficial, as claimed by several social media beauty influencers. And after that, consult your skin doctor and then zero in on a product.

Collagen is essentially a protein made up of amino acids, primarily glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine. It forms a key part of our body's connective tissues, including skin, bones, tendons and ligament.

“Collagen is abundant in the dermis, which is the middle layer of the skin, where it provides structural support and helps maintain its firmness and elasticity,” says Kiran Sethi, a skin and wellness expert. She's the founder of skincare clinic Isya Aesthetics in Delhi. 

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The body's natural collagen production decreases as we age, with visible signs such as wrinkles, sagging skin and joint pain. Sun exposure, smoking and a poor diet can also contribute to collagen depletion.

Does collagen get absorbed through the skin?

“With skincare, collagen molecules are too large to penetrate the skin when applied topically. Collagen-infused skincare products, such as creams and masks, can help improve skin hydration and only temporarily reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. These products work more so by using humectants (such as hyaluronic acid) and emollients to form a film on the skin's surface,” says Dr Sethi. 

So, the instant plumpness you see with melting collagen masks is because of the humectants that attract water to the skin to improve hydration, while emollients soften and smooth the skin by filling in gaps between cells. This film helps lock in moisture and plump up the skin, giving it a more youthful appearance, which is temporary. 

“The long-term effects of collagen skincare products on collagen production and skin health are still being studied. It's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new skincare regimen,” suggests Dr Sethi.

Collagen supplements are another popular category that are believed to help boost collagen levels in the body, potentially improving overall skin health. Dr Sethi says the jury is still out when it comes to the supplements. “There isn't sufficient evidence to support the claim that taking collagen supplements or consuming collagen drinks will visibly improve the health of your skin, hair, or nails,” says Dr Sethi.

So what should you do?  Besides taking supplements after consulting with your doctor, you can include foods like bone broth, chicken skin, fish and egg whites in your diet, all of which naturally contain collagen or help boost collagen production in the body. Or you can get treatments that encourage your body to produce collagen. 

“For example, microneedle therapy creates tiny punctures in the skin and then the body produces collagen as a healing process. Consult a trusted physician before trying any treatment," Dr Sethi says. “The best and the safest way to boost collagen levels is to take the natural route.” 

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