It’s showing up in everything from drink mixes to eye creams, promising youthful skin, shiny hair, stronger nails, improved joint function, and healthy digestion. Now, many studies are showing the claims behind collagen are true.
Collagen, the most abundant protein in the human body, is responsible for regenerating and forming new tissue, and is a critical part of skin, hair, nails, joints, and bones. As we age, the skin’s collagen matrix starts to decline; collagen fibers break down and the rate of regeneration slows dramatically. This process can start as early as age 25; by age 40, collagen production generally decreases by 25 percent. By age 60, it has decreased by more than 50 percent. The result: sagging skin, fine lines and wrinkles, aching joints, and signs of arthritis.
Did you know...
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, found in the bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. Gram for gram, type I collagen is stronger than steel.
Supplementing with collagen has been shown in several studies to protect against bone and joint degenerative diseases and to fight skin aging. Studies show:
- People who took 3 grams of a collagen extract significantly improved their recovery after exercise.
- Collagen supplements reduced pain and decreased inflammation in people with osteoarthritis.
- Athletes who took 10 grams of collagen a day significantly improved joint pain, mobility, and inflammation.
- Skin elasticity was significantly higher in women who took 2.5 to 5 grams of collagen; skin moisture was also improved.
- Supplementing with 1 gram of a collagen extract led to a significant reduction of skin dryness and scaling, a lessening of lines and wrinkles, enhanced circulation, and a significant increase in collagen levels in the skin.
- Collagen supplementation was found to stimulate tissue regeneration, reduce and prevent joint pain, slow bone density loss, and lessen skin aging.
Types of Collagen
The type of collagen and the form in which it’s included in products are critical to its success. Up to 28 different kinds of collagen have been identified, but the vast majority fall into three categories, known as types 1, 2, and 3. Type 1 is found primarily in skin, bones, tendons, organs, and blood vessels; commonly found alongside type 3 collagen. Together, these two types make up about 90 percent of the body’s collagen. Type 2 collagen makes up about 60 percent of the protein found in cartilage.
When buying supplements, look for those that list what type of collagen they contain, and tailor your supplements to your needs. Type 1 and 3 collagens are used to support bones, improve nail strength, thicken hair and slow hair loss, minimize lines and wrinkles, and improve skin hydration, suppleness and elasticity. Type 2 is used to support joints,lower back function, stiff knees, and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
Type 1 and 3 can be taken together, but it’s best to take type 2 separately; taking them together can diminish their effects. If you’re using all three, space them out by several hours; for example, take type 2 in the morning, and types 1 and 3, which can be combined, in the evening—ideally at bedtime, on an empty stomach. Also, be sure to get the right dosage: studies suggest a range of 2 to 10 grams per day is effective, but higher doses aren’t harmful. Look for hydrolyzed collagen (also called collagen hydrolysate), a form that’s been broken down to make it easier to digest and absorb. Hydrolyzed collagen also dissolves easily in cold water, making it more convenient to take.
How to Choose Collagen
For the highest quality, choose collagen products made from organic and/or grass-fed cows or sustainably sourced seafood. Pure collagen should be colorless when mixed with water and virtually tasteless, unless you’re using a blend that includes flavors, extracts, or other ingredients. If it has a yellowish or brownish color, or an “off” taste, it’s likely lower in quality.
You’ll find collagen in powders, capsules, drink mixes, concentrated elixirs, gummies, and chewable tablets; choose the form that you think you’ll take most frequently. Some products may also contain vitamins A, C, or E, which help the body’s own production of collagen, and hyaluronic acid, a lubricating substance naturally produced by the body that helps retain collagen in joints and skin. Some blends also contain biotin and silica, which benefit hair and nails, or alpha lipoic acid, an antioxidant that also encourages collagen production.
Topical products like lotions, creams, and serums also contain collagen, usually in combination with ingredients like jojoba oil, aloe vera, green tea extract, and other moisturizing and healing ingredients. While the collagen molecule is too large to be
absorbed topically, it’s a good humectant, helping the skin to retain moisture. There’s also some evidence that the amino acids that make up collagen can encourage the body’s natural production of collagen.
Support healthy skin, hair, and nails
Made from organic plant foods Garden of Life mykind Organic Plant Collagen Builder vegan tablets contain silica from all-natural bamboo extract, which is a key co-nutrient for collagen production. Biotin supports healthy hair, skin, and nails.
Keep joints strong and healthy
NeoCell Collagen 2 Joint Complex is a naturally complete joint supplement that contains glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid, which are key for maintaining healthy joint function.
Protect skin from signs of aging
Reserveage Nutriton Ultra Collagen Booster contains BioCell Collagen and Dermaval, two ingredients that help support healthy skin and skin elasticity. Resveratrol, another ingredient, is believed to be one of the strongest protectors against aging and free-radical damage.