Everything You Need to Know About Collagen + A Review of Watson’s Collagen Line




Today I want to dive into a brand that is massively popular in Hong Kong and China, but maybe not so familiar to my US readers: Watson’s.

Specifically, Watson’s Collagen Line.

Now hold on.. before you click off the page – even if you don’t know the Watson’s brand, today I’m going to spill some very serious tea on Collagen.

How collagen works, what it’s good for, when and why it doesn’t work.. you get the point.

This is about a lot more than just a hand lotion! So strap in ladies, it’s time to learn the TRUTH about one of the anti-aging industry’s favorite buzz-words: Collagen.


What is Collagen?

Collagen is a protein produced by our cells that helps “hold” the skin together, keeping it looking younger and giving it firmness and elasticity. When we’re young, our skin stays plump and smooth because it constantly regenerates itself (source).

In other words, collagen is pretty damn important.


When/How Does My Skin Lose Collagen?

According to Dr. Leslie Baumann‘s Cosmetic Dermatology, collagen production decreases by approximately 1 percent with each year of age after maturity (about age 21), leading to a loss in firmness and elasticity of skin. (source).

Ugh.. another thing to worry about – because as you already know, lash and brow loss is a real age-related issue too, as I talked about recently in my post about Squalane and Madarosis.

For those of us who are closer to that 21 age, just know that when you pop pimples, you sometimes damage the collagen underneath the skin, leaving small indentations or pock marks.. sometimes permanently. Sometimes this happens to those who have cystic acne, even if they DON’T pop the pimple! That’s why I’m an advocate for extractions, but that’s a topic for another day..

Otherwise, UV damage from not wearing sunscreen, smoking, eating too much sugar, not exercising enough.. lots of things can affect your skin’s natural collagen production.


How Can I Increase (Rebuild) the Collagen in My Skin?

1. Bee Venom

Weirdly enough, the toxin that bee venom release into the skin (melittin), causes an inflammatory response – which I think is what we can attribute the immediate reduction in wrinkle depth – causing more blood to go to the area, thus stimulating collagen production in the area (source). To read more about Bee Venom, the studies around it, what it is and how to use it, read my full post on bee venom here.


2. Vitamin C Serums

Do you know why I love SHINE so much? Organic Pomegranate oil is the #1 ingredient. Pomegranate seed oil is one of the only seed oils known to have a high Vitamin C concentration. But Vitamin C does more than brighten. It also helps stimulate natural collagen production (which is why I started using vitamin C serum in the first place!).

My other favorite vitamin C serum is Ole Henrikson’s Truth Serum Collagen Booster. Before I ever created SHINE, I used to use this serum religiously. It’s perfect for any skin type and packed with vitamin C for bright, shiny, healthy, collagen-producing skin.

Another product–which the newest, fanciest Vitamin C on the market–is Glossier’s Super Glow Serum! As Nicki at Futurederm tells us, “[Super Glow is] one of the first serums to incorporate a newfangled version of vitamin C, Aminopropyl Ascorbyl Phosphate. Initial studies suggest this stabilized form of L-ascorbic acid may increase collagen production (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2009). Though the studies are limited, these stable forms of L-ascorbic acid do tend to produce the lightening, tightening, and brightening results of pure L-ascorbic acid.”

Omg I cannot wait to buy this for myself for Christmas!


3. Lasers and Light Therapy

Two recently developed lasers – the Genesis and Medlite lasers – have been shown to increase collagen production. Each one is about $400; your derm will know what you’re talking about! (source)

As for light therapy, LED phototherapy has been shown to be helpful with collagen production. In a 12 week study, participants saw an average 30% decrease in wrinkles and 15% increase in elastin. It seems like LED phototherapy is effective in increasing collagen production, but not as effective as lasers or..


4. Peels + Retinoids!

Glycolic Acid peels specifically. While these are not as hard-hitting as retinoids, they do work.

When it comes to increasing collagen production though, I would go with a retinoid. Nothing comes close to retinoids in terms of performance or how extensively they have been studied and reported on.

Taken straight from a 2012 paper called “Skin Anti-Aging Strategies“, “The cell regulators, such as retinols, peptides and growth factors (GF), have direct effects on collagen metabolism and influence collagen production.”

Retinol/Retinoids increase skin cell turnover, help protect against collagen loss and work as an anti-oxidant, preventing damage from free radicals.

No rebutting that.

How much retinol should you use? You may want to talk to your derm about that.

In Korea, a much higher concentration of retinol is allowed in products than in the US (source) without – seemingly – any poor effects. Products with as retinol percentages as high as 3.8% can be found in South Korea, whereas in the US, the average product has 0.5% – BUT you usually can’t find the percentage on the package because it’s ILLEGAL in the US; the info can typically be found online, in the name or elsewhere, though!

If you want a KICKASS retinol product, Dr. Brandt’s Skin Resurfacing Serum has the highest retinol concentration found in the US, at 1.9%. Better believe I’ll be buying it! I finally found the holy grail retinol that I’ve been looking for.


Wait.. I didn’t See “Use Products with Collagen” Anywhere in the List?

Right. Actually applying collagen to your skin doesn’t do diddly squat, except maybe make it temporarily softer or moisturized. In fact, it’s too big to pass through your pores! It’s just going to sit on top of your skin, not enter it.

So anytime you seen a skincare product claiming “contains collagen” (or elastin, for that matter).. ignore it. It’s way more important to stimulate collagen production than to apply it topically. You don’t have to choose every method, but at least choose one or two!


What About Collagen Supplements?

As for taking collagen supplements, it’s hard to say. This study indicates that taking 50mL of collagen everyday (in conjunction with Hyalauronic acid and other vitamins) DOES lead to “noticeable reduction in skin dryness, wrinkles, and nasolabial fold depth.” It’s also very obviously a sponsored study.

This study on an oral based gelation collagen shows similar results.

I think in general the jury is still out for a variety of reasons. Who is doing the study and for what reasons (to find what) matters.The purity and source of collagen matter. The body’s ability to digest or use the form of collagen taken matters (a lot). I’m sure there are other digestion and absorption co-factors involved.

In Asia, we eat all kinds of natural forms of gelatin: grass jelly, coconut jelly.. I wish I could name all of the vegan and vegetarian forms of jelly that I pour into my iced teas here. At the end of the day, I have no idea if it helps or not.

Skincare and food are two different animals entirely; Although it’s true that your diet can positively or negatively affect your skin over time, I think I’ll stick with the above suggestions for better collagen production in my skin.


So About That Watson’s Collagen Hand Cream..

I love the smell of Watson’s collagen hand cream. I love the look of it.

Watson’s Moisturizing and Softening Hand Cream – that’s what it’s called – with the big “COLLAGEN” written across it.

Their entire collagen line – from makeup to skincare and back – is the highlight of the store. It’s massively popular in China, as everyone sees the English word Collagen and immediately thinks it’s a). a high-level product and b). will definitely work. It’s priced like it will, compared to other Chinese products.

What I don’t like?

I think it’s just another hand lotion.

Here’s the translated ingredient list:

Water, glycerol, polydimethylsiloxane, cetearyl alcohol, mineral oil, petrolatum, glyceryl stearate, PEG-100 stearate, isocetyl, octanoic acid/capric triglyceride, stearic acid, cetostearin glucoside, cetearyl alcohol polyether-25, phenoxyethanol, triethanolamin, carbomer, xanthan gum, flavor (scent), shea butter fruit oil, tocopheryl acetate, xanthan gum, propane(?), hydrolyzed collagen*, EDTA disodium, soluble collagen*, sodium benzoate, butylene glycol, sodium alginate, sodium citrate, collagen deficiency (?), serine, methylparaben, phenylmorphine.

A big thank you to my boyfriend for translating that. I know it’s not all 100% correct, but it was 100% in characters, so there’s no way I could read it.

In fact, there’s no way I would’ve purchased this if I could’ve read the ingredient list to begin with.

Besides all the big “no-no” ingredients inside, the collagen is down by the sodium benzoate.. which is a preservative. So the collagen inside–which can’t do anything anyway in this form–is in the product at the same level as a preservative.


Besides the smell and packaging, I have nothing good to say about this product or the line. It seems like a purposefully misleading product line with bunch of ingredients inside that I don’t want anywhere near my skin.

Time to go shopping again! Maybe this time, not in China…


Takeaway: Building Collagen in The Skin

The simple takeaway?

Collagen ON your skin doesn’t not equal collagen IN your skin.

Besides picking up healthy habits like eating less sugar, exercising more, drinking water, avoiding smoking, and wearing sunscreen, we can also increase collagen production in the skin by using bee venom, vitamin C serums (or a natural source of Vitamin C like SHINE), glycolic acid peels, retinoids and lasers.. hopefully just not all at once.

Pick your strategy – hopefully together with your derm – for increasing collagen production in the skin.

And, oh yeah – don’t buy Watson’s Collagen Products. Save your money.

Until next time ?


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Dr. Vanessa Rodriguez is a board-certified general practitioner with more than 15 years of patient care experience. She takes an integrative approach to patient care that considers the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – and is deeply committed to assisting her patients in achieving and sustaining optimal health. Dr. Vanessa is also a skilled writer and medical reviewer, specializing in preventive care and health promotion. Her articles are written in an approachable manner that is simple to comprehend and implement in one’s own life. Dr. Vanessa’s mission is to equip her patients and readers with the knowledge and resources necessary to live their greatest lives.

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