Do collagen supplements really work? (2023)

Collagen supplements are one of the more controversial tools within the beauty and wellness worlds. In the search for effective ways to help boost youthfulness, the suggestion of simply sipping a drink, chewing a gummy or popping a powder into your smoothie sounds tempting, but can it really boost your beauty from the inside-out?

Here, experts answer the questions that have sprung up around collagen products and discuss whether you'd benefit from incorporating ingestible collagen into your skincare regime.

What is collagen?

"Collagen is a multi-functioning protein in the human body and the building block of the skin," explains consultant dermatologist Dr Alia Ahmed. "It plays a major role in the structure of the skin, providing its elasticity, hydration, and strength." As it’s what keeps our skin from sagging, in turn it dictates how smooth and plump it looks.

Do we need to supplement our natural collagen levels?

Our collagen levels deplete as we age, and especially for women once reaching the menopause, which leads to the natural wrinkling and lack of firmness seen in older skin.

"Our natural collagen production slows down from our early 20s by 1-1.5 per cent every year and by the time you turn 50, most individuals will have lost about 50 per cent of the collagen in your skin," reveals the plastic surgeon Dr Paul Banwell. "This can lead to sagging, thinning and wrinkles," he confirms.

Collagen depletion, however, does not happen at the same rate for everyone. "The rate will depend on various lifestyle factors, such as diet, sun exposure, sleep and stress levels plus genetics and hormones," Daisy Whitbread, a nutritionist, explains.

That means that wearing sunscreen and limiting your time in the sun, as well as living a healthy, balanced lifestyle, can help protect against prematurely dropping collagen levels – and should be part of any effective skincare routine – but such actions are unable to reverse the process.

How do collagen supplements work?

Collagen supplements are designed to help 'top up' your natural collagen levels, helping to potentially minimise the effects of collagen depletion.

Crucially, though, it is key to understand that collagen supplements do not add the collagen peptides you ingest directly to the dermis, “but rather the collagen peptides act as a feedback mechanism to trigger your own natural collagen production,” explains Dr Banwell.

"It’s believed that the presence of the collagen fragments sends false signals to the body, indicating that collagen destruction has occurred. This stimulates the collagen-producing cells, called fibroblasts, to produce more of your own natural collagen,” says Whitbread. “The formulation of elastin (which gives skin elasticity) and hyaluronic acid (for hydration) are also stimulated.”

The result, arguably, is an increase in your body's collagen levels, which in turn results in a healthier, firmer complexion.

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Isn't collagen too large to be absorbed into the bloodstream?

“Collagen molecules are indeed too large to be absorbed into the bloodstream, but the collagen in collagen drinks and other formulations is mostly hydrolysed”, says Tariq Karim, doctoral research fellow at Santi London, who works with Skinade. This means that the collagen molecules have been broken into smaller pieces, called peptides, which have a very low molecular weight, making them more easily absorbed in the gut.

Are all collagen supplements similar?

Put simply, no – as Dr Ahmed explains: “When looking at oral collagen supplementation, it’s important to look at the collagen source (whether it's marine or bovine), the type (hydrolysed, dipeptide, or tripeptide), the dose per day, and how you should take it (capsule or liquid form) when making your choice. This all determines its efficacy – type 1 hydrolysed marine collagen has been scientifically proven to be the most bioavailable to the body.”

She recommends Revive Collagen which includes some of the highest doses of type 1 liquid marine collagen available. "Their products include from 8,500 – 10,000mg of marine collagen as well as added ingredients, including essential vitamins and aloe vera, an anti-inflammatory”.

To enjoy the other health benefits of collagen – which in addition to boosted skin health are said to include enhanced hair and nail growth, reduction of bone loss, improved heart health, increased muscle mass, and reduced joint pain – studies recommend that adults consume between 2.5 to 15 grams of collagen per day.

Is there clinical research behind collagen supplements?

Indeed, as Dr Ahmed refers to above, although some are often the result of clinical research conducted via the brands themselves.

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Here's what we know: “One randomised, double-blind placebo study showed that after eight weeks of taking collagen, participants experienced increased skin moisture, and after 12 weeks saw decreased collagen disintegration,” registered nutritionist Clarissa Lenherr tells us here. In addition, Karim reveals that “there are studies that show that collagen arrives at the dermis [meaning the collagen peptides are indeed absorbed before the digestive process in the stomach starts], as well as studies that show that ingested collagen stimulates the body’s ability to produce its own collagen”.

Dr Banwell adds that: “In two independent clinical studies, it been proven that the type of collagen peptides used in Skinade are absorbed into the bloodstream and in a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled case study, participants saw an increase in collagen density, skin hydration and skin elasticity after drinking Skinade for 90 days, compared to a control group.”

Beauty&Go has also been proven in laboratory studies to reach the tissues within 12 hours of ingestion,” claims Whitbread.

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When should I start taking collagen?

“As with most things in life, a preventative approach is best, so the earlier you start taking collagen supplements the better. I would recommend starting in your late twenties to early thirties to get the best results", states Whitbread.

"It’s dependent on what your own objectives are and your lifestyle, but generally taking the drinks in your 30s would be beneficial both in terms of enhancement and prevention," Karim concurs.

Is ingestible collagen suitable for everyone?

No. A lot of collagen drinks are not vegetarian, because "collagen is mainly derived from either fish [marine collagen] or pigs [bovine collagen]", explains Karim.

"It is often not very clear which types of collagen are used in different products and what their origin is – you often have to refer to the small print to find out," confirms Dr Banwell.

For a vegan alternative, try The Beauty Chef's Collagen Inner Beauty Boost.

Collagen supplements are also not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What about collagen in topical skincare products?

“Research has shown that taking collagen orally enhances its availability compared with applying it in a cream,” reveals Whitbread. “The positive effects of oral collagen are also longer lasting than those of a face cream. This is because collagen taken orally impacts the deeper layers of the skin, targeting the dermal layer, which is where collagen losses occur.”

“Creams on the other hand, tend to have their effects primarily on the epidermis – the top skin layer. The visible improvements observed with creams are mainly due to increased hydration, rather than the deeper structural changes achieved with collagen supplementation.”

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Will focusing on a healthy diet work better?

“To be clear, collagen supplements are not a replacement for a healthy and balanced lifestyle,” warns Dr Banwell. “However, a healthy lifestyle does not prevent collagen loss, so it is really two different things. Collagen drinks are designed to trigger a physiological response in the body, irrelevant of lifestyle. It’s a bit like asking if a healthy lifestyle means you don’t need to wear SPF. Of course you do and must! The functionality of collagen supplements cannot be achieved by anything you eat.”

As Dr Sophie Shotter, skin and aesthetics expert, and founder of Illuminate Skin Clinic, puts it, “the more we top up” our collagen stores, “the better our skin will age”.

In her opinion, the best results always come from “a multimodal approach,” using a combination of topical and ingestible products alongside professional treatments, such as in-clinic methods designed for collagen stimulation.

To discover more ways to stimulate collagen production see Dr Shotter’s – and more experts’ – tips below.

FAQs

Is there a downside to taking collagen? ›

Collagen supplements may lead to mild side effects such as bloating, heartburn, and feelings of fullness. If you have food allergies, make sure to purchase supplements that don't contain your allergens.

Is there any collagen that actually works? ›

In short, yes. Taken daily, clinical trials have shown a collagen supplement has the ability to slow down the body's breaking down of its own collagen. In fact, the marine collagen in Beauty Pie's Collagen Super Powder reduced it by a huge 31 per cent.

How long does it take for collagen to work? ›

Many of the studies available suggest that you'd be able to noticeably see improvements in skin elasticity, hydration, and density anywhere between 6 and 12 weeks of regular collagen supplementation.

Is collagen worth the hype? ›

“Despite much anecdotal evidence to the contrary, peer-reviewed research supporting perceived benefits of collagen is lacking.” There are small studies showing collagen supplementation with vitamin C may help prevent injuries and promote tissue repair in athletes, and other small studies suggesting collagen ...

What happens if you take collagen everyday? ›

Studies have shown that daily collagen supplements can help make your bones denser, slowing the aging process that makes them brittle and helping your body to produce new bone. Oral collagen supplements have been shown to improve skin hydration and elasticity for older people. They might also help to lessen wrinkles.

What collagen is Jennifer Aniston using? ›

Vital Proteins® Original Collagen Peptides

Jen Says: "My go-to collagen routine is adding Vital Proteins® Collagen Peptides ($27; shop now) in my morning cup of coffee or smoothie – so easy to use."

Does collagen actually tighten skin? ›

Collagen's role in the body

Collagen is a protein that serves as one of the main building blocks for your bones, skin, hair, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. "Collagen is what keeps our skin from sagging, giving us that plump, youthful look," says dermatologist Dr. Ohara Aivaz.

What is the number 1 collagen in the world? ›

1. Vital Proteins Original Collagen Peptide. Vital Proteins is the leader in the collagen powder market, and rightfully so with such a diverse product line. But their OG—Original Collagen Peptides—is their bestseller for a reason: one scoop gives you 18 grams collagen as well as hyaluronic acid and vitamin C.

How can you tell if collagen is working? ›

After daily collagen supplementation for a few weeks, you will typically start to notice a few things: hair growth, skin hydration and skin moisture, improvement in joint health and skin health, lessening of fine lines, and other possible anti-aging improvements.

What age should you start taking collagen? ›

Any age can benefit from collagen. But since aging effects manifest later in life, collagen supplementation is advised to begin in the early 20s. You might find that the effects of aging set in more quickly if you lead a strenuous lifestyle.

Which form of collagen is most effective? ›

Type I or type 1 collagen is the strongest type of collagen. If you're looking for a collagen for supporting skin health, type 1 is a top choice since it's literally a building block of the skin.

Does collagen change your face? ›

Better skin health

Some people who take collagen supplements are looking to improve the look and overall health of their skin. Many believe that collagen supplements can help reduce the effects of aging, such as by adding moisture to the skin, reducing wrinkles, and improving elasticity.

Can collagen cause weight gain? ›

Taking a collagen supplement will not cause you to gain weight. In fact, it can help support you on your weight loss journey along with proper diet and exercise. Collagen is beneficial to your bones, muscles, hair, skin, and nails. It also helps to improve your heart health.

What I noticed after taking collagen? ›

My skin feels stronger and I see less notable wrinkle lines on my forehead and under my eyes. The joints in my knees feel stronger and I feel much better in my overall health." “Wholy Dose [collagen peptides supplements] brightened my complexion, made my skin texture even, and shrunk the appearance of my pores.

Should I take collagen or protein powder? ›

It's worth noting that they can be used interchangeably, but collagen powders are best for joint, skin and longevity, while protein powders are better for muscle recovery following exercise.

What collagen does the Kardashians take? ›

Kourtney says she typically starts her day with a cup of Collagen Vibes, a Poosh x Vital Proteins collaboration. "I do it on an empty stomach for maximum benefits and kick-start my protein intake for the day (it has nine grams of protein in it).

What collagen does the Kardashians use? ›

The 'Keeping Up With the Kardashians' star is the new global spokesperson and partner of Dose & Co collagen.

Does Victoria Beckham take collagen? ›

Victoria Beckham has been known to take Skinade collagen drinks to compliment her skincare routine, whilst Kourtney Kardashian is a fan of Vital Proteins collagen powder. Now, the next generation of collagen beauty supplements has arrived…

Is buying collagen a waste of money? ›

The main reason people take collagen protein is to replenish their body's collagen stores and thereby improve their joint, skin, and hair health and improve muscle growth and recovery. Unfortunately, collagen protein is little more than a low-quality food that likely doesn't offer any special benefits.

Can collagen restore saggy skin? ›

Are collagen supplements a good option for tightening loose skin? A: Collagen supplements aren't the best option if you want to improve the appearance of your skin. That's mainly because there's no evidence-based science to prove they work ― or that they're safe.

Does collagen tighten jowls? ›

When you replenish your collagen supplies, your skin is given the structure it needs to remain firm and supple. A collagen supplement like ours can help you lift and tighten the skin around your jawline, plumping and boosting volume for a firmer, fuller complexion with fewer wrinkles and reduced jowls.

Which collagen is best for wrinkles? ›

Type 1 Collagen: Minimize fine lines and wrinkles and improves skin elasticity and hydration. Not only does it help rebuild your muscles, eyes, bones, and spine, it's also good for strengthening your nails and helping you grow stronger, thicker hair. Type 1 collagen is most abundant in Marine Collagen.

How much collagen Should a 50 year old woman take? ›

The recommended supplement intake of hydrolyzed collagen is 10g a day. The recommended intake of undenatured type II collagen is 40mg a day.

What is the healthiest source of collagen? ›

Bone Broth

This tops the list of food sources that contain high amounts of collagen. You can buy bone broth at the grocery store or make it yourself. To make bone broth at home, simply cook beef, pork, poultry, or fish bones in water.

What are the symptoms of lack of collagen? ›

Collagen as You Get Older

You can't measure exactly how much you have, but when it drops you may have symptoms such as joint pain or stiff tendons or ligaments. Your muscles may weaken. You could also have papery skin. Taking collagen supplements may help ease these symptoms.

Does collagen reduce wrinkles? ›

The evidence from the reviewed studies suggested that both collagen supplements improve skin moisture, elasticity, and hydration when orally administered. Additionally, collagen reduces the wrinkling and roughness of the skin, and existing studies have not found any side effects of its oral supplements.

Is it too late to start taking collagen? ›

Many people think taking care of their skin should start when they begin noticing the signs of ageing; however, research suggests that the best time to start is much earlier than we think. The good news is that it is never too late to revitalise damaged skin.

What age is too late to start taking collagen? ›

Is there a maximum age limit for taking collagen? Watch out kids, Grandma is taking collagen and she's ready! Once seniors reach the age of 65-70, collagen production starts to decline at about 30% per year. But, it's never too late for collagen!

Is 50 too old to start taking collagen? ›

As we age, we begin to notice many changes to our bodies. Collagen is one of the best supplements for women over 50, and as well as targeting wrinkles, you'll find there are so many great benefits of adding this to your daily routine.

How can I increase my collagen naturally? ›

Natural Ways to Increase Collagen Production
  1. Good Sleep = Good Skin. The formula is exactly correct because good sleep is said to promote good skin. ...
  2. Lifting Weights. ...
  3. Fasting but Only for Water. ...
  4. Steam Bath Therapy. ...
  5. Collagen Supplements. ...
  6. Bone Broth. ...
  7. Cryotherapy. ...
  8. Healthy Vegetables.
29 May 2019

Which fruit has most collagen? ›

Which Fruits Have The Most Collagen? Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit are known for being foods high in collagen-producing properties. Although they don't contain collagen itself, their antioxidants and nutrients such as vitamin C and zinc help your body produce more of this wonderful protein.

Is it safe to take collagen supplement long term? ›

Oral collagen supplements also increase skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density. Collagen supplementation is generally safe with no reported adverse events. Further studies are needed to elucidate medical use in skin barrier diseases such as atopic dermatitis and to determine optimal dosing regimens.

Should collagen be taken long term? ›

Collagen peptides have been safely used in doses up to 10 grams daily for up to 5 months. Side effects are rare.

Is there a difference between collagen and collagen peptides? ›

One key difference between collagen and collagen peptides is that one is a broken-down form of the other. Collagen peptides are made by breaking animal collagen down through hydrolysis. So, while collagen is a complete protein, collagen peptides are fragments of that protein.

Can you be too old to take collagen? ›

Studies have shown that supplementing with collagen peptides — broken down collagen that's easier for your body to absorb — may be beneficial for older people and promote skin and bone health during aging.

Can collagen cause high blood pressure? ›

It balances blood pressure

Some research suggests that glycine, one of the primary amino acids in collagen can promote heart health by reducing blood pressure and protect against arterial damage. Collagen may also boost levels of nitric oxide, a compound that enhances blood flow and lowers blood pressure.

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