All About Collagen Supplements - The Dermatology Review

All About Collagen Supplements



Is it possible to eat (or drink) your way to better skin? Perhaps. What we put into our bodies has an impact on our skin and of course our health, and some people are turning to collagen supplements to improve their complexion. Collagen is one of the most buzzed about beauty ingredients since bee venom. It’s showing up in gummy bears, powders and as a shot in smoothie bars. It’s a darling of the wellness set. But what exactly is collagen, and how does it work?

Related: Best Collagen Creams

What is Collagen?

Collagen is the main structural protein in our skin. It is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein, and are needed to repair bones, joints and muscles. It also supports healthy skin and nails. Think of collagen as the scaffolding that holds up skin and bones.

Collagen makes up about 70-80% of the dermis and is what gives skin a plump, supple look. It also helps skin retain moisture. But as we age, collagen production naturally slow down. By some estimates, the skin loses 1 percent of its collagen every year starting in the mid-thirties, which leads to the formation of wrinkles and flatter looking skin. As collagen production dips dramatically nearer menopause, sun spots, brittle nails and dry hair make an appearance. Joints become less limber. The connective tissue between skin becomes thinner and the layer of fat underneath it becomes more visible, leading to cellulite.

All About Collagen Supplements

What are Collagen Supplements?

Since collagen plays such an important role in keeping skin looking firm and youthful, boosting its levels seems like a no brainer for anyone wanting to hold on to plump, supple looking skin. This is the driving idea behind ingesting a collagen supplement. But it’s not just about better looking skin. Collagen supplements are also marketed to athletes and those seeking relief from joint pain or suffering from arthritis, as well as anyone looking to improve their gut bacteria.

The supplements come in multiple forms, such as powders, pills and collagen peptide drinks that are sometimes called “elixirs” as they are also packed with vitamins. The supplements come from two main sources- either marine, which is derived from fish, or an animal based that comes from pigs and cows. Animal by-products such as skin, bones or fish scales are often used in ingestible collagen. These powders also pack a protein punch – two scoops of collagen powder typically contain around 18 grams of protein.

All About Collagen Supplements

Do Collagen Supplements Work?

So let’s say you start your day by scooping collagen powder in your coffee or your green smoothie. Or maybe you pop a collagen gummy after lunch. The million dollar question though, is how much of the collagen is getting absorbed and is it having any benefit on the skin? What is the primary benefit? How long does it take to work? And is it safe?

Collagen supplement companies (and devotees) believe that ingesting collagen peptides may trigger to the body to produce more collagen, and also stimulate the production of elastin and hyaluronic acid, leading to hydrated and smoother looking skin. The concept is that taking collagen orally, whether through a drink or a powder, impacts the deep layers of the skin. It targets the dermal layer, where most collagen loss occurs, while creams and serums only target the top layer of the skin.

Some people swear that adding a scoop of collagen powder to their oatmeal or acai bowls leaves their skin extra hydrated, and they see the results in months. Fans claim it helps banish brittle nails and leads to shiny, healthy looking hair. Collagen supplements have also found devotees among those suffering from arthritis or joint pain. It may also help with improving gut bacteria.

In an ideal world, the collagen we eat would end up in our skin. One issue is that collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed into the bloodstream. To get around this, the collagen in many drinks and supplements is hydrolyzed. This mean it has been broken down or essentially shrunk. Hydrolyzed peptides are tiny, and the concept is that they are easily absorbed by the body.

But consuming collagen doesn’t mean it gets automatically turned into more collagen in our skin. When collagen is consumed, the gut breaks it down into amino acids which are then absorbed by the body. Although they may make it into the bloodstream, you can’t direct the collagen where you want it- say, your forehead wrinkles rather than your joints. One way to think of it as that the collagen supplements may be helping with a little bit of everything at once.

Keep in mind that collagen supplements can be pricey. They are meant to be taken daily so the costs can quickly add up. There is always the chance of an adverse reaction as well. If you typically eat meat, the chance of having an allergic reaction to a collagen supplement is low – but anything you consume could trigger an allergy or an upset stomach. Some supplements, especially the collagen drinks, contain sweeteners so all those sugar calories can add up as well.

What To Look for in a Collagen Supplement

When choosing a collagen supplement, it’s important to read the label carefully to see what ingredients were used, and how they were sourced. Many collagen supplements are made from ground up animal parts, ranging from skin to hooves, and these parts could contain heavy metals and contaminants. Another issue of concern is that some of the products could be derived from cows carrying diseases such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease. Consumers should keep in mind that supplements are not regulated as closely as prescription drugs. Read the label and try to choose supplements derived from grass-fed cows or chickens that have not been raised with antibiotics.

The bottom line is that the effectiveness of a collagen supplement, whether on the skin or joints, is still up in the air but many people feel it is worth a try to get better skin and ease joint pain. Whether or not you choose to take a supplement, there are other things you can do to improve your skin’s collagen production and safe guard the collagen you do have.

How to Protect Your Collagen

First, try to get your protein, vitamins and minerals from real food. There’s a reason why bone broth is all the rage right now. Boiling bones helps extract collagen from the bone marrow. This is why broth forms a gelatin like layer when refrigerated- this jelly like layer is rich with collagen. Eating high protein foods, such as egg, fish and beans, is thought to help give the body a boost in collagen production and some studies suggest that upping vitamin C intake also helps collagen production.

Protecting your skin should be a priority to prevent collagen loss. Smoking and damaging UV rays can deteriorate collagen levels, so don’t smoke (or quit now) and always use a sunblock with a high SPF.

Instead of a Supplement, Choose the Right Beauty Product OR Alternatives to Collagen Supplements

The right beauty product can also make a big difference when it comes to collagen. There are two types of collagen creams – those that contain collagen, and those which help boost collagen production.

One of the best collagen boosting ingredients is the vitamin A derivative retinol, which works in two ways. It prevents the breakdown of collagen after UV exposure (known as collagenase) but also increases the amount of collagen produced by “turning on” genes and cells involved in collagen production.

But vitamin A isn’t the only collagen friendly ingredient. Antioxidants in serums and creams can also help. Powerhouse ingredients such as vitamins C, E, as well as green tea and pomegranate work by blocking the damage caused by free radicals, which attack collagen and elastin. They protect existing collagen while also protecting it. Ingredients such as peptides and growth factors also help stimulate collagen production- they basically act as “messengers” to signal cells to start creating collagen.

Here’s a look at some of the most popular collagen supplements, as well as a topical alternative.

Natural Factors BioSil Hair Skin Nails Vegetarian Capsules
These collagen boosting pills are ideal for vegetarians. The supplement is powered by ch-OSA- or choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid, a type of silcon. It is meant to turn on the fibroblasts in skin and osteoblasts in bone that generate collagen. Take two capsules a day to improve skin elasticity, strengthen hair and reduce wrinkles.

Verisol Collagen by Gelita
Gelita offers a wide range of collagen supplements, and one of its key ingredients is Verisol. It helps to increase skin moisture and prevent the formation of wrinkles. Verisol is a collagen peptide that helps stimulate skin metabolism and improve skin structure.

Youtheory Collagen
These supplements are loaded with good-for-you skin ingredients including six grams of collagen Type 1, 2 & 3 along with 18 Amino Acids. The addition of vitamin C helps to support collagen production, while leaving skin, hair and nails looking healthy and strong. The product is dairy and soy free.

Meiji Amino Collagen
Meiji’s Amino Collagen is made by extracting calcium from fish scales and skin, and then converting it into a while collagen peptide power. The thought process is that collagen derived from fish is more readily absorbed into the body than other types of animal-derived collagen. The powder also contains vitamin C to boost collagen production, and the powder can be mixed in with drinks, soup or yogurt.

Vital Proteins Matcha Collagen
Available in original and peach flavor, Vital Proteins Matcha Collagen is packed with goodness. Key ingredients include skin from grass-fed, pasture raised cows, along with Japanese matcha green tea which has more than 137 times the amount of antioxidants as other green teas. Just dissolve one scoop of the powder into a glass of water for healthier and stronger skin, hair and nails.

Here’s an alternative

Formulyst Pro-Collagen Serum
If supplements don’t do it for you, consider a topical solution instead. Formulyst’s Pro-Collagen Serum contains a highly concentrated mix of peptides and proteins, derived from seaweed, wheat and soy, to help tackle these signs of aging. Peptides are anti-inflammatory, and are the building blocks of skin which keep it looking firm and supple. Apply a few drops of this hydrating serum to help skin look smoother, more refined and youthful.

  • Marle Original review: Aug 18, 2019.

    I hve taken two different collagen supplements (bovine) and one from live well iceland marine collagen, the bovine after i take it my skin becomes inflamed with thiusand of tiny red bumps that look like chicken pox and down my neck and chest! Awful! The marine collagen does not do this to me and actually makes my bad back feel better!

  • Morgan Original review: Sep 05, 2018. Reply

    Thought I was doing a good thing for my hair, skin, and nails by increasing collagen intake…it did that, but it also increased my face and neck acne tenfold. I’ve always been prone to mild breakouts, but it’s been significant for the last several months…almost as soon as I started the collagen powder. Never thought to make the connection until now (I’m 43 so I thought it was hormones). I’m quitting the collagen asap to give my poor face a chance to heal! 🙁

  • Philip Newlin Original review: Aug 30, 2018. Reply

    I switched to Marine collagen from bone broth and grass fed beef collagen and I started to get heart arythmia as well as very itchy skin all over my body. My skin actually looked a bit worse after 1 month of use. I never had this issue with land animal collagen, so I am switching back. There must be something in marine collagen that causes the allergic reaction.

  • Francesca Ashcroft Original review: Aug 30, 2018. Reply

    Hi Shannon,
    Can you tell me more about your itching? Is it all over your body or in a few areas? Is it tingling/burning or just regular itching? I’ve been drinking collagen peptides for 8 months and I’m having itching, tingling as well as pruney fingers. Come to think of it I’ve had itching this whole time.
    Thanks. Francesca

  • Angel from Seattle WA Original review: Jul 18, 2018. Reply

    Yesterday I received Sports Research Collagen Peptides and I threw away all my pillows and spent $150 dollars on 2 new sets because I assumed the itching and rash was from them!! I wish I would have found this site before I made that mistake ughhhh. This crap was $30 a bottle

  • Patricia Original review: Jul 17, 2018. Reply

    I bought a powdered collagen, chocolate flavored used the whole container and felt great. Purchased another brand that was unflavored and within 8 hours had a major skin itching burning sensation that kept me up all night. So I’m assuming it is according to the brand you purchase. So I will try the first one and stick with it.

  • Sharon Original review: May 21, 2018. Reply

    Have been taking collagen powder and just recently added a face gel to my daily regime, both same brand, I am now suffering from very itchy skin and bouts of increased heart rate… So tonight I started searching Google and found this site… Think it might be time to stop, which is a shame because I do think my skin, nails, hair and IBS is actually better…. But this itchy skin.. Omgosh can’t cope….

  • BJ Original review: May 19, 2018. Reply

    I started taking Collagen Hydrolysate in August 2017. I only took 1 tablespoon per day (the label recommends 2 tablespoons per day) in my daily green smoothie and had planned to use it for 12 months to see if I saw a benefit to my hair and skin. I’m 59 years old and have suffered occasionally from an irregular heartbeat and tachycardia for many years but am otherwise healthy. In April 2018, approximately 7 months after starting to take this supplement I started having constant and debilitating heart arrhythmia’s. After a few weeks I finally made the connection and stopped taking the Collagen Hydrolysate and my heart arrhythmia started lessening and now is completely gone.

  • Denise Original review: May 08, 2018. Reply

    I know this is an old question but I thought I’d reply anyway. I too get itchy skin on my chest. No rash. The Marine component in collagen can cause this. Unless you have a severe reaction it should be harmless.

  • Shannon Gatteri Original review: Mar 26, 2018. Reply

    I started taking a collagen powder protein mix as suggested by a friend with the same autoimmune issues that I have. I took it for a week twice a day. I noticed that I was terribly itchy everywhere. I started wondering if I had scabies or something. I had no rash, not visible marks on my skin. After a bit I wondered if it was the supplement so I stopped taking it. The itching stopped. I’ve been searching the internet to see if itching is a side effect of collagen, nothing found until I came across this site.

  • Carol Original review: Sep 19, 2017. Reply

    I started taking collagen powder peptides about 2 weeks ago. I feel great while taking it. I wanted it for skin as well as for degenerative disks, aches & pains. (I’m a 61 yr women) i like to have a beer or 2 in the evenings and when I do i break out into a rash on my neck and face….hot & swells. Anyone have any idea of the connection. I hate to give up either thing ?

  • Zoe Original review: Jul 27, 2017. Reply

    I’ve been taking Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate for 3 months. My skin is incredibly soft after the second month (what a nice bonus). It’s powder and doesn’t taste all that good, but I mix it with about a cup of water and just drink it down like a big girl (I’m 68 years old) right before bed. It will help a lot with falling asleep too. Started taking it for hip pain and plantar fasciitis surgery gone bad. I also take B6 for the pain also. The pain is far, far less than it used to be and I swear I feel stronger (like more put together). Also no itching at all.

  • Sheila Original review: Jul 18, 2017. Reply

    I tried one dose of Marine collagen, supposedly very high quality, to help my nails, hair, and skin. My hormone specialist recommended this therapy. Unfortunately, approcimately 15-20 minutes after I ingested it I experienced tingling in my left leg and very rapid heart rate. It scared me to death. I guess it’s not for me. I had complete cardiovascular work up in January. My heart is fine.

  • Cybilla Original review: Jul 09, 2017. Reply

    I was talking an expensive liquid collagen with peptide, I found Sanar Collagen at Walmart and it works just as good to me. I had my 26 y/o daughter start taking it and our skin looks amazing. Everyone thinks I am wearing makeup. And family members have their friends guess my age. Lol

  • Chris Dunn Original review: Mar 13, 2017. Reply

    I tried taking Collagen supplements that I purchased from to alleviate my hip arthritis discomfort but they really aggravated my non-arthritic knees and I was in serious pain for a while. The pain subsided after stopping the supplement. A couple of years later after having had both hips replaced I decided to experiment with resuming taking the Collagen. Within a couple of days I started experiencing arrhythmia which was very discomforting. I stopped taking the Collagen and it took a good couple of days for my heart to settle down again. Needless to say I have decided to stay away from Collagen from now on!

  • Christopher Original review: Jan 05, 2017. Reply

    My experiences with using collagen have been fantastic. The stiffness that I have felt in my bones for years is all but gone. I get out of bed in am with no pain or stiffness. Been using for 6 months, about 3 weeks in i began to feel the difference. No problems with itchy skin.

  • Tristram Shorter Original review: Oct 31, 2015. Reply

    Hi, my doctor recommended I should take a collagen supplement to help with my tendinopathy. But I know that collagen is just another type of protein, composed of hundreds of different amino acids (19, according to one site). When this collagen passes through my digestive system, it will get broken down into individual amino acids, in order to be absorbed. What garantee is there my body will use these amino acids to generate collagen? I would have thought this would only make a difference if I happened to be short on amino acids, which I strongly suspect is not the case. Would it not be a lot cheaper, and agreable, to just eat a good beaf steak instead of buying these expensive pills?

  • carla Original review: Jul 08, 2015. Reply

    Ive started taking neo cuticles brand collagen for after surgery and although its been one week, I seem to healing a bit faster, than before I was taking this supplement.
    i don’t seem to have any itchy skin as above, but I have noticed my “poo” is lighter color than usual. I plan to keep taking the supplement tailwind is healed.

  • April Original review: Jun 19, 2015. Reply

    I thought it was just me! I’ve been taking Collagen supplements (even just a half-dose daily) for almost 2 months. In the last 3-4 weeks, I have a spot on my neck that I keep finding myself reaching to scratch. But there is NOTHING there — no rash, no bug bite, nothing. In the last few days, I’ve found a spot on my index finger with the same type of subtle “itchy” feeling. Thought it was my imagination, but maybe not. Although, I do really think my face looks every so slightly better, fresher — I’ll keep taking the supplements for now.

  • Me Original review: Apr 27, 2015. Reply

    As someone who is going to steer well clear of Botox and such unnatural ways to keep young. I will be taking such supplements for the duration. Can anyone tell me if collagen causes itchy skin? I have been taking supplements since I turned 30 in 2013 and lately been getting very itchy skin.

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