Creams, serums, moisturizers, and lotions all seem to have one ingredient in common as of late: collagen. It has quickly become the most pervasive ingredient to hit the market since retinol became popular in the ‘80s.
We see collagen in supplements and topical collagen in tons of beauty products. But does it actually improve the look of your skin? Does it matter whether you take it as a supplement or put it on your skin? Will you get the same results?
Let’s look deeper into what collagen actually is, what it does, and if any of the products are worth your money.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein found in your skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, internal organs, and blood vessels. Responsible for elasticity and strength throughout your body, collagen is integral for a healthy body. Four amino acids make up the protein.
Some foods are important for the formation of collagen, particularly leafy greens, fruits, legumes, and lean protein. According to the Mayo Clinic, “You need to have enough vitamin C, zinc, copper, and manganese in your diet” for collagen to form.
As we age, our bodies stop producing as much collagen. Consequently, skin loses its elasticity, bones become more brittle, and joints start to hurt more. Sun damage, smoking, and consumption of heavily processed foods can also negatively impact collagen production in our bodies.
While the best source of collagen is through our diet, there are numerous sources of collagen on the market. Let’s take a look at the most common.
1. Topical Collagen
Will slathering on products packed with collagen really help build back the collagen we’ve lost in our skin?
The verdict is still out on that one. However, using products that promote collagen formation is something that can improve the condition of our skin.
It just so happens that retinol (ya know, from the ’80s) may actually help in the formation of collagen. According to Cedar-Siani, using products containing “retinol and tretinoin are scientifically proven to promote collagen formation.” So, certain creams can help the production of collagen, just not the ones touting it as the main ingredient.
2. Collagen Supplements
What about taking collagen internally?
There is more evidence that collagen supplements may improve skin elasticity and improve the loss of epidermal barrier function. Of course, many studies have used animals, particularly mice as their subjects. These studies have shown that even chronologically aged skin can benefit from these supplements.
Collagen supplements can be found in many forms. Typically pills or powders, collagen supplements are usually made with bovine or marine collagen. Any type of vegan or plant-based collagen supplement is actually just “collagen-boosting” and contains no actual collagen.
There is also anecdotal evidence that collagen supplements work.
Jennifer Aniston is very vocal about her use of the supplements. She uses Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Powder Supplement for her morning smoothies. She also adds some to her morning coffee on occasion, though some experts say adding collagen to hot beverages makes it less effective.
The Bottom Line
While more studies (particularly those with human subjects) are needed to conclude that collagen is effective as a skincare ingredient or supplement, the consensus is that it shouldn’t hurt. As long as the serums and supplements used are highly recommended and safe, you may see improvement using them.
Of course, there are some tried and true ways to boost collagen. The old standbys of eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and using sunscreen can help retain and even produce collagen. Specifically eating foods high in vitamin C, like oranges, kale, and strawberries are important for the production of collagen.