Being the most abundant protein in the body, collagen makes up 30% of the body’s protein and 70% of the skin’s protein. Because it’s so concentrated in the skin, its loss is detrimental to the skin’s health and a huge contributor to premature aging.
Unfortunately, our collagen levels do decline for various reasons. This protein is crucial for not just your skin, but your bones, joints, muscle, cartilage, and more. As such, losing it is no joke. You want to avoid doing so as much as possible!
Today, I will go over the six main reasons we lose our collagen so that you can make mindful choices for your skin and overall health.
We all love the sunshine, but the collagen in your skin? Not so much.
UV rays from the sun can contribute to lower collagen levels in the skin. To demonstrate this, researchers placed collagen beneath a UV light and found that there was a significant drop in collagen structure afterwards. 
Additionally, harmful UV rays can cause free radicals, which in turn may destroy collagen, other structures of the skin, and cause inflammation. 
If you plan on spending a lot of time outside, be sure to wear sunscreen, cover up, or stick to the shade. Remember, if it’s daylight outside, the sun’s rays are out!
Okay, we all know that smoking isn’t healthy, but some of us may still do it or be exposed to it through second-hand smoke.
When it comes to ruining collagen, cigarettes are the big guns. Enemy number one.
Smoking leads to premature aging in the skin. Tobacco triggers the production of a molecule called matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) which degrades collagen and other important dermal proteins. It also negatively impacts dermal connective tissue. 
One study which compared the skin and collagen levels of smokers and non-smokers found that collagen levels were 22% lower in those who smoked, and their MMP levels were 100% higher. 
Additionally, cigarettes cause a high level of free radicals to populate within the body, causing oxidative stress, which leads to damage in the skin and other organs. 
If you smoke and you want to watch out for the health of your skin, quitting is probably the best thing you could do. If you don’t smoke, do your best to avoid second-hand smoke – especially regular or prolonged exposure.
The more sugar in your diet, the worse off your skin is.
Sugar causes elements of the skin to stiffen, reducing its elasticity. It cross links collagen fibers, damaging them. This damaging process is exacerbated if combined with UV ray exposure. 
When you’re already losing collagen in other ways, you don’t want to accelerate that by damaging the collagen you do have.
Stress affects the integrity of collagen, negatively impacting its production and contributing to degradation. 
When we become stressed – regardless of why – our body releases stress hormones, namely cortisol. Cortisol on its own degrades collagen. On top of that, stress can cause inflammation to occur throughout the body and, like cortisol, inflammation damages our precious collagen. 
Similar to sugar, inflammation stiffens collagen, a process which can negatively impact the health of not just the skin, but several organs. 
One thing that I did want to point out is that some of this may come down to genetics.
If your parents and grandparents had great skin, then chances are that you will too. However, the opposite can be true as well.
It’s best, in my opinion, to be mindful of skin health and collagen levels regardless. But some of us may have to be more careful about it than others.
As we age, our body’s ability to synthesize collagen decreases. This decline begins in our 20s and, as a result, collagen levels decrease by 1% each year. 
Though the process of aging can’t be avoided, its effects can be mitigated. Depending on how many of the things in this article you’re exposed to, your collagen levels can decrease even faster.
On the other hand, if you avoid them and take care of your skin, your collagen decline – and ergo skin aging – shouldn’t be nearly as drastic.
But there is another thing that you can do.
If your body can’t make collagen, then why not give it collagen?
Supplementing can help you maintain collagen levels as you age, supporting the health of your skin, especially if you think you may be encountering any of the things on this list.
But you need a form of collagen that your body can absorb.