What Are Collagen Supplements?

Collagen is a protein found in connective tissues in your body. It is located in your skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments. Its main job is to give tissues structure and help them withstand stretching.

As you age, your body makes less collagen. Some people try to restore collagen by taking collagen supplements.

Some research has shown that collagen supplements may benefit some parts of the body, including aging skin, bone density, and joints. While the results are promising, more research is needed to understand whether supplementation with collagen really works.

This article will go over the potential benefits and possible side effects of collagen supplements. It also explains how to take collagen and what to look for in collagen products.

Does Collagen Have Any Benefits?

Collagen supplements claim to fight the effects of aging by:

However, there have not been many independent studies to test the effects of these supplements.

Many studies on the benefits of collagen supplements are small or limited. In some cases, collagen suppliers fund the studies.

These corporations can benefit if the study outcomes are good, which is something you should think about when you look at the research.

Skin

Collagen makes up 75% of the dry weight of your skin. As you age, your skin’s inner layer loses collagen. When this happens, it becomes less elastic and more vulnerable to damage.

Studies on collagen’s impact on the skin include:

  • Hydration: In a 2015 study, scientists looked at whether collagen supplementation could improve skin tissue in a lab. The results suggested that supplements could help with skin hydration and the skin’s collagen network. Collagen also showed the potential to improve aging skin.
  • Elasticity: Skin elasticity starts to decline in your 20s. Some studies have looked at whether collagen supplements can help with these effects. A 2014 study had women ages 35 to 55 take either a collagen supplement or a placebo once daily for eight weeks. At the end of the study, the women who took the collagen had improved skin elasticity compared to those who took the placebo.
  • Hydration and elasticity: A 2018 study looked at the role of a collagen supplement that also contained joint-supporting ingredients, including chondroitin sulfateglucosamine, L-carnitine, and other vitamins and minerals. The research showed the supplement increased skin elasticity and hydration.
  • Wound healing and aging: A 2019 review of studies looked at collagen supplements’ effects on wound healing and skin aging. The study authors concluded that supplements are generally safe and can increase skin elasticity, hydration, and density. However, they added that more research is needed on its medical applications and what the right dose would be.

Bone Health

Some research findings suggest that collagen supplements can help improve postmenopausal bone health.

A 2015 study found that supplements containing collagen and calcium improved bone health in postmenopausal people. For the study, 39 women with low bone density (osteopenia) took either collagen supplements or a placebo every day for a year. The subjects taking the supplement had less bone loss and better levels of markers for bone health than the subjects taking the placebo.

A 2018 study found that the intake of a collagen supplement increased bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. In addition, the study showed that the supplement might increase bone formation and reduce bone loss.

Do Supplements Target Specific Areas?

You can’t choose where your body will use collagen. For example, you might take a supplement to improve your skin, but if your bones or your muscles are collagen-deprived, extra collagen will likely be used by your bones and muscles first.

Body Composition

Some people may take collagen to preserve muscle or decrease fat. However, studies on this are limited and have provided mixed results.

A 2019 study looked at whether collagen supplements combined with resistance training could affect the proportion of fat to non-fat in your body (body composition) in men. A 12-week program with 57 participants paired resistance training with either a collagen supplement or a placebo.

The researchers found that both groups had increased muscle to the same extent. However, those who took a collagen supplement showed a slight increase in fat-free mass. This was thought to be related to improvements in connective tissue.

Another small trial in 2019 compared collagen supplements to placebo in premenopausal women. The participants taking collagen supplements had a higher increase in fat-free body mass as well as a decrease in fat mass.

Joint Pain

Collagen is a key building block of cartilage, a rubbery material that covers and protects bones and helps joints move smoothly. As you get older, cartilage production decreases.

For older people who have joint problems, there is some evidence that collagen supplements may reduce joint pain and other symptoms of osteoarthritis.

Heart Disease

Some people take collagen supplements to boost heart health. However, the research on this potential benefit has not been conclusive.

In 2017, researchers from a Japanese company that makes collagen-based functional foods published a study showing that when taken regularly for six months, collagen tripeptide offered heart benefits, including:

Other Uses

Some people also take collagen supplements to improve other aspects of their health, including:

However, little research evidence is available to support these benefits.

False Claims

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recalled some collagen products because of false claims. Products that stimulate collagen production or claim to remove wrinkles are considered drugs rather than supplements by the FDA. Therefore, these products must provide evidence of their safety and effectiveness before they go on the market.

Possible Side Effects

The side effects of collagen supplements are usually not major. After taking the supplement, some people have mild digestive symptoms or a bad taste in their mouth.

That said, whether you have other symptoms after taking a supplement depends on your overall health. You’ll want to discuss any supplements you plan to take with your healthcare provider.

Stimulating collagen production by taking a supplement may increase oxidative stress. This happens when free radicals form in your body and overwhelm its defenses. Oxidative stress can lead to cell and tissue damage.

Contraindications

Certain people should not take collagen supplements without the OK of their provider.

Collagen supplements may not be safe for:

  • People with certain medical conditions
  • People taking certain medications
  • Children
  • Pregnant people
  • Breastfeeding people
  • People with fish, shellfish, or egg allergies (collagen supplements may contain these allergens as ingredients)

Dosage and Preparation

Collagen supplements are available in several forms, including:

  • Tablets
  • Capsules
  • Liquids
  • Powders

Studies on the benefits of collagen supplements have looked at doses ranging from 2.5 to 10 grams per day.

However, some supplement makers and providers recommend taking up to 30 grams per day.

Your healthcare provider is the best person to tell you which dose of a collagen supplement will be right for you.

Collagen supplements are not the only way to help your body make more collagen. Consuming foods such as bone broth and gelatin also boost collagen production.

What to Look For

When you’re considering your options for a collagen supplement, there are a few key pieces of information that you’ll want to look for on the product label.

Quality Certification

Like all supplements, collagen supplements do not need to be approved by the FDA before hitting store shelves.

If you decide to use one of these products, look for one that has been certified for quality by a third party, such as The United States Pharmacopeia (USP). That way, you can be more sure that what’s on the label is what you’re actually getting in the bottle.

Peptides

Many products marketed as collagen supplements contain hydrolyzed collagen. This animal-derived collagen has been broken down into small peptides that your body can absorb more effectively.

Collagen supplements often contain fish scales, cow bones, or other animal parts. If you follow a strict vegan diet, you’ll need to look for products that don’t contain animal-derived ingredients.

Summary

Some people use collagen supplements to try to combat the body’s reduced production of collagen as they age.

Some studies have suggested that taking collagen supplements may have certain health benefits, like promoting skin elasticity and supporting joint, bone, and heart health. However, research on these benefits is limited and conflicting.

There are also some people who should not take collagen supplements. If you take medications, have health conditions, or have allergies, you may need to avoid using these products.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What about collagen creams? Do they work?

    There is not enough scientific evidence to prove the anti-aging effects of creams, lotions, or other beauty products containing collagen. 

    Experts also say that creams are the least likely form to be effective because collagen is not absorbed well through the skin.

  • Are collagen injections safe?

    One cosmetic procedure involves injecting certain substances (“fillers”) into the skin to temporarily reduce fine lines.

    For example, poly-L-lactic acid fillers may help fight the effects of aging by stimulating collagen production in the skin.

    Although generally considered safe, fillers can have side effects like skin discoloration and allergic reactions.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  5. Elam ML, Johnson SA, Hooshmand S, et al. A calcium-collagen chelate dietary supplement attenuates bone loss in postmenopausal women with osteopenia: a randomized controlled trial. J Med Food. 2015;18(3):324-331. doi:10.1089/jmf.2014.0100

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  7. Kirmse M, Oertzen-Hagemann V, de Marées M, Bloch W, Platen P. Prolonged collagen peptide supplementation and resistance exercise training affects body composition in recreationally active men. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1154. doi:10.3390/nu11051154

  8. Jendricke P, Centner C, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A, König D. Specific collagen peptides in combination with resistance training improve body composition and regional muscle strength in premenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. 2019;11(4):892. doi:10.3390/nu11040892

  9. García-Coronado JM, Martínez-Olvera L, Elizondo-Omaña RE, et al. Effect of collagen supplementation on osteoarthritis symptoms: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trialsInt Orthop. 2019;43(3):531-538. doi:10.1007/s00264-018-4211-5

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  11. Food and Drug Administration. Wrinkle treatments and other anti-aging products.

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.