What your skin says about your bone health

Dr. Frank Shallenberger, MD

September 13, 2021


What do your skin and your bones have in common? The answer is that both are made of collagen.

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, making up to 35% of the body’s entire amount of protein.

It is the cement that holds our tissues together, particularly our skin and bones. So when you have decreased levels of collagen, things start to fall apart. Things like skin and bones.

And a new study shows just how closely your skin and bones are linked.

Researchers at Yale University have discovered that the more your skin isn’t holding up (wrinkles), the more your bones aren’t holding up either (osteoporosis). In fact, they found that wrinkles can be a good indicator of how strong your bones are.

The amount and quality of the collagen in our bodies decrease as we get older. There are two factors in this degenerative process.

One is the ability of the body to make collagen. And the other is how well the body can maintain the collagen that it already has.

The first issue, synthesizing collagen, is controlled by hormones. And, as we all know, hormone levels all eventually go south as we get older. I’ve written a lot about hormones (see my website).

There are several ways to control the second factor — maintaining the collagen that you already have. Diets high in carbohydrates, particularly the high glycemic carbs, such as sugar, result in glycation — a process that damages collagen.

The older you get, the more years you expose your collagen to the glycation effect. And the worse your diet is, the more glycation that takes place.

Here’s Where to Begin

In order for the body to make collagen, certain critical nutrients are needed. These include vitamin A and especially vitamin C.

Studies have shown that smoking also damages collagen.

And there’s one more damaging factor for collagen in the skin. That’s ultraviolet sunlight. Excessive sunlight exposure will accelerate the breakdown of collagen in the skin.

So it makes perfect sense that the older we get the less collagen we will have in both our bones and in our skin. And that is exactly what the Yale team found.

They looked at the amount of wrinkles and the rigidity of the skin on the face and the neck of 114 women. Skin rigidity is dependent on collagen content. All of the women had been menopausal for no more than three years.

Then the researchers measured the bone densities in these women. What they found was the worse the wrinkles, and the more rigid the skin, the lower the bone density results were.

The lead author of the study was Dr. Lubna Pal. She is an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at Yale University. Dr. Pal stated, “As people age, the changes in the skin collagen that visibly cause the skin to sag and wrinkle are likely paralleled by changes that are invisibly affecting bone quality and quantity.”

Of course, you can’t just look at the face of a person with a lot of wrinkles and come to any solid conclusions about their bones. There are so many other parameters that determine wrinkles. I mentioned two of them already, smoking and sunlight exposure history. Another one is weight.

People who are overweight typically have fewer wrinkles than their normal-weight friends. But leaving aside these differences, this study shows that the amount of wrinkles you have does indicate the overall condition of your collagen and hence the strength of your bones.

How to Increase Collagen

One of the best ways to maintain the collagen you already have is with the nutrient L-lysine. This amino acid helps form collagen. L-lysine acts as a “mesh” that links collagen fibers together. So it’s very effective at maintaining the collagen you already have.

The best food sources of L-lysine are cheese and red meat. However, as we age, it takes more and more of this nutrient to protect the collagen we have. It’s tough to get enough from these foods. So I suggest you take a supplement to make sure you get enough daily. Take 400 mg of L-lysine daily. This is enough to help you maintain a rock-solid foundation for bone health.

It’s also important to take plenty of vitamin C, as it helps build collagen. Take 1,000 mg daily or more (up to bowel tolerance). These will go a long way to protecting both your skin and your bones from breaking down.


Deardorff, Julie. “Wrinkles may signal bone risk: Study By Julie Deardorff,” Tribune newspapers, June 10, 2011.


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