Americans spend $11 billion every year on face-lifts, Botox injections, and other cosmetic procedures, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. But these do nothing to help your body generate health-improving and beauty-supporting collagen.
What is collagen and why should you care? Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, and it's often considered the "glue" that holds the body together. Collagen fibers are major building blocks in skin, bone, joints (tendons and ligaments), and blood vessels (arteries and veins).
In terms of beauty benefits, collagen and "collagen booster" supplements have been shown to help to ward off wrinkles, improve skin's tone and texture, strengthen hair, and improve nail health, among other things. Supplements are thought to work by helping the body produce more of its own collagen. For example, vitamin C is one of the top collagen boosters-the formation of collagen is highly dependent on this key vitamin, and if you're deficient in vitamin C, your production of collagen is hindered. Silicon and hyaluronic acid (HA) are two additional supplements that help the body generate more of its own collagen.
Here are a few tips for getting the most out of collagen supplements and collagen boosters.
1. Beautiful Skin Needs Collagen
Collagen in the dermis gives the skin its flexible strength; elastin enables the skin to return to its original shape when tugged and twisted. Beautiful, wrinkle-free skin depends on healthy collagen production. Reduced collagen in the skin causes it to "cave in" and form wrinkles. Conversely, abundant collagen pushes skin "up and out," creating more youthful-looking skin.
2. Healthier Hair
Hair grows in follicles, tube-like structures that originate in the dermis of the skin. At the base of the follicle is the hair bulb, where hair formation cells produce new keratin. There is a portion of collagen-rich dermal tissue that's packed full of capillaries that project into the bottom of the bulb, providing nutrients to the cells and contributing to the health of the hair. So although hair is made from keratin, its health is highly dependent on having adequate collagen. And more collagen in the dermal tissue means greater blood flow to the hair, ensuring an abundant supply of growth-rich nutrients to the hair follicle.
3. Strong Nails
Brittle nails can be caused by a variety of issues, but sometimes people suffer from brittle nails simply because the nail matrix requires more collagen. The nail matrix produces cells that eventually become the nail plate. The size, length, and thickness of the matrix determine the size, length, and thickness of the nail plate. More collagen in the dermis means greater blood flow to the nail matrix, ensuring an abundant supply of growth-rich nutrients to the nail.
In one study involving BioSil, a proprietary complex featuring a bioavailable form of silicon, brittleness in the nails and hair decreased significantly in the BioSil group, whereas no significant change was observed for women in the placebo group.
Better Nutrition's Insider Supplement Tips on Collagen
We interviewed a few experts in the field of collagen and collagen boosters and here's what they had to say:
- Most forms of collagen sold in supplements are relatively the same, with slight variations in amino acid profiles. The most common forms used in supplements are types 1, 2, and 3. However, proprietary forms of collagen are different in that they contain a patented combination of nutrients. For example, BioCell Collagen is a blend of hydrolyzed collagen type 2, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronic acid.
- For optimal absorption, use 100% hydrolyzed collagen, not partially hydrolyzed. Non-hydrolyzed collagen can be effective as well, but appears to work in a different way than hydrolyzed forms. UC-II is a form of non-hydrolyzed collagen that has been clinically shown to improve joint health and joint mobility.
- It's often recommended to take collagen on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. However, researchers we spoke to believe collagen is equally effective when taken with food, and positive clinical studies support this.
- There are no known side effects of collagen, and it can be safely combined with other nutrients and drugs. One caveat: People on a low-protein diet for medical reasons (e.g., chronic kidney disease) may want to avoid collagen supplements or at least speak with their physicians before taking collagen.
- Use supplements that support your body's synthesis of collagen: Vitamin C, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, biotin, and silicon (e.g., BioSil).
- Nicole Brechka
Explore Your Collagen Options
There are many different ways to supplement with collagen. Here is a range of product examples:
Great Lakes Gelatin Co.
Collagen Hydrolysate (Beef)
Health Direct AminoSculpt Collagen Shots
Collagen Booster-Vitamin C:
FoodScience of Vermont Liposomal C
Natural Factors BioSil
NeoCell Beauty Bursts (Super Fruit Punch)
Collagen Booster with Multiple Nutrients:
Reserveage Nutrition Collagen Booster
Youtheory Collagen Advanced Formula
Portions of this article were excerpted with permission from Collagen: Myths & Misconceptions by Marita Schauch, ND.