Recently I was going through my FB feed and up popped an advertisement for collagen supplements – a collagen cocktail to be exact. The seller (a makeup artist) was offering several products, collagen supplements being the main focus in this particular ad. Included were supportive before/after pics, a fun, well written, and quite convincing testimony. She told of the amazing anti-aging benefits she’s received with the supplements, then went on to say, no topical product previously used ever delivered results. Why? because topical skincare is incapable and simply does not work. (??) Yeah, that’s where she lost me…on the level of knowledge or sincerity anyway. However it did raise the question to me – Do collagen supplements work?
First, a little skin science 101: Collagen (the word is derived from the Greek kolla, which means “glue”) is the most abundant protein in the human body. The main component of connective tissue, it cements cells together and gives skin its structure and elasticity. Collagen is a fibrous scleroprotein of the connective tissues that provides support to all tissues and cells of the body including skin, hair, nails, bone, muscles, tendons, etc. Together with keratin and elastin, collagen maintains skin elasticity and makes it appear smooth, tight and supple. It also plays a crucial role in bone health and strengthens the blood vessels and cartilage.
The body naturally produces the collagen that it needs, but this production is gradually disrupted as part of the natural aging process. Collagen production begins to decline at a rate of about 1 percent a year in our mid-twenties and goes rapidly downhill in our forties and fifties, with the majority of women experiencing a 30 percent drop in the first few years post-menopause. Women produce less collagen than men, and a woman has naturally lost almost half of the collagen from her skin by the age of 50. The effects we see in the mirror? Dryness, sagginess, dullness, and loss of plumpness. – a bit depressing, I know.
Poor collagen levels also affect the bones, and this picture (above) shows how collagen loss affects facial shape in extreme age degeneration.
Collagen supplements, which come in the form of pills, injections or as liquid, promise to compensate the age-related reduction in collagen production.
When it comes to collagen supplements they have long been a full-fledged craze not only in China, but across Asia. Japanese pharmacy shelves are lined with fruit-flavored shots and ampoules hawking make-you-pretty promises; you can even buy collagen-infused marshmallows and quaff a new beer marketed to women, called Precious, that contains two grams of the stuff.
So, do collagen supplements actually work? After my curiosity was risen on the subject, I decided to do a bit of research, a lot actually. Here’s what I found… Some say yay, some say nay. – Yes, aggravating isn’t it?
For Skin: Collagen supplements claim to offer a range of benefits including;
- reducing wrinkles
- reversing age of skin
- tighter skin
- plumps up skin
- improves skin elasticity
- improves hydration
Research Claim: Two studies published Skin Pharmacology and Physiology find a daily regimen of a new type of collagen supplement improves skin elasticity and reduces wrinkles around the eyes by 20 percent after just eight weeks. Between the two studies, more than 200 women took Verisol, a collagen supplement that can be added to beauty vitamins and drinks to increase collagen in the skin. In the first study, 114 women between 45 and 65 took a daily oral dose and, after eight weeks, showed a 20 percent average decrease in wrinkle volume around the eye—and a reduction of nearly 50 percent in some subjects.
Four weeks after the women stopped their daily regimen, wrinkle volume was still 11.5 percent less than it was at the start, on average. The second study had 69 women in the same age group drink the substance dissolved in water for 8 weeks; the subjects older than 50 showed a significant improvement in skin elasticity, hydration, and skin roughness.
For Joint Problems: Collagen is believed to provide relief from stiffness and pain in joints. It facilitates faster healing of wounds and tears. People suffering from arthritis and osteoarthritis may benefit by taking collagen pills.
What Research Studies Reveal: People with arthritis and degenerative arthritis have been reported to benefit from these supplements. A significant reduction in joint pain and increased mobility has been experienced by many individuals after taking this supplements. These supplements are found to be effective in reducing joint inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Another important benefit is that they can strengthen the blood vessels and thereby improve circulation. Some studies carried out in animals have pointed out that these supplements can be useful in the treatment of osteoporosis as well. These studies, however, focus on a new type of ingestible collagen peptide that is more bioavailable—meaning, it’s more easily absorbed by the body. As a result, it may boost collagen in the skin’s deeper layers, where it helps reduce the look of wrinkles by plumping and firming the skin.
Bottom line: Collagen supplements are a point of debate among dermatologists and doctors because collagen is a protein that, when it enters your stomach, is largely broken down before ever making it to your skin. Most of the experts are of the opinion that collagen supplements may benefit those who suffer from joint problems, but regarding anti-aging are not effective, or better stated – more validation and more research is needed. Instead, derms typically recommend a topical collagen cream to help boost collagen and achieve the firm, springy skin of decades past.
What to look for: Not all collagen supplements are created equal. When looking for a collagen supplement here’s a few words to look for: hydrolyzed collagen, (hydrolyzed peptides are so tiny, they’re much more easily absorbed by the body), type 11, resveratrol, those containing hyaluronic acid, a collagen-booster that features bioavailable formula. There are products on the market that are less effective or ineffective, so my advice is to look for the ones that have studies supporting them. Two manufacturers with persuasive science: Verisol, and BioCell.
Final thoughts: I do think on the side of benefiting joints, there is definitely something to be said. When it pertains to the skin I’m optimistic, but not yet convinced. I agree, more research in the area is needed.
I did venture to the Vitamin Shoppe to pick up a bottle for myself – hopes are high. I’ve been taking 2 pills morning/night (the recommend dose for intensive use). It’s been a couple weeks now, and I’ve yet to notice benefits. To be fair, as stated it has only been a couple weeks. Also, I recently started a fantastic skincare regimen providing consistent results, so may be a bit difficult for me to differentiate benefits coming from collagen supplements vs my topical products. I’ll focus on changes in my hands, feet, etc. (some of the other areas I read sellers pitch on). I’m especially looking forward to circulation, and joint benefits.
If I do find that collagen supplements deliver, will I forgo my topical care in the future? Heck, no way! IMO, the supplements would only heighten the results of my current regimen. Besides, collagen production isn’t the only benefit one receives from using topical skincare products.
Due to the advertisement that prompted me to inquire about collagen supplements in the first place, I’ll definitely be writing on which topical ingredients DO in fact stimulate collagen production. True many do not, but fortunately, due to more recent scientific advancements in the area of skincare, many most certainly do…with concrete clinical trials to back – Not to mention, the proof is in the pudding, or should I say, on the face. – ha! 😉