In this article I’m gonna answer the question for you: do collagen supplements really work, do they help skin and make you look younger?
Collagen supplements are not inexpensive, they can be quite costly and how do you know that it’s worth your money.
I’m sure you have seen claims how taking collagen will smooth wrinkles, boost firmness and make your skin more elastic.
But do these supplements really work?
So we’re gonna talk all about it here and I’m gonna answer that question for you using real science.
Table of Contents
Do Collagen Supplements Really Work?
Collagen makes up about 75 to 80 percent of your skin. The skin is composed mainly of collagen. There’s other things like elastin and hyaluronic acid but collagen is really the big thing – the building blocks of our skin.
Collagen is found in the lower layer of the skin called the dermis. Collagen gives your skin structure and elasticity, which translates to bouncy skin.
The collagen in our skin thins as we get older and this is one reason why when you are younger you’ve got smoother, thicker skin. It’s elastic it doesn’t stretch a lot. It’s estimated that skin collagen drops by 1% per year.
But when you get older or you may have relatives of yours who are much older, their skin is so thin that it’s literally tissue paper thin and they get tears of their skin really easily.
One big reason why is because the collagen that makes up the thickness of that skin gets thinner and thinner.
Damage from the environment, sun exposure and smoking can also destroy collagen.
What about collagen creams? Doesn’t make sense that if you have lost collagen in your skin, that you can apply a collagen cream to your skin and that will cause the skin to look better and to look thicker’
The problem with collagen is that the molecules are quite large and collagen creams because of the size of those collagen molecules, they don’t actually penetrate the outer surface of your skin. They basically just sit on the surface of your skin and really the best a collagen cream can do is be a fancy moisturizer.
So I don’t recommend that you spend extra money on a collagen cream.
But what do the studies then say about collagen supplements, about actually eating collagen? If you eat collagen will that result in better skin?
Because collagen is a protein, it is made up of lots of amino acids that are joined together. Stomach enzymes break up collagen into smaller fragments. This means that your body cannot tell which protein you’ve eaten.
But collagen contains a special amino acid called : hydroxyproline. In humans this amino acid is only found in collagen. So when you eat or drink collagen, hydroxyproline will be present in your blood, meaning that your body can tell you’ve consumed collagen.
What Studies Have Found?
In a study conducted by a supplement company, people took 5 grams of hydrolyzed collagen every day along with other vitamins and minerals.
After two months, dryness, wrinkles and the depth of the nasolabial fold improved. After 3 months, collagen density and skin firmness improved.
The problem with this study is that it didn’t use a placebo control so it isn’t as reliable. And there’s the bias issue.
In another study run independently by a university, people took either a daily supplement of 2.5 grams of collagen peptide or a placebo for two months.
There were improvements in eye wrinkles as well as procollagen and elastin content of the dermis. The same supplement improved skin elasticity 30 days after the subjects stopped taking the supplement.
Another study looked at Japanese women and Caucasian women. The Japanese women were given either a placebo or a drink infused with a collagen peptide from fish or collagen peptide from pigs. The Caucasian women were given either placebo or drink infused with collagen peptides from fish.
They found that the group that had the peptides from the fish and the pig have increased moisture up to 28% in their skin. They also had increased collagen density and showed less fragmented collagen which is a marker of aging. When you age, not only do you have less collagen production, but the collagen you have is more fragmented and not of great quality.
One more study looked at 114 women who were given either an oral placebo or an oral collagen peptide supplementation. They measured the volume of the wrinkles around the eye and this was significantly decreased in the women that had the collagen peptide supplementation. A subgroup that was biopsied showed an increase in collagen precursors as well.
There was a study from the University of Kiel in Germany and this is a good study, a prospective randomized trial that found a statistically significant improvement in the skin elasticity after four and eight weeks of taking a collagen supplement.
What they did is they took people who were taking a collagen supplement and others who are taking a placebo and they found that the skin elasticity on those people taking a supplement was significantly better after both four and eight weeks.
There was another study by the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology and this study found that taking collagen supplements increase the hydration and the thickness of the collagen.
The big question is if you ingest collagen does it cause a collagen of your skin to get thicker and the answer from this study is yes.
However, one of the big problems with supplement studies is that they often use other ingredients, not just collagen, so you can’t say for sure that it’s collagen having the effect and not the other ingredients.
Another problem is that there are at least 28 types of collagen. Most studies use collagen that’s been hydrolyzed or broken up.
So, Do Collagen Supplements Help Skin?
So what do I think about the evidence for oral collagen supplementation?
The pros are it’s easy to try and it does seem very well tolerated.
The cons are that the research is limited, certainly with regards to human studies. The study designs are small and the designs themselves aren’t great, especially the ones that don’t have a placebo.
I feel if there is a really blockbuster supplement, we would be seeing a lot more studies in a lot of the bigger journals.
There’s really none that we’re seeing.
This is not evidence from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Here’s the verdict: collagen supplements are very promising and could potentially work, but the evidence is not solid. Only a few collagen supplements have produced good results in studies.
And most of these studies were run by the companies that sell the collagen supplements, so they’re likely to be biased.
If you have the budget there isn’t much harm in trying collagen supplements as long as you are not allergic.
But if you want the best bang for your buck, I’d recommend trying more proven methods of protecting and increasing your collagen first.
Preventing collagen from being destroyed is more effective than trying to repair your skin later.
Wearing a high UVA protection sunscreen daily is very important. A study found that collagen gets damaged with about one-tenth of the UV that causes a sunburn. So not burning doesn’t mean your skin isn’t being damaged.
Vitamin C soaks up free radicals that cause sun damage and it can also increase collagen as well.
Vitamin A derivatives called retinoids are the gold standard for increasing collagen in your skin.
Glycolic acid has been found to increase collagen in some studies as well.
Chemical peels can also increase collagen. So can laser and IPL light treatments.
One way that we get collagen in addition to supplements is through bone broth. You may have heard a lot of people talk about taking bone broth and people saying “wow my skin looks so much better after I have been drinking bone broth.” It contains gelatin that contains collagen.
Rebecca is a licensed aesthetician and certified laser technician with almost 15 years experience in the dermatology. Her life-long passion is making people look good and happy.