Do Collagen Supplements Actually Improve Your Skin?



What Is Collagen?

Collagen is the main protein responsible for the structure and firmness of the skin. Collagen is found in tendons, connective tissue, ligaments, blood vessels, muscles, teeth, bones, and of course the skin. 

Collagen usually forms what is known as fibrils. Fibrils are bundles of collagen fibers that give the skin and body structure, shape, and tensile strength. Collagen composes 30% of the body’s total protein and acts a little like glue, holding the body together and allowing for movement and strength. 

There are 28 different types of collagen in the body, however, there are three main types that make up 90% of the total collagen in the body. These three types of collagen are called collagen I, II, and III. Types I and II are generally present in the skin and bones. Type III is more commonly found in joints. 

While our bodies naturally produce collagen supplements have become a popular way to potentially increase or supplement the body’s natural production of collagen. But, do they actually work? 

Related: Best Collagen Creams

What Types Of Collagen Supplements Are There? 

Collagen supplements are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in the health and wellness industry. Most of these collagen supplements are sourced from animal-based sources such as pigs, cows, and fish. However, some brands have started to use genetically modified bacteria such as P. pastoris to produce vegan collagen. This process uses human genes that code for collagen and places them inside the genetic code of the bacteria. The bacteria then produce the building blocks of human collagen. 

The main forms of collagen supplements that are available come in powders, tablets, capsules, soups, and liquids. 

These supplements usually contain a mixture of all the types of the three main types of collagen, types I, II, and III. 

There are three main forms of collagen that are used in these supplements. The first is hydrolyzed collagen. Some studies have suggested that hydrolyzed collagen is the most efficiently absorbed form of collagen. This may be because the collagen has been broken down into small protein fragments or amino acids. This may make them slightly easier for the body to use and absorb. 

The second form of collagen that is used is gelatin. In gelatin, collagen has been partially broken down into amino acids, so you will have some of the benefits of easy absorption and use, like the hydrolyzed collagen. 

The third form is raw collagen. Raw collagen means that it hasn’t been treated in any specific way. In raw collagen formulations, the collagen protein is fully intact, so the body needs to do the work, breaking it down into amino acids. 

All forms of collagen are broken down into amino acids when the supplements are digested. This allows the amino acids or building blocks to be absorbed by the body and then used to build collagen and other proteins in the body. Amino acids aren’t specific to collagen production and actually are used to build all proteins. 

Unfortunately, you don’t get to chose how your body uses these extracted amino acids in the body. This is why some people are skeptical that collagen supplementation has much of an effect on collagen production in the body. 

Do Collagen Supplements Actually Improve Your Skin?

Collagen is found in a multitude of places around the body, so it is important to know that collagen supplementation won’t be able to be targeted just to the skin. However, there is some research that suggests that collagen supplementation may help improve the appearance of your skin. 

Type I and II collagen are the major types of collagen found in the skin. In the skin, collagen is responsible for giving the skin structure and firmness. Unfortunately, as we age our body slows down its production of collagen, about 1% every year from your 20s. Given that collagen is responsible for giving the skin structure, a loss of collagen production is often linked with the signs of aging such as wrinkles, fine lines, and a loss of firmness. 

Some research has suggested that collagen supplementation may be useful for reducing the appearance of aging. It is important to note that these studies are only early research, more needs to be done to determine just how effective collagen supplementation may be. However, these early studies show promising results. 

One study published in the Journal of Skin Pharmacology and Physiology used hydrolyzed collagen products taken daily for 8 weeks in 114 45-65-year-old women. This study found that there was a significant decrease in the appearance of eye wrinkles, a reduction of 20%. 

They also saw increases in the amounts of procollagen type 1 and elastin when compared with the placebo. Procollagen type 1 and elastin are precursor or helper compounds to collagen. 

This study also noted that there were some long-term benefits that were seen after the 8-week supplementation had ceased. 

Another study looked at the benefits of hydrolyzed collagen in 72 35-year-old women. This study was a longer study, evaluating collagen supplementation across 12 weeks. This study suggested that there was a 27% decrease in wrinkle depth and an increase in skin hydration by 28%.  This study used a combination collagen supplement that included a number of other ingredients that are thought to support collagen production such as vitamin C, zinc, biotin, and biotin. 

Similar to the previous study, there were long-term benefits to the skin when the patients were seen for their follow-up appointment. 

There are a number of other studies that suggest similar results when using hydrolyzed collagen supplementation over a 6-12 week period. This suggests that collagen supplementation may help to support collagen production in the skin. However, most of the research has focused on hydrolyzed collagen. There is less research conducted on the benefits of gelatin or raw collagen types.  

Do Collagen Supplements Actually Improve Your Joints, Bones, And Muscles?

Similar to the results seen in the studies on the skin, collagen may also improve the health of your bones, joints, and muscles. Unlike the skin studies, many of the studies that look at bone, muscle, and joint health have been animal studies, only a few have looked at the benefits specific to humans. 

Having said that, there is mounting evidence to support the idea that hydrolyzed collagen may help to improve the health, strength, and resilience of joints, bones, and muscles, as well as skin. 

How Much Collagen Should You Take?

Depending on what benefits you are hoping to gain, the amount of collagen may vary. 

For skin, 2.5mg of hydrolyzed collagen for 8-12 weeks is the most well-studied dose. 

However, it is always best to consult with your doctor as to whether collagen supplementation is best for your situation. 

Is Collagen Vegan?

Collagen supplements generally are not vegan ingredients as they are usually produced from animal products such as fish, cows, or pigs. 

However, there are some vegan alternatives out there that use bacteria to produce a vegan alternative. It is useful to note that the research that has been compiled in this article has mainly focused on animal-based sources of collagen. This is because it is the most well-studied type. 

Best Collagen Supplements

BioSil Natural Factors 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.

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.

Vital Proteins 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.

Absolute Collagen
Absolute Collagen is a beauty brand that offers both types of products — skincare formulas to stimulate collagen production and an oral collagen supplement — with the goal of restoring collagen levels so that your skin stays firm, plump, and visibly youthful.

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides
Oral collagen supplements offer an inside-out approach, providing the body with the building blocks it needs to produce collagen.

Native Path Collagen
There’s actually just one ingredient in the Native Path Collagen supplement and that’s hydrolyzed bovine collagen (types I and III).

SeroVital formulates a variety of supplements, hair care, and skin care products to address the signs of aging.

Orgain Collagen Peptides
There’s only one ingredient in the Orgain Collagen peptides formula and that’s bovine-derived collagen peptides.

Obvi Collagen Burn
Obvi Collagen Burn is claimed to help you lose weight by boosting your metabolism, curbing your appetite, improving your energy and mood, and supporting healthier hair, skin, and nails.

Youtheory is one of the largest manufacturers of collagen and turmeric in the United States.

What Other Benefits May Collagen Supplementation Provide?

Collagen is also thought to help aid the growth of hair and nails, weight loss, and improve the health of the gut. These benefits are less well-studied and more research is needed to determine collagen’s use in these areas. 

Further reading: Best supplements 2024

Are There Any Side Effects of Taking Collagen?

Collagen supplements are considered to be safe for most people. There are some side effects that some people may experience such as nausea or upset stomach, if you experience this, discontinue the collagen supplementation and speak with your doctor. 

Choi FD, Sung CT, Juhasz ML, Mesinkovsk NA. Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications. J Drugs Dermatol. 2019 Jan 1;18(1):9-16. 
Borumand M, Sibilla S. Daily consumption of the collagen supplement Pure Gold Collagen® reduces visible signs of aging. Clin Interv Aging. 2014 Oct 13;9:1747-58. doi: 10.2147/CIA.S65939. Erratum in: Clin Interv Aging. 2020 Feb 04;15:131. 
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. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2015 Dec;14(4):291-301. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12174. Epub 2015 Sep 12.
Kim DU, Chung HC, Choi J, Sakai Y, Lee BY. Oral Intake of Low-Molecular-Weight Collagen Peptide Improves Hydration, Elasticity, and Wrinkling in Human Skin: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Nutrients. 2018 Jun 26;10(7):826. doi: 10.3390/nu10070826.



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