Have you heard about or seen an advertisement for a collagen supplement for healthier, firmer and well hydrated skin? From people stirring collagen powder in their morning smoothies to taking collagen capsules along with their meals, it comes as no surprise that collagen has become a sought-after ingredient for both skincare enthusiasts, wellness experts and even dermatologists.
However, not all collagen supplements are created equal—different forms and sources of collagen have their own pros and cons. With a plethora of options available in the market, we have compiled a quick guide to help you choose the best collagen supplement for healthier skin. So, let us dive in!
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, accounting for almost 30% of the total amount1. In fact, it contributes to almost 75% of your dry skin weight2. You can consider it as a building block of your skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bones, and other types of connective tissues. Since it has a fibre-like structure, collagen makes tissues resilient and strong enough to withstand stretching.
Until now, 28 types have been identified but type I makes up the majority of your body’s total collagen and provides a structure to your skin, bones, etc1. Healthy collagen levels are associated with joint health, kidneys, and heart health, but we will focus on its role in skin elasticity and ageing.
What Happens to Collagen As You Age?
You guessed it right—collagen production decreases with age and it happens with everyone. In young skin, type I collagen is predominant (almost 80%)3. With age, the body’s ability to replenish collagen decreases by 1—1.5% every year and collagen fibres get weaker and thinner, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles3.
Moreover, environmental exposures and lifestyle factors such as sun damage (UV radiation), pollution, oxidative damage (free radicals), smoking, lack of exercise and sleep, excessive intake of refined sugars and carbs, and even menopause can further reduce collagen production3,4.
Can You Do Something About Collagen Loss to Slow the Signs of Aging?
Ageing is inevitable. However, experts do recommend wearing sunscreen every day and eating a nutrient-dense, balanced diet loaded with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, etc. to support healthy skin.
Also, collagen is naturally found in some foods and some nutrients present in our food such as vitamin C and zinc, and certain amino acids hydroxyproline and glycine promote collagen production. The main sources of collagen include animal meat (especially tough cuts) and marine and freshwater fish (bones and skin) which contain connective tissue. Consuming enough of these sources of collagen may be inconvenient or inaccessible.
With that being said, when you add safe, effective collagen supplements to a well-balanced diet, the benefits can be far-reaching.
Is It Worth Taking Collagen Supplements?
Collagen cannot be absorbed by your body in its whole form and the body breaks down the protein into amino acids. So, eating collagen-rich food may not result in higher levels of collagen in the body4.
Additionally, molecules are so large that it’s difficult to cross the skin layer, making topical application of collagen of little use.
On the other hand, oral collagen supplements provide building blocks for collagen production in the dermis layer of the skin and have been shown to be effectively absorbed by the body with noticeable benefits.
Here, we would bring your focus to collagen peptides.
What Are Collagen Peptides?
Collagen peptides are small pieces of collagen protein derived from an animal source. Since collagen cannot be absorbed in its whole form, it has to be broken down into peptides or a chain of amino acids. Oral collagen supplements actually contain collagen peptides or hydrolysed collagen which are easily absorbed your GI tract or more precisely, small intestine.
A common question is on whether protein supplements offer the same benefits as collagen peptide supplements. Protein supplements such as whey that are derived from milk are considered complete proteins. They provide all nine essential amino acids required for different body functions including muscle recovery.
Collagen supplements, on the other hand, provide a large amount of specific amino acids that are involved in the production of collagen. Also, collagen peptides promote the production of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid which play a key role in skin structure and elasticity.
It won’t be wrong to say that both collagen peptide supplements and protein supplements offer health benefits but in different ways.
Science-Backed Benefits of Collagen Peptide Supplements
Primarily, the research on the effectiveness of collagen supplements has been on the skin and joint health.
Various clinical studies reported that collagen peptides have a positive effect on3,5,6,7,8
- Skin elasticity
- Signs of skin ageing including fine lines and wrinkles
- Production of collagen (increase in density) and hyaluronic acid
Some studies have also reported that oral collagen peptides improved nail growth and were also effective in reducing symptoms of brittle, split, or broken nails9.
Need more evidence? Imaging studies using collagen peptides have shown that the absorbed peptides were able to reach the skin and were retained for around two weeks10.
Additionally, another study showed that when collagen peptide supplements were taken for three months, there were visible improvements in skin appearance and fine lines.
How to Choose the Best Collagen Supplement for Skin
If you are planning to buy the best collagen supplement, then you may need to consider the following factors:
Collagen supplements can be in the form of powder, capsules, tablets, liquids, etc. Usually, a single collagen capsule does not provide enough amount of collagen and people may be required to take multiple capsules to reach the recommended dosage.
Various studies have used collagen supplement doses ranging from 5 to 10 grams per day. However, dosage instructions may vary depending on the product you choose.
- Bovine: The majority of the collagen-based products available in the market are derived from a bovine (cattle) source. Although they are relatively less expensive, there is a risk of contamination. Moreover, this may not be an appropriate option for vegans or vegetarians or people who are sensitive or allergic to beef.
- Porcine: Collagen derived from pig skin may not be suitable for those who are vegans, or vegetarians. Additionally, it may also be inappropriate for those who follow Kosher or Halal diets.
- Poultry: Some products use collagen derived from chicken cartilage or eggshell membranes.
- Marine: Marine collagen-based products use collagen sourced from fish and this can be a good alternative for pescatarians as well as people who have cultural/religious concerns about bovine or porcine collagen
Food safety or sourcing certifications
In India, regulatory approval from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is a good starting point. Since these products fall in the nutraceuticals category, manufacturers do not always need supporting data to make claims. However, clinical studies showcasing the efficacy and safety of the product can be helpful.
Low-grade collagen peptides can have a nasty odour or taste but this may also depend on the collagen source. For instance, even high-grade marine collagen may have a strong odour which is usually masked with an artificial flavouring agent. Thus, depending on the excipients or additional flavours used as well as the source and quality, the product taste may vary.
Are There Any Vegetarian or Vegan Collagen Supplements?
Collagen is only derived from animal sources and collagen peptide supplements are therefore not vegan or vegetarian. Researchers are trying to make collagen from genetically modified yeast and bacteria but currently, it is still not commercially available.
Some manufacturers do sell vegan "collagen boosters" which contain nutrients and plant herbs or extracts that are supposed to help your body produce collagen. However, their efficacy is not well studied and will not offer the same benefits as collagen peptide supplements.
You are now all set to make the right choice!
What Nutrova Is Doing Differently: Clinical Evidence for Indian Skin
Nutrova’s Collagen+Antioxidant (NCA) is in powdered form that is easy to consue. It contains marine collagen peptides, which is the most effective and researched collagen peptide source, vitamins C and E as well as antioxidants from tomatoes, green tea and grapes that improve skin health. Additionally, the efficacy and safety of our product are well supported by a thorough clinical study, the first of its kind on Indian skin!
The study involved 34 Indian women aged 35 to 45 years who were given Nutrova Collagen+Antioxidants for 60 days and the effects on their skin were measured using #D imaging, specialized instrumentation to measure skin elasticity and moisture as well as by a dermatologist, all of which showed incredibly postive results. The study was even published in the international Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.
Nutrova Collagen+Antioxidants showed an improvement in skin hydration, elasticity and firmness in 30 days, with improvements in a reduction in wrinkle width, pore volume, dark circles and pigmentation in 60 days.
Collagen supplements can help replenish the declining levels of collagen, supporting healthier and supple skin. Research has also demonstrated the various benefits of collagen including skin hydration, elasticity, and firmness. When choosing the best collagen supplement for your skin, consider the type, collagen source, dosage, and necessary certifications and evidence.
Take a step towards healthier skin and know more about Nutrova’s collagen-based products!
- Ricard-Blum S. The collagen family. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology. 2011 Jan 1;3(1):a004978.
- Shoulders MD, Raines RT. Collagen structure and stability. Annual review of biochemistry. 2009;78:929.
- Reilly DM, Lozano J. Skin collagen through the lifestages: Importance for skin health and beauty. Plastic and Aesthetic Research. 2021 Jan 8;8:2.
- Collagen [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; 2022 [cited 2022Dec20]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/collagen/
- Béguin A. A novel micronutrient supplement in skin aging: a randomized placebo‐controlled double‐blind study. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2005 Dec;4(4):277-84.
- Asserin J, Lati E, Shioya T, Prawitt J. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo‐controlled clinical trials. Journal of cosmetic dermatology. 2015 Dec;14(4):291-301.
- Borumand M, Sibilla S. A study to assess the effect on wrinkles of a nutritional supplement containing high dosage of hydrolysed collagen. Cosmeceuticals. 2014;2014:93-6.
- Borumand M, Sibilla S. Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration and wrinkles. Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals. 2015 Jan 1;4(1):47.
- Hexsel D, Zague V, Schunck M, Siega C, Camozzato FO, Oesser S. Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails. Journal of cosmetic dermatology. 2017 Dec;16(4):520-6.
- Watanabe-Kamiyama M, Shimizu M, Kamiyama S, Taguchi Y, Sone H, Morimatsu F, Shirakawa H, Furukawa Y, Komai M. Absorption and effectiveness of orally administered low molecular weight collagen hydrolysate in rats. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry. 2010 Jan 27;58(2):835-41.
- Vollmer DL, West VA, Lephart ED. Enhancing skin health: By oral administration of natural compounds and minerals with implications to the dermal microbiome. International journal of molecular sciences. 2018 Oct 7;19(10):3059.
- Motwani MS, Khan K, Pai A, Joshi R. Efficacy of a collagen hydrolysate and antioxidants‐containing nutraceutical on metrics of skin health in Indian women. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2020 Dec;19(12):3371-82.