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 and impact.

Collagen types I and III are found in the skin, while collage type II is found in the joints. Some people try to bolster or 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 cover collagen supplements' potential benefits and possible side effects. It also explains how to take collagen and what to look for in collagen products.

Dietary supplements are not regulated like drugs in the United States, meaning the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before products are marketed. Choose a supplement that a trusted third party, such as USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF, has tested when possible. However, even if supplements are third-party tested, that doesn’t mean they are necessarily safe for all or effective in general. Therefore, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take and check in about potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredient(s): Collagen type I, II, III, IV (less commonly), and V.
  • Alternate name(s): Cartilage collagen, eggshell membrane collagen, fish collagen, hydroxyproline, porcine (pig) collagen.
  • Legal status: Legal over-the-counter herbal supplement (United States).
  • Suggested dose: Collagen supplement studies have used doses ranging from 2.5 to 10 grams daily.
  • Safety considerations: contraindicated in people with fish, shellfish, or egg allergies Collagen is normally derived from animal products and is not appropriate for vegetarian or vegan diets. Type I (porcine (pig)) collagen is inappropriate for Kosher or Halal diets.

Uses of Collagen

Supplement use should be individualized and vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease.

Collagen supplement labels have suggested that they 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. Corporations can benefit if study outcomes are positive, meaning some (not all) corporations may not always have your best interest in mind. You should consider this when reviewing the research.


Collagen makes up 75% of the dry weight of your skin. As people age, their skin’s inner layer tends to lose collagen. When this happens, it may become less elastic and possibly more vulnerable to damage.

Studies on collagen’s impact on the skin include:

  • Hydration: 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 may begin to decline (during one's 20s). Some studies have looked at whether collagen supplements can help with these effects. A study had women ages 35 to 55 take either a collagen supplement (Type I collagen) 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. Of note, porcine (pig) type 1 collagen was used in this study. Given this, this supplement would not be appropriate for Kosher or Halal diets.
  • Hydration and elasticity: A study looked at the role of a collagen supplement containing extra purportedly joint-supporting ingredients, including chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, L-carnitine, and other vitamins and minerals. The research showed the supplement increased skin elasticity and hydration. However, since this study used a combination product, it’s challenging to deduce the effects of collagen alone.
  • Wound healing and aging: A 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 applications and the right dose.

Bone Health

Research has been done on the effects of collagen supplements on postmenopausal bone health.

A 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.

A study found supplements containing collagen plus calcium improved bone health in postmenopausal people. For the study, 39 females 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. This was a small study. And since this study used a combination product, it’s challenging to deduce the effects of collagen alone.

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 study examined 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. Researchers found both groups had increased muscle mass. 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 compared collagen supplements to a placebo in premenopausal (before menopause) women. The participants taking collagen supplements had a higher increase in fat-free body mass and 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.

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

Other Uses

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

  • Eye health
  • Heart health
  • Skin and nail appearance
  • Weight loss

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.

What Are the Side Effects of Collagen?

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.

Common Side Effects

Collagen may have common side effects. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dyspepsia
  • A bad taste in the mouth
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Rash

Severe Side Effects

Collagen may have severe side effects. These include but are not limited to the following:

  • Anaphylaxis (hydrolyzed fish collagen)
  • Liver abnormalities (rare).


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

Collagen supplements may not be safe for:

  • People with fish, shellfish, or egg allergies (collagen supplements may contain these allergens as ingredients)
  • People with a Kosher or Halal diet.
  • People with a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Dosage: How Much Collagen Should I Take?

Always speak with a healthcare provider before taking a supplement to ensure that the supplement and dosage are appropriate for your individual needs.

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 daily.

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 Happens If I Take Too Much Collagen?

Side effects may occur when taking too much collagen, including diarrhea, dyspepsia, a bad taste in the mouth, headache, dizziness, insomnia, and rash. More serious side effects include anaphylaxis and liver abnormalities


It is not known if collagen interacts with any medications.

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included. Please review this supplement label with your healthcare provider to discuss any potential interactions with foods, other supplements, and medications.

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.

How to Store Collagen

Collagen supplements should be stored in a cool, dry place. Follow the instructions on the label.

Similar Supplements

Collagen "peptides" are another supplement for aging skin and osteoarthritis. Some 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 or vegetarian diet, you’ll need to look for products that don’t contain animal-derived ingredients.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will collagen supplements help you look younger?

    Some research has shown that collagen supplements may benefit some parts of the body, including aging skin, but more research is needed to confirm this.

  • What are other possible benefits of collagen supplements for the skin beyond anti-aging effects?

    Some studies have looked into collagen supplements for wound healing.

  • Can collagen supplements serve as a treatment for osteoarthritis?

    Recent research has shown promising results regarding the ability of collagen supplements to improve osteoarthritis symptoms. More research is needed to confirm these results.

Sources of Collagen & What To Look For

When considering your options for a collagen supplement, there are a few critical pieces of information you’ll want to look for on the product label. 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 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 getting in the package.

Food Sources of Collagen

Collagen is found in animal-source foods such as tough cuts of meat, bone broth, and cartilage.

Collagen Supplements

Collagen supplements are available in several forms, including:

  • Tablets
  • Capsules
  • Liquids
  • Powders


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

Some studies have suggested that 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.

Some people should not take collagen supplements. If you follow a strict Halal, Kosher, vegetarian, or vegan diet, take certain medications, have health conditions, or have allergies, you may need to avoid using these products.

18 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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By Jinan Banna, PhD, RD
Jinan Banna, PhD, RD is the founder of Jinan Banna LLC and an Associate Professor of Nutrition at the University of Hawaii, where she performs research in obesity prevention. Jinan helps working women to lose weight so that they can feel confident and energetic by offering free information on her blog, as well as nutrition coaching.

Originally written by Cathy Wong
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.

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