At a medical conference in Japan this year, I was interested in tracking the remnants of a hardy way of life that, as a medical anthropologist, I found among the Okinawan. The lives of these people were centered around daily physical activity, lean diets of fish and sea vegetables, and a respect for the elderly that kept them at the center of communal life.
Alas, it’s a fading reality. Today urban Japanese cope with high amounts of stress, a Westernized diet, and a loss of intergenerational living. But while I commiserated about contemporary woes with my colleagues, I also found myself admiring the way Japanese women everywhere had gorgeous complexions. Looking as if they had just emerged from a facial, many Japanese women have a remarkable tone to the skin – no sags, no droops, well into their 70s.
So I walked into a high-end cosmetic shop and asked, “What’s the most popular skin treatment that Japanese women use? What’s their secret?” I didn’t want to hear about the insanely expensive lotions, but the ones that the average Japanese woman uses. The saleswoman left the pricey section and walked over to bright pink pouches, tubes, and little bottles with ingestible “collagen” on the label. A beauty regimen in a daily dose.
I was immediately skeptical. No, no, this can’t work. Collagen breaks down due to acid in the stomach, and simply couldn’t get to your subdermal layers. But then the sales woman just shrugged and said, “You asked what they use. This works really well. We sell out of it every week.”
But where’s the scientific proof?
Then suddenly I remembered what I promoted in my medical conference talk – that the first stage of evidence is often what gets dismissed the quickest but shouldn’t—anecdotal stories of thousands of people.
So I went on the hunt for a type of collagen that made it past the gastric juices. Perhaps the Japanese had figured this out. Sure enough, one study emerged that had the first inkling of promise. A type of hydrolysis (water splitting) procedure managed to rework collagen compounds enough that they skirted pass the stomach, and found their way to the subsurface of skin.
Collagen is like the scaffolding upon which the rest of the body’s tissues support itself. When it breaks down, our skin loses its elasticity and youthful tone. Repatching the scaffolding matrix with ingested collagen never worked before, but just may with this hydrolyzed version.
I received my first sample of high quality, hydrolyzed collagen and started using it with great enthusiasm. I have noticed a lovely rejuvenation to my skin, and others have been commenting on it as well. Another anecdotal story, true, but it’s still observational research that counts, and more hard science is sure to follow.