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The best vitamins and minerals for skin collagen

3 min read

Collagen is an essential protein - is considered a structural protein that counts as approximately one-fourth of the protein in your body. Collagen comprises strong white fibres, stronger than steel wire of the same weight in fact, and constitutes the connective tissue that holds our bodies together.

Collagen serves as a key structural component of connective tissue such as skin, bones, ligaments, etc. Dermis, the inner layer of the skin, contains large amounts of collagen whose fibres form a supporting mesh responsible for skin's mechanical characteristics such as strength, texture and resilience.

Occasionally, collagen production may be interrupted, preventing the manufacture of skin cells. As far as collagen breakdown goes, many factors that contribute to it can be fully or partially neutralised. They include sun damage, free radicals, some age-related hormonal changes, and smoking.

To help boost the production of collagen, consider supplementing your diet with a variety of nutritious foods, all rich in specific vitamin substances that work together to ensure that your skin is healthy and that collagen is being produced.

Vitamin C

It is well known that Vitamin C is essential to the manufacture of collagen, it seems that it is involved in every step of the manufacturing process, making vitamin C a vital molecule for skin health.

Adding vitamin C to a culture of skin cells (fibroblasts) dramatically increases the synthesis of collagen. Secondly, vitamin C is an antioxidant and can help reduce skin damage caused by free radicals. So, when vitamin C is properly delivered into skin cells, there is a good chance to reduce wrinkles and improve skin texture.

The treatment for vitamin C deficiency is to replace the vitamin C that is lacking in your diet - this can be achieved by taking vitamin C supplements and by eating a diet rich in vitamin C.

There are various foods that are rich in vitamin C, including:

  • Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, limes and lemons.
  • Berries such as blackcurrants, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cranberries.
  • Cantaloupe melon and watermelon.
  • Kiwi fruit.
  • Vegetables such as spinach, green and red peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and potatoes.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E's potent ability to neutralise damaging free radicals has earned it the moniker "the protector" - it guards what comes in and what goes out of the skin. Experts consider vitamin E to be the most important antioxidant because through protecting cell membranes it prevents damages to enzymes associated with them.

Several studies have shown applying vitamin E to the skin can reduce damage caused by sun exposure however for additional sun protection, individuals may consider taking vitamin E supplements. Supplementation with vitamin E in 400 milligrams a day has been shown to reduce photo damage, wrinkles and improve skin texture.

To get vitamin E into your diet start including natural sources of vitamin E such as vegetable oils, grains, oats, nuts, and dairy products. Seeds and nuts and especially rich in vitamin E. 


Certain minerals are also essential for collagen production. One such mineral is copper - in fact when the level of copper inside skin cells increases, collagen production goes up.

Copper activates an enzyme called lysyl oxidase that's required for collagen maturation. Active lysyl oxidase cross-links collagen fibres with other supportive fibres, helping to form the scaffold that supports your skin and soft tissues. Because of its role in collagen production, copper also keeps your bones, heart and blood vessels healthy.

Copper also acts as an antioxidant, neutralising free radicals and helping to prevent them from damaging your skin cells or tissues.

Adults need 1.2 mg of copper a day, which should be obtainable from a daily diet of healthy foods. You can find copper in foods like pecans, kidneys, crab, dried fruits, bran flakes, mushrooms, mussels, cashews and squid. 

Please note copper is a potentially toxic metal therefore supplements containing more than RDA for copper should not be taken.


Zinc to support healthy collagen production by serving as a co-factor for collagen production, this means that it activates proteins essential for collagen synthesis. It also activates a protein called collagenase that allows your cells to remodel collagen.

Good food sources of zinc include:

  • meat
  • shellfish
  • dairy foods – such as cheese 
  • bread
  • cereal products – such as wheat germ

The amount of zinc you need is about 5.5 - 9.5mg a day for men and 4.0 - 7.0mg a day for women.

Add oysters, poultry, meat, cashews, almonds and dairy products to your diet to help you meet this goal.

A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.