Blog Article

Collagen is a Hero for Your Skin: A growing awareness

Many consumers are aware of the importance of collagen, but they might not know just how much of a hero collagen is for their skin. Collagen is a fundamental structural protein within the skin’s extracellular matrix.  It provides the skin with its support structure, keeping skin firm, plump, and youthful looking. Collagen also plays other roles in the skin related to cellular regeneration.

By Arnoldo Fonseca

The Collagen Protein

Collagen is the most abundant protein found in mammals and represents around 30% of the body’s total protein content (1).  Aptly deriving from the ancient Greek Kolla (“glue”) and gen (“giving birth to”), humans have understood the connective properties of collagen for millennia (2). But, it has only been over the last 50 years that the richness of collagen’s role in the skin has been clarified.  

Although beauty labels often refer to collagen in the singular, scientists today know that there are 28 different types of collagen in the body, each with slightly different properties, functions, and compositions. The most relevant to skin appearance are the ‘fibrillar collagens’, so called because they play important roles in the tensile strength of the skin tissue. Although an oversimplification, these collagens form fiber-like elements that are woven together to form larger structural constructs, such as those found in the skin’s extracellular matrix (ECM).  The ECM is a kind of under-armor that provides structural and biomechanical support for the skin, as well as performs other functions.  Fibrillar collagen includes collagen types 1, 2, 3, 5, 11, 24, and 27. Of these, collagen type 1 is most important as it makes up 90% of the body’s collagen content and is critical in providing structure to the skin within the ECM, as well as various other components of the body such as bones, tendons, and ligaments (1). Collagen type 3 is also a well-known fibrillar collagen that contributes to skin tensile strength, particularly during fetal development where it accounts for over half of total collagen (3). 

Other collagens are also important for skin appearance through their roles in the natural processes of healthy skin. Beaded filament-forming collagens (types 6, 16, and 18) are important for aiding the formation of filaments in skin; of these, collagen type 6 is known to play an important role in the ECM through interaction with other ECM constituents, like hyaluronic acid (4). Network forming collagen (type 4, 8, 10) and anchoring fibrils (type 7) play important roles in the structure of collagen in the ECM.  Other collagen types help to link collagen fibers to ECM components, act as cell surface receptors, and can act as signaling components within skin.

Chart 1. Collagen Groups and Function

Collagen Category

Predominant function

Collagen Types


Provides tensile strength though formation of collagen fibers that are used as components within skin macro-structures

1, 2, 3, 5, 11, 24, 27


Supports the formation of the collagen structures in the skin

4, 8, 10


Plays an important role in structural formation and connection with ECM components

6, 26, 28


Acts to connect or anchor collagen fibrils in tissue



Help to link collagen fibers together and with other ECM moldecules

9. 11.14. 19. 20. 21. 22


Acts as cell surface receptors involved in specific cellular processes

13, 17, 23, 25


Promotes adhesion of certain cellular components and can be cleaved to release endostatins

15, 18

Consumers Interest in Collagen

Awareness of the role of collagen has grown tremendously since the post-World War II era, peaking in terms of its use in publications in the mid-1980s, as suggested by Google Books Ngram analysis (Figure 1). This familiarity has blossomed in the mainstream press in the years following 1998, particularly in relation to skin care, as more beauty products began to leverage collagen claims (Figure 2). Even in more recent years, Mintel data suggests ongoing adoption of the use of “collagen” to describe the benefits of beauty products (Figure 3).  As these data points suggest, consumers are aware of and interested in collagen or collagen-based claims.

Figure 1. Use of the word “collagen” across time in the English language Corpus tracked by Google Ngram
Figure 1. Use of the word “collagen” across time in the English language Corpus tracked by Google Ngram

Search using “collagen” case sensitive over the “English 2019” Google Ngram dataset

Figure 2.  Distribution of published articles discussing collagen and skin in the English language in recent decades (1979-2022)
Figure 2.  Distribution of published articles discussing collagen and skin in the English language in recent decades (1979-2022)

Search using word “collagen” within 8 words distance of beauty, skin, or skincare in Factiva’s global English language archives

Figure 3.  Number of new product instances mentioning collagen in their product description by year
Figure 3.  Number of new product instances mentioning collagen in their product description by year

Mintel GNPD search using word “collagen” in product descriptions of Global Beauty & Personal Care products

Collagen as a Hero of the Skin’s Appearance

Today’s consumers are looking to improve the appearance of their skin by boosting their collagen. Historically, collagen has been sourced from animals and marine life, an avenue that has become increasingly objectionable to consumers.  In its place, consumers have turned to adjacent ingredient solutions, such as peptides and specialty extracts, which appear to demonstrate some form of collagen boosting (also known as collagen production upregulation).  Now, however, a new generation of non-animal, biotechnology-based collagens based on biotechnology is emerging that promises to provide consumers with a more direct path to meeting their collagen needs. 

Works Cited

1. The Cleveland Clinic. Collagen. Cleveland Clinic. [Online] [Cited: July 18, 2023.]

2. Douglas Harper. Collagen. Online Etymology Dictionary. [Online] January 18, 2018. [Cited: July 18, 2023.]

3. alpha1(III)3 human skin collagen, release by pepsin digestion and preponderance in fetal life. EH, Epstein. s.l. : J Biol Chem, 1974, Vol. 249.

4. Extrcellular Matrix of the Skin: 50 Years of Progress. Uitto J, Olsen D, Fazio M. 4, s.l. : J Invest Derm, 1989, Vol. 92.

5. Grand View Research. Aroma Chemicals Market SIze, Industry Report 2020-2027. Grand View Research. [Online] 09 1, 2020. [Cited: 06 20, 2021.]

6. Collagen fibrillogenesis in human skin. Fleischmajer R, Perlish JS, Timpl R. s.l. : NY Acad Sci, 1985, Vol. 460.