Reviewed by

Morgane Leten - Nutrition & Fertility Coach


Do collagen supplements actually work?

Reviewed by

Morgane Leten - Nutrition & Fertility Coach

Collagen has emerged as a star player in the wellness industry, captivating the interest of both men and women seeking diverse benefits. From enhancing muscle mass, maintaining strong hair and skin elasticity, preventing signs of aging, or supporting a new mom navigating the postpartum journey, collagen supplements seem to be the go-to solution. But the burning question remains: do collagen supplements actually work?

The answer, like many health-related questions, is nuanced. Before getting into the effectiveness of collagen supplements, it's essential to understand what collagen is. As the most abundant protein in the body, collagen makes up one-third of our tissues, providing structure to bones, connective tissues, cartilage, muscles, and skin. Collagen is naturally produced in the body, as well as from food sources like meat, fish, bone broth, and egg whites, or through supplements.

The natural production of collagen decreases with age, starting as early as age 20. By age 40, we lose about one percent of our collagen per year, increasing to a 75 percent reduction by age 80. This decline is what makes collagen supplementation an interesting idea, but whether or not it works depends on several factors.

Understanding collagen basics

Collagen, which makes up one-third of the body's protein, acts as a structural cornerstone for tissues, including bone, cartilage, muscles, and skin. As our collagen production naturally decreases with age, the interest in supplements has surged. However, not all supplements are created equal.

Collagen comes in various types—mainly type I, type II, and type III—each playing a distinct role in the body. To complicate matters, collagen supplements come in different forms, such as native collagen, collagen peptides, and hydrolyzed collagen. The nuances in types and forms become crucial when selecting the right supplement.

Are collagen supplements beneficial?

Research supports the efficacy of collagen supplementation, particularly in conjunction with resistance training. Studies indicate potential benefits in connective tissue recovery, reduced pain, improved strength, and body composition. Women who have gone through menopause may find specific collagen peptides beneficial for bone health, as evidenced by improved bone mineral density and decreased bone degradation.

While collagen hasn't been conclusively proven to stimulate hair growth, studies suggest improvements in skin elasticity and structure with collagen supplementation (specifically peptides of hydrolyzed collagen) taken with collagen boosting micronutrients A, C, E, and zinc. This combination improved skin elasticity and structure in a group of women ages 40 to 60. However, the key is understanding the specific type and form of collagen that aligns with your health goals.

Vitamins and minerals that support your skin in a natural way

  • Vitamin C is essential for the production of collagen. A vitamin C deficiency can lead to low collagen levels, resulting in a potentially serious condition known as scurvy. Food sources for Vitamin C include: citrus fruits, green or red peppers, strawberries and broccoli
  • Carotenoids, such as retinol and beta carotene, are antioxidants that can help boost skin health. They are derivatives of vitamin A. Food sources of vitamin A include: beef liver, sweet potatoes, spinach, pumpkin and carrots
  • Zinc and Selenium are two minerals that have been proven to maintain your skin health

Collagen Boosters vs. Collagen Supplements

In the world of collagen terminology, the terms "collagen boosters" and "collagen supplements" are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference. Collagen supplements revolve around collagen peptides that come from animal collagen. On the other hand, collagen boosters contain a mix of amino acids, vitamins, and nutrients from various sources, aiming to fuel the body's collagen production.

While both supplements and boosters kickstart collagen production, the efficiency differs. Collagen peptides from supplements, especially those from animal collagen, tend to be more effective in promoting collagen synthesis than the ingredients found in boosters.

How does a collagen booster work?

Our bodies naturally contain collagen, a crucial protein for maintaining various tissues and structures. Aging leads to a decline in collagen levels, contributing to signs of aging such as wrinkles and joint pain. Collagen boosters aim to replenish these declining levels by providing amino acids and nutrients crucial for collagen production.

Collagen boosters, often vegetarian or vegan, source nutrients from plant-based ingredients. While they may help stimulate collagen production, their efficiency is generally lower than collagen supplements containing actual collagen peptides.

Collagen loss and giving birth

Being pregnant and having a baby impacts your collagen levels significantly. As the body undergoes transformations to accommodate the growing baby, collagen in the skin and connective tissues stretch, leading to the development of stretch marks. Hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, coupled with the strain of giving birth, can impact collagen density and tissue elasticity.

In the postpartum period, incorporating collagen into one's routine can be really helpful for recovery. Collagen is proven to play a vital role in repairing hair and skin, replenishing bone density, promoting sleep, reducing joint pain, and balancing hormones— pretty important stuff during the postpartum period!

How to choose the right collagen supplements

Before purchasing a collagen supplement, it's important to identify your specific goals and select the right type and form of collagen for your needs. The three main types you see in supplements are type I, type II, and type III. Type II is associated with joint cartilage, and types I and III are associated with skin, tendons, and ligaments.

There are also different forms of collagen supplements. Native collagen is the full collagen molecule. Native collagen is too large to be absorbed through the gut; it works by triggering an immune response that reduces the degradation of your tissues. Collagen peptides are smaller, broken-up pieces of the native collagen molecule, which makes them easier to absorb. Hydrolyzed collagen is the same as collagen peptides. Hydrolysis is the process in which full-length collagens are broken down into collagen peptides.

Patience is key when expecting results. Once you start taking supplements, it could take up to six months before you see any results. That’s why it’s important to nourish your body with antioxidants, protein, and micronutrients to aid collagen production.

Lifestyle is key

Lifestyle factors play a key role in skin health, and certain habits like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, chronic stress, poor dietary choices, and irregular sleep patterns can negatively impact your skin. To boost skin health and support collagen production, consider the following lifestyle tips:

1. Quit smoking:

  • Impact on Collagen: Smoking accelerates the breakdown of collagen and elastin fibers in the skin, leading to premature aging, wrinkles, and sagging.
  • Recommendation: Quitting smoking can significantly improve skin health and contribute to a more youthful appearance. Seek support from healthcare professionals or support groups to successfully quit smoking.

2. Moderate alcohol consumption:

  • Dehydration and Inflammation: Excessive alcohol intake can dehydrate the skin, making it appear dull and promoting inflammation, which can contribute to collagen degradation.
  • Recommendation: Limit alcohol consumption, stay hydrated, and incorporate non-alcoholic beverages, such as water and herbal teas, to support skin hydration.

3. Manage stress:

  • Cortisol Impact: Chronic stress elevates cortisol levels, which can lead to collagen breakdown and compromise skin health.
  • Recommendation: Practice stress-management techniques, including meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in hobbies to reduce stress levels and promote overall well-being.

4. Balanced diet:

  • Nutrient-Rich Foods: Consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains to provide essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants crucial for collagen synthesis and skin health.
  • Limit Processed Foods: Reduce intake of processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats, as they can contribute to inflammation and negatively impact skin quality.

5. Prioritize quality sleep:

  • Repair and Regeneration: Quality sleep is essential for the body's repair and regeneration processes, including collagen synthesis.
  • Recommendation: Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Establish a consistent sleep schedule, create a relaxing bedtime routine, and minimize screen time before bedtime for better sleep quality.

6. Protect your skin from sun exposure:

  • Sun Damage: UV rays from the sun can accelerate collagen breakdown and contribute to premature aging.
  • Recommendation: Use sunscreen with a broad-spectrum SPF, wear protective clothing, and avoid prolonged sun exposure to shield your skin from harmful UV rays.

Incorporating these lifestyle changes can contribute to overall skin health, support collagen production, and help maintain a youthful and radiant complexion.

But remember: it’s all about consistency over time. Adopting these habits, alongside a high quality supplement is the key to achieving long-term benefits for your skin.

Want to learn more about your skin and how your monthly cycle impact it? Check out our blog post here.