As more collagen supplements enter the market every year with claims of wrinkle prevention and glowing skin, you may be wondering, “does collagen actually work?”
Since most people think of collagen and skin health, that’s what we are going to focus on answering. Before we answer that question, let’s do a quick review of what collagen is.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It’s responsible for providing strength and integrity to tissues like our skin, bones, muscles, heart, and even our brain.
In addition to being a naturally occurring protein, collagen is also part of any diet that includes animal proteins. Even though your body can make collagen from other amino acids, evidence suggests that consuming collagen itself can increase our body’s collagen production[*].
As we age, our natural collagen production starts to decrease. This decrease in collagen production can lead to skin damage and undesirable wrinkles[*].
Does Collagen Help Your Skin?
The cosmetic industry has been using collagen as an anti-aging ingredient for years. Advertisements for these miracle “anti-aging” collagen creams are often built on claims with no scientific backing. The problem isn’t the collagen itself but how it’s being used. It turns out that collagen peptides are too large to be absorbed through the skin[*].
However, unlike the topical application of collagen on the skin, consuming collagen protein does allow for absorption[*].
How is Collagen Digested?
When we consume protein, our bodies break down that protein into strings of amino acids called peptides and eventually into individual amino acids. The body uses these amino acids as building blocks for structures like muscle tissue, enzymes, hormones, and other connective tissues.
So, since collagen is just another type of protein, wouldn’t it just get broken down into individual amino acids like other types of protein?
If that was the case, we could be pretty confident that there isn’t anything special about collagen supplements and skin health. The body would just take those individual amino acids and allocate them to wherever it wanted, not the skin specifically. However, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
When it comes to hydrolyzed collagen, a portion of the collagen peptides has been shown to enter the bloodstream intact. The peptide, prolyl-hydroxyproline (Pro-Hyp), seems to be the specific peptide that researchers find can remain intact, helping skin repair and giving overall support.
Collagens Effect On Skin Health
In 2014, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at 69 women given 2.5 or 5g of collagen peptides or placebo once a day for eight weeks. At the end of the study, skin elasticity in both collagen groups significantly improved over the placebo group. Skin moisture also improved, but not to a significant level over the placebo group[*].
In another study, 72 women were given a blend of collagen peptides, vitamin C, and other vitamins and minerals or a placebo for 12 weeks. The group who received the collagen supplement mix showed improved skin hydration, elasticity, roughness, and density. The group that received the collagen supplement mix was followed up with four weeks after the trial ended. Even without the collagen supplement, results were maintained[*].
A 2019 research review helped to support these findings with daily doses of 2.5g - 10g of collagen supplementation[*].
This data and many other studies show promising results when it comes to collagen supplementation and overall skin health. Now, you might be wondering, “what kind of collagen supplement should I take”?
What Kind Of Collagen Should You Take For Skin Health?
Now that you’ve seen the potential benefits of collagen for your skin let’s talk about what kind of collagen you should take for skin health.
The thing to remember is that quality matters. You’ll often find collagen in the form of gelatin. An example would be a cup of Jell-O. This gelatin is just cooked down collagen and probably won’t give the same results seen in the studies above.
Instead, you want to look for “hydrolyzed collagen” or “collagen peptides”. According to the above research, getting at least 2.5 -10g of collagen per day seems to offer some results, but going higher than that shouldn’t cause any harm.
One convenient source of hydrolyzed collagen is the MCT Collagen Bar. It contains 7-8 grams of hydrolyzed collagen from grass-fed bovine in each bar. It also only has 3 g net carbs and NO added sugar!