Collagen pills and powders are all the rage at the moment – it’s estimated that in the US last year, consumers spent $122 million on collagen supplements. But do they actually work? Let’s take a look at the science behind collagen supplements. But first, what is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and an important part of our skin. It’s responsible for giving skin its structure and elasticity.
Humans create collagen naturally, but with time collagen production slows down. This can result in dry skin and the appearance of lines and wrinkles.
In recent years, collagen supplements in the form of capsules and powders have become increasingly popular. Most have been through a process called hydrolyzation, whereby the collagen is broken down into peptides for better absorption by the body.
What the science says about collagen supplements
There is some scientific support to suggest that taking collagen supplements may help combat wrinkles and dryness.
A 2013 study found the oral intake of bioactive collagen peptides (specifically Verisol) reduced wrinkles over the course of 8 weeks. Participants experienced a pronounced reduction in eye wrinkle volume.
In 2014, the Department of Dermatology, University of Kiel, Germany published a paper looking at the effectiveness of collagen hydrolysate as a supplement. Over 8 weeks, 69 women aged 35-55 years received 2.5g or 5g of collagen hydrolysate or a placebo once daily. At the end of the study, there was a statistically significant improvement in the skin elasticity of those who received the supplement compared to those who didn’t.
Likewise, a 2014 study investigated the effectiveness of the Pure Gold Collagen supplement (containing hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid, vitamins, and minerals). After 60 days of taking 50 mL of Pure Gold Collagen, participants experienced a ‘noticeable reduction in skin dryness, wrinkles, and nasolabial fold depth’. After 12 weeks, they saw a significant increase in collagen density and skin firmness.
Another 2015 study looked at the effects of an oral supplement consisting of hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid, essential vitamins and minerals on the skin of post-menopausal women. Researchers found improvements in wrinkle depth, elasticity and hydration.
But before you get excited about collagen supplements
While these studies appear promising, more evidence is needed. Experts have questioned the credibility of some of the studies, saying they are too small to be meaningful or may have been partially funded by the industry.
Then there’s the argument about how collagen supplements are processed by the body. The body breaks proteins down into individual amino acids (not as a whole), which it then uses where necessary. As such, it’s been argued that collagen supplements can’t actually target specific areas of the body like the skin.
Concerns have also been raised about the potential ingredients found in these supplements. Collagen supplements are derived from animal bones and skin, plus fish scales, which may be high in heavy metals.
Bottom line: more rigorous scientific studies would be useful.
Other ways to boost your collagen
If you’re not sold on the idea of oral collagen supplements, there are other ways to boost your collagen.
Skin care products with certain active ingredients can promote collagen growth. Retinol and Niacinamide, otherwise known as vitamin B3, are examples.
Collagen is found in the connective tissues of animals, so foods like chicken, bone broth, beef and fish are excellent sources. Berries, garlic and leafy greens are also collagen wonder foods. You can find more ideas here.
If you do decide to try collagen supplements, be sure to do your research. We’d recommend sticking to what’s tried and tested – medical-grade skincare in conjunction with science-backed cosmetic treatments.
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