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A woman applies a collagen cream to her cheekbone.

Collagen is a major buzzword in the skin care world—and for good reason. It's vital for maintaining healthy joints and skin, helping your complexion look firm, plump, and youthful by providing structure to your skin's layers. However, collagen production naturally declines over time, leading to common signs of aging.

If you're interested in boosting your skin's collagen, you probably have some questions. For example, when you see a skin care product that highlights collagen as an ingredient, you may wonder: can collagen be absorbed through the skin? Read on to clear up any confusion about collagen skin absorption and how to support healthy, beautiful skin.


What Is Collagen?

Collagen is an amino acid-based structural protein. It's your body's most abundant protein, making up roughly 30 percent of the body's total protein and more than 70 percent in the skin. It's found in your skin, bones, joints, and tendons. There are 28 different types of collagen, but type 1 collagen is the most prominent.

Collagen is made up of amino acids such as glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. It has only a minuscule amount of these amino acids, but they play an integral role in collagen production.


Portrait of mature man in front of mirror applying facial cream


What Causes Collagen Loss?

Your body's natural collagen production starts to wane in your 20s and gradually declines as you age. In addition to the natural aging process and genetics, external factors can also accelerate collagen loss, including sun exposure, excess sugar intake, alcohol consumption, stress, pollution, and smoking.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, women lose approximately 30 percent of their collagen during the first five years of menopause and about 2 percent every year for the following 20 years.


Signs of Collagen Loss

Signs of decreased collagen levels include:

  • Achy joints
  • Stiff tendons
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Crepey or sagging skin
  • Hollowing around the eyes and cheeks


Can Collagen Be Absorbed through the Skin?

Many people turn to skin care products to help boost collagen. However, collagen skin absorption isn't possible. Collagen has a massive molecular weight, so it's physically too large to penetrate the skin. So, the collagen in these formulas simply sits on your skin's surface.

This isn't to say that collagen-infused skin care products don't have benefits. For example, collagen is a natural moisturizer and humectant, which can improve skin hydration, increase radiance, and minimize the appearance of fine lines.


How to Support Your Skin's Collagen

While you can't fight the aging process or infuse your skin with topical collagen, you can take steps to support collagen health and production.


Make Lifestyle Adjustments

  • Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen daily.
  • Eat a nutritious, balanced diet.
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes.
  • Avoid or drink alcohol in moderation.
  • Manage stress.


Incorporate Collagen-Supporting Skin Care

From a skin care perspective, opt for ingredients that stimulate collagen production.


Amino Acids and Peptides

Amino acids stimulate collagen production by forming peptides, short chains of amino acids comprised of vital proteins required to maintain healthy, firm skin. Because collagen is made up of three peptides (proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline), research suggests peptides can encourage the skin to produce collagen.



Retinol, a form of Vitamin A and part of the Retinoid family, is considered a gold-star anti-aging ingredient because it stimulates fibroblasts to synthesize collagen fibers. This helps improve elasticity and protect existing collagen from damage. To incorporate Retinol into your routine, try a formula like PCA SKIN Intensive Age Refining Treatment®: 0.5% Pure Retinol. It boasts the patented OmniSome delivery system to carry active ingredients deeper into the skin.



Tretinoin is another Retinoid. While it's similar to Retinol, Tretinoin is more concentrated, so it works faster and offers more substantial results. That said, it's harsher on the skin and isn't available over the counter, so you'll need a prescription from a skin care professional.


Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps ward off free radicals like ultraviolet light and pollution, which break down collagen. Studies also show it has the potential to increase collagen synthesis. Try a Vitamin C-packed serum like PCA SKIN C-Quench® Antioxidant Serum to protect and plump the skin.


Try Single or Multi-Ingredient Professional Peels

While it may sound counterintuitive, professional chemical peels create injury to stimulate new skin growth and collagen production. Specific ingredients, from Glycolic Acid to Phenol, may be used alone or in combination depending on your skin type and other skin goals.


Protecting Your Skin's Structure and Radiance

Due to its sizeable molecular structure, collagen can't be absorbed through the skin. However, you can still protect your skin health by using collagen-stimulating skin care ingredients, making lifestyle changes, and taking oral collagen supplements.

If you're ready to take collagen synthesis to the next level, consult with a PCA SKIN professional near you to learn more about getting a professional peel.


Rebecca Taras
A Chicagoland native, Rebecca began her career catering to celebrity clientele as a licensed esthetician at the Peninsula Chicago Hotel. Her passion for skin care ingredients, formulations, and skin histology led her to create custom in-room skin, bath, and body amenities for the Sofitel Hotel Chicago. The Chicago Fashion Foundation recognized her efforts with the Style Maker, Rule Breaker award in the Beauty category. She later went on to co-found Terminal Getaway airport spas. Rebecca’s experience also includes serving as an editor for digital outlets such as Refinery29, PopSugar, Forbes Travel Guides, and Bustle. She continues to refine her skin care knowledge while spending time traveling the world with her husband.