Do Collagen Supplements Really Work? If So, Which Products Are The Best?

Whether you’re trying to reverse the signs of aging or just improve your skin, hair, and nails, you may have heard that taking collagen supplements can help. But is this just another beauty craze, or is there something to collagen supplements?

By Simone Sydel5 min read
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We all know that collagen is important for healthy skin, hair, and nails. But, unfortunately, our bodies produce less of it as we age. The result? Wrinkles, skin dryness, thinning hair, and brittle nails.

As much as we accept these facts of life, we can't help but wish for a magic pill that will help us reverse the clock and improve some of the consequences of unfortunate diet choices, hours spent worshipping the sun during peak heat, and, of course, all those nights spent out with friends instead of resting and recharging.

It's simply human to be curious about the newest purported miracle that claims it can help improve the effects of aging by supplementing you with the very thing your body is lacking as you age: collagen.

And while some dismiss collagen supplements as nothing but the latest hype, others swear by their skin-improving benefits. So, what's the scoop? Do collagen supplements really work? Or are they just another beauty craze that's going to die out soon?

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What Is Collagen?

Collagen is a protein molecule made up of amino acids and found throughout our bodies. This essential protein provides structural support to the extracellular space of connective tissues, and due to its rigidity and resistance to stretching, collagen is the perfect matrix for the skin, tendons, bones, and ligaments.

However, not all collagen is the same, and this structural protein comes in many different forms. In fact, there are 28 identified types of collagen, but by far, the most common types are I through VI, with type I comprising over 90% of the collagen in the human body and found in all connective tissues. Types II, III, and IV are generally found in some joints and intervertebral discs (the cushions that serve as shock absorbers for the spine), skin and blood vessels, kidneys, inner ear, and eye lens.

There are 28 identified types of collagen in our bodies.

By this, we can tell that collagen is extremely important to the body, but what happens when we don't have enough of it? As we age and become "victims" of the aging process, environmental damage, and poor diet and lifestyle choices, our collagen production starts to decline, and this can lead to a host of problems like joint pain, loss of mobility, aching muscles, eye dryness, and dental issues. We also start seeing noticeable changes in our appearance, including thinner, saggy skin with more wrinkles and dryness, and thinning hair that often results in hair loss.

While aging and its effects are inevitable, there are things we can do to help slow down this process by improving our collagen levels.

Natural Collagen Sources

One of the best ways to improve collagen levels is by consuming foods that are rich in collagen. Some of the best natural sources of collagen include gelatin, a protein substance derived from collagen found in bone broth, as well as other animal parts like skin, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons. Additionally, since vitamin C is a crucial antioxidant for collagen synthesis, it also helps to eat foods that are high in this vitamin, such as citrus fruits, kiwi, strawberries, bell peppers, kale, and broccoli. Other good collagen-boosting foods include bone marrow, oysters, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, clams, eggs, and mushrooms.

However, while these foods are excellent for increasing collagen levels, they may not be enough, especially as we age. This is when we turn to modern science and technology for help.

How Do Collagen Supplements Work?

Collagen supplements are designed to help improve our body's collagen levels by providing it with the necessary building blocks it needs to produce more collagen. These supplements usually come in powder or pill form and are made from components like fish scales, egg shells, or bovine sources, particularly the skin, connective tissues, and bones of cattle and pigs. They often contain other nutrients like vitamin C, copper, and proline, which are amino acids that constitute about 10% of total amino acids in collagen and play an important role in its production.

One of the main reasons why collagen supplements are effective is that the form of amino acid chains in these supplements is hydrolyzed, or broken down into much smaller units, which makes it easier for the body to absorb and use. This is in contrast to eating whole foods that are rich in collagen, where our bodies have to do the work of breaking down the collagen into a usable form. Hydrolysis also allows the powder to dissolve in both hot and cold liquids, making collagen supplements incredibly popular due to the fact that they can be added to everything from hot coffee and soups to cold brews and smoothies.

The Benefits of Taking Collagen Supplements

While collagen supplements might sound like a modern scam to many, there's actually an increasing amount of scientific evidence that supports the claim they can be beneficial for our health, particularly as we age. In fact, collagen supplements have been shown to help improve skin health, reduce wrinkles, improve hydration, reduce hair thinning and promote hair growth, strengthen nails, improve joint health, and boost muscle mass. They can also help improve gut health by repairing the lining of the digestive tract and restoring gut flora, as well as improving metabolism and lowering blood sugar levels.

Collagen supplements can improve skin and joint health, reduce wrinkles, and promote hair growth.

How To Incorporate Collagen Supplements into Your Diet

If you're curious about trying collagen supplements, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it's important to choose a quality product sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised animals and is free from hormones, antibiotics, and other potentially inflammatory components. Second, you don't want to go overboard with collagen supplements right off the bat. Instead, it's best to start with a lower dose and increase it gradually as your body adjusts. While collagen supplements are generally considered safe, taking too much, especially if you're just starting out, can potentially lead to some side effects like bloating, diarrhea, and nausea.

And finally, while collagen supplements can be helpful, they shouldn't be the only tool in your anti-aging arsenal. It's still important to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep to give your body the best chance of producing collagen naturally.

With all that said, you can incorporate collagen supplements into your diet in several different ways, including:

  • Taking collagen supplements as a capsule as per the recommended dosage.

  • Adding collagen powder to hot or cold drinks like coffee, tea, smoothies, or juices.

  • Cooking with collagen powder by adding it to soups, sauces, or stews.

  • Adding collagen powder to baked goods like muffins, pancakes, or waffles.

Collagen is also recommended to be taken alongside protein, as it has been shown to help improve protein absorption and utilization.

The 5 Best Collagen Supplements To Try

If you're ready to give collagen supplements a try, here are a few of the best products on the market:

Vital Proteins – Collagen Peptides, $47

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides is hands down one of the most popular collagen supplements on the market. This doesn't come as a surprise as it's Jennifer Aniston's go-to supplement for maintaining her youthful appearance.

Sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows and hydrolyzed for easy absorption, the collagen peptides in this supplement have been shown to improve skin health, reduce wrinkles, and promote hair growth. Collagen Peptides is also an affordable, flavorless, and odorless powder that contains 20 grams of collagen per serving, so we can totally see why it's loved by many!

Thorne – Collagen Fit, $50

Famous for their Omega-3 and zinc supplements, Thorne also offers a high-quality collagen powder perfect for those looking to improve their skin and joint health. Each scoop of Collagen Fit contains 15 grams of hydrolyzed collagen peptides, as well as nicotinamide riboside, an easy-to-digest precursor to nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which is a coenzyme that plays an important role in cell metabolism. The Collagen Fit is also unflavored, making it an excellent fit for smoothies, soups, and other recipes.

Solgar – Collagen & Hyaluronic Acid Complex, $17

Particularly targeting skin dryness and fine lines that occur as a consequence, the Collagen & Hyaluronic Acid Complex from Solgar is a hydrolyzed type I and type III collagen supplement boosted with hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a substance that naturally occurs in our bodies and is known for its ability to hold 1,000 times its weight in water, making it an excellent ingredient for helping the skin retain water and slow down transepidermal moisture loss.

Dose & Co – Marine Collagen, $33

Sugar-free, unflavored, and packed with 12g of marine collagen peptides per serving, the Dose & Co Marine Collagen powder is an excellent addition to smoothies, coffee, or any other beverage of your choice. It's also fortified with vitamin C, which is essential for collagen production, making it a great option for those looking to improve their collagen intake.

Jane Iredale – Skin Collagen Support, $75

Packed with a cocktail of vitamin C, zinc, MSM, and grapeseed extract (not to be confused with pro-inflammatory grapeseed oil), Jane Iredale's Skin Collagen Support capsules are designed to help improve skin and hair health from the inside out.

Closing Thoughts

Whether you're trying to improve your skin health, reduce wrinkles, promote hair growth, or simply want to make sure you're getting enough collagen in your diet, incorporating collagen supplements into your routine is a great way to do so. Not only have collagen supplements been shown to be effective, but they're also easy to use, affordable, and readily available. And with virtually zero side effects, there's really no downside to giving them a try!

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