What will help me to re-build collagen?

I’m afraid you’ve hit the $64,000 question!

It seems to be the era of collagen replacement, or at least it’s what we all think we need - anyone over 35, anyway.

It is possible that you skin is collagen depleted, but it is likely that it would benefit from other things too, which can be addressed quickly and with little cost.

Better hydration is a fast, simple one to rectify and something people often miss. This doesn’t just mean drinking more, although if you think you may be generally dehydrated, then certainly, increase your water intake. It is just as often the lipids in the skin that are a bit lacking. This should respond well to a good quality moisturiser, to boost the fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol in this layer. The other often over-looked and entirely free and effective collagen-stimulator is facial exercises. There are several good videos on YouTube, and they don’t need to be complicated or take longer than two minutes a day. You are aiming to exercise and massage the muscles in the face that are not used enough and support the areas that tend to sag first. So the chin, under the cheekbones and forehead are easy to do and have been shown to have good results.

Another consideration is to try to rectify those factors that deplete collagen. I use botanical extracts for this with really encouraging results. The polyphenols in the extracts deliver antioxidant properties, some are also anti-inflammatory and inhibit UV-induced connective tissue damage. Another group of flavonoids, anthocyanins, can decrease UVB-induced damage and significantly delay cancer formation and proanthocyanidins inhibit free radicals and inflammatory pathways. All this goes a long way to not just protect, but improve skin texture, stability and, importantly, stop inflammation, which is a major factor in skin looking depleted.

So, collagen… the area I tend to spend most time on is how to increase collagen through topically applied vitamins and minerals - creams and serum mainly. At the other end of the scale, people do have collagen-stimulating fillers injected into the affected areas. I can’t advise about the latter, but I have a detailed piece on my website about collagen boosting ingredients - bottom of first page - scentsofman.com, or below I have listed the vitamins I use most frequently in products designed for this:
Vitamin A
Applying Retinoic acid topically can improve collagen metabolism, but it can also be very irritating. As all vitamin A derivatives are converted into retinoic acid on the skin, the gentler ones can still deliver without the risk of irritation if that is a problem, as low as 1% (I mix retinyl palmitate with palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 in two of my collagen-boosting products and that works very well).
Vitamin B
I am a big fan of Niacinamide, it doesn’t work overnight, but give it a few weeks and it comes into its own. It tends to improve general elasticity, rather than collagen specifically. DMAE applied at 3% was shown to markedly improve sagging skin.
Vitamin C
Most people have heard of this one and it has been well studied - L-ascorbic acid has been shown to be a cofactor for collagen synthesis. Don’t be tempted to apply large doses, more isn’t always more, in terms of results. You don’t want to irritate or burn your skin whilst attempting to boost collagen. 3% in a cream, applied for 6 months increased elastin and type I and type III collagen. It needs to be kept air-tight and preferably cool. If it turns orange, it has oxidised, so bin it!

Alpha lipoic acid
This is an antioxidant that can repair oxidative damage and used at 0.5%, it can increase collagen synthesis.

Alpha-Hydroxyl Acids - AHAs
AHAs: The most commonly used are glycolic acid and lactic acid. Some people recommend high concentrations (20%), but in my experience, 3- 5% concentrations can still be very good, with less irritation. This will also take a few weeks to deliver a discernible difference on collagen.

Peptides
These vary in their effectiveness, but some have had impressive results on collagen and excellent results on overall skin condition.

Happy hunting - I hope you find some that do the trick!