What Is Hydrolyzed Collagen?

Collagen That Is Easier to Absorb

Hydrolyzed collagen (HC), also known as collagen peptide or collagen hydrolysate, is a type of collagen that has been fully broken down, making it more easily absorbed into the bloodstream as a supplement.

In recent years, HC supplements have grown in popularity among people seeking to give their skin a more youthful appearance, alleviate joint pain, or improve bone health. It has also been used in clinical settings to help heal wounds.

However, the use of collagen supplements is not without controversy due to the lack of regulations for the quality or quantity of ingredients in over-the-counter collagen supplements, as well as minimal peer-reviewed literature on its benefits.

In 2016, the collagen market was estimated at $3.71 billion and it is projected to reach $6.63 billion in 2025.

While some studies have produced promising results about the benefits of collagen supplements on skin aging, bone and joint health, and other conditions, more research is needed to fully understand how collagen supplements work.

man checking pill bottles
PeopleImages / Getty Images

Understanding Collagen and Hydrolyzed Collagen

A key protein produced in the body, collagen is found primarily in the skin, bones, cartilage, tendons, and teeth. It plays a critical role in the biological functions of cells in the body and is crucial to the development of organs, the healing of wounds and tissues, and the repair of bone, blood vessels, corneas, gums, and scalp.

With age, collagen production declines. Hydrolyzed collagen supplements are taken to help restore collagen that has been depleted.

Although collagen loss starts between the ages of 18 and 29, after age 40, the body can lose around 1% per year; at around age 80, collagen production can decrease 75% overall in comparison to that of young adults.

The collagen found in supplements can be extracted from several different animal sources, including cows and pigs, although these sources can present health issues, such as swine flu and bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Recent research has shown good properties of HC found in skin, scales, and bones of marine sources, such as fish, and invertebrates such as shellfish, jellyfish, or sponges. Alternative sources of HC that have shown great functionality include chicken legs and feet and a species of frog found in China and Mongolia.

Health Benefits of Hydrolyzed Collagen

Health benefits of collagen supplements have been reported, but there is more research on certain conditions than on others. Most research has focused on the following:

  • Skin anti-aging
  • Bone and joint health
  • Wound healing
  • Body composition

There is less research on the effects of collagen on weight loss, nail growth, heart health, and eye health.

Skin Health

Collagen makes up around 80% of our skin, the largest organ in the body, which protects us from external damage, regulates temperature, and performs other critical bodily functions. As we age, however, collagen in the skin’s inner layer becomes depleted, leading to dryness, loss of elasticity, as well as lines and wrinkles.

Recent studies have shown oral HC supplements to be effective in slowing down aging of the skin.

In 2017, Genovese et al examined 120 healthy subjects who ingested 50 mL of a nutricosmetic formulation containing HC, or 50 mL of placebo. An analysis revealed that the nutricosmetic formulation produced an improvement in the structure and stratification of the epidermal layers.

The structure of collagen fibers within the dermis was also improved. In a post-study questionnaire, 95% of the subjects agreed that their skin was more hydrated, more elastic (91.6%), stronger (81.7%), and thicker (91.7%).

An eight-week study of 114 healthy female patients showed that consumption of collagen demonstrated a significant reduction in eye wrinkles compared with placebo. Subjects also showed an increase in procollagen type 1 (65%) and elastin content (18%).

Finally, a 12-week study that included 106 White females demonstrated that oral consumption of collagen derived from fish led to a significant 8.83% increase in collagen density versus 0% with placebo, and a 31.2% reduction of collagen fragmentation versus increased fragmentation with placebo.

While these studies offer some promising results, the use of collagen supplements in dermatology has been controversial, due to the lack of large-scale randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Furthermore, those who use collagen-based products for dermatologic purposes often have unrealistic expectations about results.

Joint and Bone Health

To date, there are more than 60 studies about HC efficacy on reducing collagen damage, joint pain and erosion (osteoarthritis), and bone density loss (osteoporosis). These results, as well as a high level of tolerance and safety, make taking HC attractive for long-term use in bone and joint degenerative diseases.

Recent findings include a study of 51 postmenopausal women with osteopenia (bone loss) that found that the addition of HCs to calcium and vitamin D supplements may enhance bone metabolism.

In another study of 250 subjects with osteoarthritis of the knee, participants were given 10 grams of HC daily for six months. At the completion of the study, there was a significant improvement in knee joint comfort, based on both visual analog and pain scale assessments. Subjects with the greatest joint deterioration benefited the most.

Wound Treatment

Recent findings show that HC-based supplements could significantly improve wound healing and circulating prealbumin, and clinically reduce time spent in the hospital for burn patients. Low prealbumin found in burn patients at admission is predictive of longer length of hospital stay.

In a 2019 pilot clinical trial, 31 adult men with 20% to 30% burns over their total body surface area were randomly assigned to receive either a collagen-based supplement or placebo for four weeks.

Serum prealbumin, rate of wound healing, and length of hospital stay were assessed at baseline, and at the end of weeks 2 and 4. Researchers found that serum prealbumin was significantly higher at week 2 and week 4 in the collagen group compared to the control group.

Changes in pre-albumin concentration were also significantly higher in the collagen group at week 2 and week 4. Hospital stay was clinically, but not statistically, lower in the collagen group compared to the control group.

 Another investigation tested the effect of collagen supplementation on the treatment of pressure ulcers (stages II and IV) in 89 long-term care residents. Patients treated with collagen demonstrated statistically significant wound healing, as measured by the pressure ulcer scale for healing (PUSH) compared with placebo (score of 3.55±4.66 vs 3.22±4.11).

Body Composition

Although there are few studies conducted on humans about the effects of collagen peptides on body fat reduction, early results show promise.

A 2019 Korean study investigated the efficacy and tolerability of skate skin collagen peptides (SCP) on the reduction of body fat in overweight adults. Ninety healthy volunteers with a mean body mass index (BMI) of 25.6 ± 1.9 kg/m² were assigned to the intervention group, which received 2000 mg of SCP per day, or to the control group given placebo for 12 weeks; 81 (90%) participants completed the study.

Changes in body fat were evaluated using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. At the end of the trial, the percentage of body fat and body fat mass in the intervention group were found to be significantly better than those of subjects in the control group. SCP was well tolerated and no notable adverse effect was reported from either group.

 A second study also showed positive results. In a cohort of 77 premenopausal women, resistance training, in combination with collagen supplementation, induced a significantly higher increase in fat-free mass and hand-grip strength than resistance training paired with placebo supplementation.

In addition, there was a significantly higher loss in fat mass and a more pronounced increase in leg strength in the treatment group compared to the control group.

Side Effects and Precautions

HC’s high level of safety makes it attractive as an agent for long-term use. Still, some people may experience side effects, such as mild digestive issues.

Certainly, those allergic to fish or shellfish should avoid any products containing these ingredients. They are also not suitable for vegetarians or vegans since they contain animal by-products.

In addition, the FDA has issued warning letters to cosmetic companies that make unproven claims about their products or classify them as drugs, not cosmetics. These letters state that the products are being marketed as with drug claims, indicating they are intended to treat or prevent disease, or change the body’s structure or functions.

These have included claims that certain products increase the production of collagen and elastin, resulting in skin that is more elastic and firmer, with fewer wrinkles.

Consumers should always check with their healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen.

Finally, collagen supplements have not been tested for safety. This includes specific populations such as pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications.

Administration and Dosages

In most cases, collagen supplements are ingested orally, as a tablet, capsule, or in powder form. HC is frequently used as an ingredient in food supplements as well, as it has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. It can also be consumed by eating bone broth or pork skin.

Depending on the condition being treated, recommended dosages can vary, from 2.5 grams to 30 grams per day.

It’s important to note that not all collagen supplements are created equal. That is, many over-the-counter HC supplements contain other ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, vitamins, and minerals, which can complicate figuring out the correct dosage for a specific condition.

A Word From Verywell

Collagen plays key roles in the body. People make less of it as they age, leading some to take collagen supplements to replace it. This has created a large market for hydrolyzed collagen supplements derived from cows, pigs, chickens, and marine animals. Although some studies involving collagen’s effect on skin, bones and joints, and wound healing have been promising, more research needs to be done.

Was this page helpful?
Article 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.
  1. Aguirre-Cruz G, León-López A, Cruz-Gómez V, Jiménez-Alvarado R, Aguirre-Álvarez G. Collagen hydrolysates for skin protection: Oral administration and topical formulationAntioxidants (Basel). 2020;9(2):181. doi:10.3390/antiox9020181

  2. Miyab KB, Alipoor E, Vaghardoost R, et al. The effect of a hydrolyzed collagen-based supplement on wound healing in patients with burn: A randomized double-blind pilot clinical trial. [Published online ahead of print December 16, 2019]. Burns. doi:10.10106/j.burns.2019.02.015

  3. Lupu M-H, Pircalabioru GG, Chifiriuc M-C, Albulescu R, Tanase C. Beneficial effects of food supplements based on hydrolyzed collagen for skin care (Review). [Published ahead of print December 17, 2019]. Exp Ther Med. doi:10.3892/etm.2019.8342.

  4. Varani J, Dame MK, Rittie L, Fligiel SE, Kang S, Fisher GJ, Voorhees JJ. Decreased collagen production in chronologically aged skin: roles of age-dependent alteration in fibroblast function and defective mechanical stimulation. Am J Pathol. 2006;168(6):1861-8. doi:10.2353/ajpath.2006.051302

  5. León-López A, Morales-Peñaloza A, Martínez-Juárez VM, Vargas-Torres A, Zeugolis DI, Aguirre-Álvarez G. Hydrolyzed collagen—sources and applications. Molecules. 2019;24(22):4031. doi:10.3390/molecules24224031

  6. Genovese L, Corbo A, Sibilla S. An insight into the changes in skin texture and properties following dietary intervention with a nutricosmeceutical containing a blend of collagen bioactive peptides and antioxidants. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2017;30(3):146-158. doi:10.1159/000464470

  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. doi:10.1159/000355523

  8. 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;14(4):291-301. doi:10.1111/jocd.12174

  9. Juher TF, Pérez EB. An overview of the beneficial effects of hydrolysed collagen intake on joint and bone health and on skin ageing. Nutr Hosp. 2015;32 Suppl 1:62-66. doi:10.3305/nh.2015.32.sup1.9482

  10. Argyrou C, Karlafi E, Lampropoulou-Adamidou K, et al. Effect of calcium and vitamin D supplementastion with and without collagen peptides on bone turnover in postmenopausal women with osteopenia. J Musculoskelet Neuronal Interact. 2020;20(1):12-17. PMIC:32131366.

  11. Benito-Ruiz P, Camacho-Zambrano M, Carrillo-Arcentales JN, et al. A randomized controlled trial on the efficacy and safety of a food ingredient, collagen hydrolysate, for improving joint comfort. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2009;60 Suppl 2:99-113. doi:10.1080/09637480802498820

  12. Sugihara F, Inoue N, Venkateswarathirukumara S. Ingestion of bioactive collagen hydrolysates enhanced pressure ulcer healing in a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical studySci Rep. 2018;8(1):11403. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-29831-7

  13. Tak YJ, Kim YJ, Lee JG, et al. Effect of oral ingestion of low-molecular collagen peptides derived from skate (raja kenojei) skin on body fat in overweight adults: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Mar Drugs. 2019;17(3). pii: E157. doi:10.3390/md17030157

  14. 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 trialNutrients. 2019;11(4):892. doi:10.3390/nu11040892

  15. U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). Are some cosmetics promising too much? Updated March 23, 2015.

  16. Choi FD. Sung CT, Juhasz MLW, Mesinkovska NA. Oral collagen supplementation: A systematic review of dermatological applications. J Drugs Dermatol. 2019;18(1):9-16. PMID:30681787.