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Collagen for skin brightening?

Exposed to numerous external aggressions such as UV rays and pollution, the skin loses its radiance over time and it's even possible that brown spots may appear. Generally associated with combating skin sagging, could collagen also have brightening properties?

Summary
Published May 20, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 4 min read

Pigmentary Disorders: Does Collagen Hold Any Interest?

Frequent and prolonged exposure to the sun, hormonal fluctuations, or even skin inflammation: these are all causes of a hyperpigmentation condition. This can occur in all skin tones, but pigment disorders are more common in darker phototypes (IV to VI) and are difficult to treat. This phenomenon occurs due to a disruption in melanogenesis: melanin, the pigment responsible for skin coloration, is overproduced in certain areas.

While certain ingredients or cosmetic actives, such as tranexamic acid, retinol, or glycolic acid, have the ability to lighten the skin, this does not seem to be the case with collagen. Indeed, to date, no scientific study has reported depigmenting properties of this molecule when used in topical application. One might possibly assume a preventive effect of collagen on hyperpigmentation due to its antioxidant virtues. By donating an electron to free radicals, this protein protects skin cells from oxidative stress, one of the factors leading to skin tone dullness.

The situation is similar for the oral intake of collagen, of which only two studies have suggested that it could lighten the skin. Conducted as a double-blind trial, the first involved 44 volunteers with pigmentation disorders. Divided into 3 groups, these individuals took daily doses of 5g of collagen peptide, 5g of collagen peptide fermented by Aspergillus sojae or a placebo. After 3 months, the researchers measured a decrease in pigmentation of 46% for the volunteers in the first group and 48% for those in the second. No effect was measured for the individuals who received the placebo. The scientists hypothesized about the anti-tyrosinase properties of collagen, although the exact mechanism has not yet been elucidated.

Another study was conducted with 62 individuals suffering from melasma. These individuals were asked to take 10g of a dietary supplement daily, composed of marine collagen, soy peptide, and chrysanthemum extract, or a placebo. Before and after 60 days, the uniformity of their complexion was evaluated using a chromameter, and melanin density was measured with a mexameter. Overall, the melasma areas of the participants decreased by 17% for the "dietary supplement" group and by 10% for the "placebo" group, but this difference was not significant. In this study, although an improvement in skin pigmentation was observed, it is not possible to attribute it to the collagen, as the placebo, containing no active substance, yielded similar results.

The key takeaway:

  • No study has been able to demonstrate that topical application of collagen can lighten the skin.

  • There have been few studies conducted on the depigmenting properties of this compound when taken orally, and their findings contradict each other.

Sources

  • DU J. & al. Instrumental Assessment of the Depigmenting Effectiveness of an Oral Supplement Containing Peptides and Chrysanthemum Extract for the Treatment of Melasma. Cosmetics (2017).

  • RODRIGUEZ M.I. Collagen: A review of its sources and potential cosmetic applications. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology (2018).

  • IGASE M. & al. Effect of Reducing Pigmentation through Collagen Peptide Consumption: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Dermatology and Therapy (2022).

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