Friday, 26 March 2021

The age old problem of losing face: Absolute Collagen review

I watched a heartwarming programme on Channel 5 last night: '10 Years Younger in Ten Days', which is another of those quick turnaround makeover shows in the tradition of 'The Swan', 'What Not to Wear', and 'Changing Rooms' (for houses!). Both the women featured had touching stories, and I particularly sympathised with the one who had had some horrible - only adumbrated - things happen to her in the past, compounded by 43 years of heavy smoking. As a result she was heavily lined, careworn and sad, and a straw poll of straight-shooting passersby guessed she was on average 8 years older than her actual age. The presenter made the point that chronic stress floods the body with cortisol, which in turn 'eats' collagen, a dismal truth of which I was already aware. Within ten days, however, the makeover candidate had had a complete new set of teeth, botox, fillers, a sassy wardrobe and a leonine cascade of toffee-coloured hair. Whilst I don't agree with the post-makeover poll that said she now looked 52 rather than 64, she was certainly much revivified by this comprehensive overhaul. I am especially envious of her teeth.

I concede that nothing in my own past comes close to whatever troubles this woman had experienced, but the point about cortisol eating collagen struck a chord with me. The lockdown has been a stressor for all of us to varying degrees, and I have found it much harder than I expected, despite being someone who is normally fine on their own. Over the course of the year I acquired tinnitus and have had protracted spells of insomnia, itself a source of stress, as well as robbing you of what is rightly termed 'beauty sleep', for it is at night that the body repairs itself. Long story short, I fear I may have been awash in cortisol for quite a bit of the past year, and come November, my gaunt and sunken face was starting to bug me. The line of my jaw, once smooth and slightly rounded, now had a distinct and saggy triangle in it half way along, like a miniature map of Tasmania. The brown spots on my cheeks, caused by a mix of long term use of antibiotics and sun exposure, and which once took the form of separate little patches, have managed to coalesce into archipelagos stretching from ear to mouth nearly, making my face look permanently dirty. The 'peach fuzz' on my cheeks also seemed more luxuriant, but it is blonde at least, so have bought a de-fuzzer by Revlon and will get round to tackling that one day, when I can pluck up the courage. As for estimating my age, the best approach is the dendrochronological one of counting the concentric rings on my neck. ;)

Baseline photo - me in March 2019. NB My blog avatar photo (to the right) is from 2014. ;)

November is a depressing month at the best of times, never mind in a lockdown scenario, but the local private hospital was still open for business, and one dark rainy night I had a consultation with a rather dashing plastic surgeon from Minneapolis. I had no intention of actually having any cosmetic surgery - it was more of a fact finding mission. I am delighted to say he didn't charge me for the session, because he felt that the radical work I needed(!) was not his speciality. 'I could sort your eyes out, though.' The session was not quite as dispiriting as you might be forgiven for thinking. He added that my eyes (even in their hooded and crepey state) 'had a spark about them', and that I had good skin, 'just too much of it'. He explained that the main reason for people's skin becoming looser as they age is in fact the shrinkage of the underlying bone structure, like the facial equivalent of coastal erosion. 


This instantly explained the disconcerting amount of 'travel' in my cheek when I applied moisturiser. It seemed almost as though it would slide past my ear, given half a chance. I did lob in a tentative question about fillers, thinking that might be a more affordable and less scary route if I ever did bite the bullet and have anything done, but he wasn't a fan. 'I mostly work in a hospital in Liverpool, and walking around the city centre I see far too many cases of unnatural looking fillers.' (My thoughts immediately flew to those preposterous trout pouts that sometimes accompany the infamous Scouse brow.)

And then I asked him about oral collagen, a bargain bottle of which from Amazon I had in fact just started taking from a company called SuperSelf - probably not long enough for it to have made a difference, if it was ever going to. His hesitation before replying struck me as significant, and though I can't remember his exact answer, it was far from an outright no, as though he were leaving the door ajar to its possible efficacy.

Picture from last August - if you look closely, you can see Tasmania is just starting to get her droop on.

So I came away thinking there was no way I could afford or ever face a face lift, given my phobia of blood and knives, and if this chap was anti-fillers, that just left me with my collagen experiment. I decided to pursue it for now, to rule it in or out, and when the SuperSelf bottle ran out, I took out a subscription to Absolute Collagen, which is one of the leading brands, with (to my mind) the most convincing 'before' and 'after' pictures from users. AC's founder, Maxine Laceby, has won a number of beauty industry awards, which served as further reassurance of there being 'something in it'. Accordingly, after a month of taking the other brand, I switched to Absolute Collagen on 8/12, and every fortnight receive a cheery yellow box containing a clutch of lemon flavoured sachets which I dissolve in hot water and drink first thing.

[Oh look, they use the dreaded word 'journey'! But as I like the product I will cut them some slack, no dermatological pun intended.]

I am part way through this box!

One week later, in mid-December, I met up with a friend, whom I had not told I was taking anything, but who immediately noticed a difference to my face - a sort of blurring round the edges, as it were. Here is our email exchange shortly afterwards:

> I have also been taking some new supplements
'They really are working - I did notice it without prompt or prior knowledge...'

Fast forward to a full three months later - four, if you include the other brand - and I thought it was time to take stock. I have decided to carry on for a while, not least because the company has brought out a new raspberry flavour which they were kind enough to let users trial before choosing, along with another alternative of mango & mandarin, which is also nice. Notwithstanding the fact that collagen is derived from fish, the raspberry flavour is so expertly blended that I could fancy I am eating a sloppy version of Bonne Maman jam. A coulis, if you will.

So without further ado, here are three areas where I have seen improvements - some more striking than others.

1) Hair is stronger.

I had my hair cut in December and as she was washing it, the stylist spontaneously commented on the fact that my hair felt noticeably thicker! If anything, it feels even thicker and stronger now, to the point where I reckon that you could attach one end to the bow of that poor marooned ship in the Suez Canal and yank the unfortunate vessel out of its wedged position.

[No picture would convey this, so you will have to take my word for it!]

2) Nails are completely transformed!

For as long as I can remember, I have had 'severely ridged thumbnails', to such an extent that they were mentioned in just such terms on early passports in the days when there was a section on 'distinguishing features'. 

Left thumb just starting to grow out...[sorry, my phone doesn't really do close ups!]

Nearly there...!

Right thumb is there already!

Once or twice in the past 60 odd years my thumbnails have grown out straight, but very, very rarely - I could count the times on the fingers of one hand, minus the thumb, haha. I never knew why they did that on those occasions and the effect was shortlived. It was soon apparent that the collagen was turbo-charging the nail regrowth again, and it will be interesting to see if the change stays - while taking collagen, or more impressively when I stop.

3) Facial skin is thicker and fuller.

The most marked change when it comes to my face is the strengthening and thickening of my skin. When I pummel my face or use creams on it, it doesn't do that unnerving 'travelling' I mentioned earlier, and snaps back into place when I let go. I still have the same lip lines and naso-labial lines, but my face is a bit plumper, which I cannot attribute to putting on weight overall, for it has only been a few pounds since the summer and my face is the last place I normally do gain weight. 


So I am pretty sure it is the collagen. I still have too much skin, to quote the lovely surgeon, but it has more bounce and elasticity. If it were bedding, I would liken it to the consistency of a duvet or a quilt, rather than a sheet, or the thinnest of coverlets. It resists you when you go to move it. Obviously I would love the collagen to take up residence in the remaining slack areas of my jaw, to smooth the contours back to how they were. This downward trend has been going on for between 2-3 years I reckon?, and if I could turn back even half that time - the ravages of lockdown, say! - I'd consider it money well spent. 

Would I recommend Absolute Collagen? I would, absolutely, though it is expensive - but hey, it's actually less than the price of a takeaway coffee every day. Plus there is no way of knowing quite how it will change you. But change you it most likely will.

And finally, does any of this matter? Am I just being vain? Is aging an inescapable process it is folly to try to even slow down, never mind stop in its tracks? Maybe, but 2020 has been such a strange and alienating year that aspiring to have a skull that broadly fits my face is perhaps an understandable indulgence...

PS For those of you who were guessing a while back what supplements I was trialling, no, it wasn't biotin, hehe.

UPDATE: As you know, I have no commercial connection with Absolute Collagen, but it has just come to my attention that anyone purchasing the product who cites my name in full (Vanessa Musson) as a 'referring friend' gets £10 off their subscription, with a similar amount coming my way(!). The latest person to order must have chanced across this mechanism and given my name - I was not aware of it. It may come down to people's definition of 'friend', hehe, but I thought it worth mentioning, as a shared £20 is a win-win situation. ;)


Tara said...

Amazing V! The fact collagen drinks help your joints is a major plus. The Murad Vitamin V serum will also be boosting your collagen levels so you're attacking it from all sides.

Relieved you saw such a pleasant cosmetic surgeon and that he noticed the youthful sparkle in your eyes.

We could all do with a confidence lift after a year of stress so if you've found something that helps then excellent. You do look great in that last pic.

I take Altrient C for my lack of fruit and veg but it is also supposed to increase collagen levels. Hard to tell as am on tret but hopefully it's helping too.

In all my intensive hair research I've concluded biotin actually isn't worth taking.

Anonymous said...

I am convinced I can see a difference - so much so I am placing an order! Two years on steroids is playing havoc with my skin and hair, so it's worth trying, and if collagen also helps tendons etc that would be a bonus.

Agree with Tara. Biotin didn't do much for me apart from giving me spots!

Also agree with Tara that you look great, not just because of collagen, but because you have a lovely face anyway!


Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

The Murad serum has definitely faded my 'melasma' spots a bit!, in fact I only use it on my cheeks as my eyes might be a bit sensitive. I couldn't try tretoin because of having eczema, though I wish I could as it is the gold standard of skincare!

I have not heard of Altrient C, which sounds like a multi-tasking kind of product. Shame the biotin didn't come to much, but your hair is lovely anyway.

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

Ooh, I hope you find it helps! You are the second person to take the plunge following my review. As I say in the post, I definitely think it will do the past I took Colladeen capsules and saw no effects from those whatsoever, so the famous 'efficacy' must vary between brands. ;)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Vanessa, I hope so too. Colladeen didn't work for me either; I think their function is to "support" our collagen and they do not actually contain any! So that's a big difference. Fingers crossed! Keep reading that hydration is important and I admit I am not good at drinking water but it makes sense to think that dehydrated cells look shrunken ... must do better.

Old Herbaceous said...

I'm glad you're happy with the product! Let me say, though, that you have a lovely face that reflects joy and kindness, and curiosity, and yes, a sparkle in the eyes. I remember hearing a saying once, along the lines of, in your 20s you have the face you were born with, in your 30s you have the face you work for, and in your 40s and later you have the face you deserve. Not really fair to traumatized people like the woman you described, but I take it to mean that if one goes through life smiling at others, for example, and embracing joy, the wrinkles one acquires are smile and laugh lines, as opposed to frown lines. I have a perfect example in the lifelong best friend of my late mother. When they were girls, and then in their 20s and 30s, she was a lovely person with a somewhat gangly, homely appearance. As they aged, she became lovelier and lovelier on the outside, reflecting who she was on the inside. In late middle age and old age, she was truly beautiful and was noticed as such even by much younger men. So keep smiling and sparkling! And I hope the stress lessens soon.

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

I hear you on hydration and the importance of drinking water - so important, and something I am often remiss at doing.

Vanessa said...

Hi Old Herbaceous,

What a lovely and inspiring story of women coming into their own as they age, and acquiring their 'best face'. My nose has got longer and pointier over time, and my eyes have receded, and lips got thinner, but if I can still muster a bit of expressiveness I take your point that that is the most important aspect! And thank you too for your kind comments about my present 60-something face.;)

Tatiana said...

I definitely see a difference. I agree with Old Herbaceous that your face does reflect joy and kindness, and curiosity.
I would love to try this, as my hair and skin have not done well during this pandemic year. And I've been taking tonnes of biotin and other hair supplements. Alas, I do not see my country listed in their shipping list.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tatiana,

Everyone is being so kind about my face, thank you - I hadn't really noticed how my expression comes across before.

Sorry to hear that your skin and hair have suffered in the past year, and that the company don't ship to your part of the world. There are doubtless other effective brands available locally, but it might be a case of cross-comparing review sites to identify them.

Lucy said...

NicešŸŒ¼ I’m a believer in supplements, they’ve helped me a lot for other problems. When you find the exactly right one that works, it’s such a good thing. Yes it’s been intense and prolonged. I see a difference, you’re inspiring me to try it. I think a little vanity is a good thing and keeps a person stronger and healthier in the long run. Every little thing adds up to help take sime of the edge off.

Lucy said...


Vanessa said...

Hi Lucy,

Thanks for stopping by. It can be hard to find a supplement that works for you, but when you do, you can really reap benefits. I have been conducting parallel experiments on sleep aids, which will also get their own post sometime.

I was scrolling through the before and after pics on the company's website and noticed that a woman had seen improvements in the crepey appearance of her leg skin, not something normally touted as a benefit of the collagen, as people focus on their faces more. I shall inspect my limbs at some point(!), as I had a fair bit of crepeyness going on on my arms back in the summer, though that has partly been improved through exercise.

Anonymous said...

Hi Vanessa, to be honest, I think you look great - you have elfin-ish features and beautiful eyes, not to mention a very trim, lithe figure.


Undina said...

You're again ahead of me! This time not just with a post (even though I am working now on a post with ... well, not the same but "adjacent" topic), but with collagen supplement. I can't remember how exactly I arrived at the idea of taking this supplement, but I've been doing it probably for a month now. Mine comes in capsules though (

I have no idea whether it helps, and I don't think I ever will because I'm doing many different things at the same time, so even if anything improves, provided I notice that, I won't know which one of the multiple "snake oils" I use helped, was it any of them, a combination or none. But it makes me feel better :)

I think you should add your comment about the referral to the end of your post: since you're not getting paid for it but rather get a discount for the future use of their product, your readiness to get this discount speaks for the sincerity of you liking the product. And whoever uses that referral will also get a discount - so it's win-win.

Ines said...

Wow! Good to know some products actually work as they are supposed to! I'm glad you found sth so good and shared with us.
Btw, have you tried facial yoga? That might help with the muscle tone. I keep trying to get into it on a regular basis but the last year has efficiently killed off my willingness to commit to anything.
Similar to you, I like living alone and having time to myself but can't say I prospered in the last year. :/

Vanessa said...

Hi Joyce,

You are very kind. It is funny how you see yourself much more critically than others do, but I do appreciate the morale boosting compliment!

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

How interesting that you should also be using collagen supplements, though I wouldn't say you needed it for your skin, which is beautifully smooth! The brand I initially took for a month was in capsule form (SuperSelf), and I think it helped my hair, certainly. I know what you mean about it being difficult to disentangle the cause of any improvement. I have that problem in spades when it comes to sleep aids / strategies, though I still have a hunch about what might have worked. To try every remedy sequentially would take too long!

Thanks for the suggestion about moving my comment about the reward scheme into the post itself - done. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

No, I haven't tried facial yoga, though someone else suggested that - over on Facebook maybe? - and it is on my radar. I guess I have been rubbish at getting into yoga during lockdown that facial yoga is even further behind in the queue. ;) Have heard good things about it, mind, and thanks for adding to the nudge.

Carol said...

After reading this I bought some collagen gummies. Will report back ! Thanks for the info V

Vanessa said...

Hi Carol,

Hope they work for you!

AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

Hi Vanessa,
I read this but don't have a comment really, except to say how much I enjoyed your enjoyment and results.
Portia xx

Vanessa said...

Why, thank you, Portia!