Overview of Collagen Supplements

Young female applying face cream / mask
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Collagen is a protein found in connective tissues throughout your body. As you age, your skin's inner layer loses collagen and—as a result—becomes less supple and firm and more vulnerable to damage. Some people attempt to restore collagen by taking a collagen supplement.

Many products marketed as collagen supplements contain hydrolyzed collagen, which is animal-derived collagen that has been broken down into small peptides.

Why Do People Use Collagen Supplements?

Some proponents claim that collagen supplements offer a range of benefits, including:

  • Improved appearance of skin, hair, and nails
  • Better eye health
  • Protection against heart disease
  • Enhanced athletic performance
  • Stronger bones

The Benefits of Collagen Supplements: Do They Work?

Despite claims that collagen supplements can restore collagen, firm up your skin, and fight age-related damage, few studies have tested the effects of collagen supplements on skin and health. Here are some findings from the available research:

Skin Health

Some studies have found that collagen peptides can improve skin elasticity. In a 2014 study in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, for instance, women aged 35 to 55 years took collagen supplements or a placebo once daily for eight weeks. At the study's end, those who took the collagen had improved skin elasticity compared to those who took the placebo.

Bone Health

In a 2010 study published in the journal Maturitas, researchers found that collagen supplements failed to improve bone health in postmenopausal women. For the study, 71 women with osteopenia were assigned to take either hydrolyzed collagen supplements or a placebo every day for 24 weeks. Results revealed that the collagen supplements did not produce any effects on bone metabolism.

Body Composition

Taking hydrolyzed collagen supplements may help preserve lean body mass in older women, according to a 2009 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The study involved nine healthy elderly women, all of whom were given hydrolyzed collagen supplements for 15 days.

Possible Side Effects

There's some concern that stimulating collagen synthesis would also increase oxidative stress and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production.

Some collagen products have been recalled by the FDA because of false claims.

Collagen supplements haven't been tested for safety and keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

You can get tips on using supplements here but if you're considering the use of collagen supplements for anti-aging purposes or in the treatment of a condition, talk with your primary care provider first.

There are other forms of collagen for the skin as well.

Collagen Injections

Referred to as a "filler," one type of cosmetic procedure involves injecting certain substances in order to reduce signs of aging in the skin (such as fine lines). Poly-L-lactic acid fillers, for instance, help fight the effects of aging by stimulating collagen production in the skin. Although fillers are generally considered safe, they sometimes lead to side effects like skin discoloration and allergic reactions. What's more, the anti-aging effects of these procedures are temporary and require repeat treatments to maintain results.

Collagen Creams

There is currently a lack of scientific evidence for the anti-aging effects of creams, lotions or other beauty products containing collagen. 

Find out about ceramides, a type of fat molecule found in skin care products which may fight aging-related skin dryness. Also learn about the use of cosmetic acupuncture, white tea, argan oil, and sea buckthorn oil.

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Article Sources

  • Cúneo F, Costa-Paiva L, Pinto-Neto AM, Morais SS, Amaya-Farfan J. Effect of dietary supplementation with collagen hydrolysates on bone metabolism of postmenopausal women with low mineral density. Maturitas. 2010 Mar;65(3):253-7.
  • Hays NP, Kim H, Wells AM, Kajkenova O, Evans WJ. "Effects of whey and fortified collagen hydrolysate protein supplements on nitrogen balance and body composition in older women." J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jun;109(6):1082-7.
  • Proksch E, Schunck M, Zague V, Segger D, Degwert J, Oesser S. Oral intake of specific bioactive collagen peptides reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(3):113-9.
  • Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55.