Sounds like good stuff, right? Except, of course, as we age, our bodies ability to produce collagen depletes. And, when our bodies are low on collagen, “it is used for more essential repairs such as muscle building,” says Lisa, which means our complexions don’t get much of a look-in.
Collagen. It’s the bouncy protein that makes up the main scaffolding of our skin. It’s what gives our skin strength and elasticity and it’s responsible for making our complexions look smooth, youthful, plump and supple. Essential stuff.
It doesn’t stop at our complexions. “Collagen is basically the ingredient that holds everything together in the body,” explains Lisa Borg, nutritionist at Pulse Light Clinic. It’s essential for keeping our bones strong. “It supports joints and tendons and it strengthens hair, teeth and nails,” says Lisa.
Our face creams can help, but they may have limitations, since collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed by our skin in their raw form. “They can however help to give the appearance of plumper skin while in place,” says Lisa.
To really make a difference, look out for hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides, “these are small enough to penetrate the skin and get to the deeper layers of the dermis. So if you are using skincare ingredients that contain collagen, they will need to get to this level to have any impact,” explains dermatologist, Dr Elif Benar.
So where does that leave us? “By far the best way to top up our collagen levels is to consume foods high in collagen [high protein foods like beef, eggs, chicken, and fish] or to supplement with high quality collagen capsules or powders that can be added to liquid based foods like soups and stews,” says Lisa.
Here’s everything you need to know about collagen supplements…
Is there any proof collagen supplement can improve the appearance of our skin?
The answer is yes. “Several studies have shown that collagen peptides or supplements containing collagen may help to slow the ageing of your skin by reducing wrinkles and dryness, they also show a significant increase in skin elasticity.” says Dr Elif. “Clinical trials I have reviewed in relation to collagen hydrolycate supplementation revealed a statistical significant increase in skin elasticity and improvements in skin moisture with a reduction in fluid loss with no side effects,” agrees Lisa. And they can have secondary benefits. “Taking collagen supplements may promote the production of other proteins that help structure your skin, including elastin and fibrin,” says Dr Elif. “One study revealed that daily oral supplementation with fish collagen resulted in a significant improvement in skin elasticity and improved skin hydration.”
Can it help elsewhere? Hair, nails, vision etc?
“Taking collagen may increase the strength of your nails by preventing brittleness,” says Dr Elif. “Additionally, it may stimulate your hair and nails to grow longer. Taking collagen may promote the synthesis of muscle proteins like creatine, as well as stimulate muscle growth after exercise.”
Is there more than one type of collagen, what should we be looking for?
“Twenty-nine different types of collagen have been identified, but the vast majority of collagen in the human body is type one, two, or three,” says Dr Elif. “Collagen type one is by far the most common and is largely responsible for skin’s elasticity and strength. Collagen type two is primarily distributed in cartilage, and collagen type three is prevalent in skin, blood vessels, and internal organs,” he adds. “The type needed depends on the health goal, but in the case of beauty, you’re best seeking type one and three,” advises Lisa.
Where does the collagen in collagen supplements come from?
“Supplements vary in their source and type: Bovine collagen supplements [from cattle] are the most common and consist of collagen types one and three; these are popularly promoted for hair, skin, and nail health. Collagen sourced from fish, which is growing in popularity, contains primarily type one collagen,” says Dr Elif. But, you can get them from egg shells, and vitamin C too. “Not all collagen supplements are created equal, and for some folk one source may be excluded from the diet for religious or cultural reasons, so it is best to check the source before purchase,” says Lisa.
Is there an optimal form to take a collagen supplement?
“Most collagen supplements have undergone the process of hydrolization, which means the manufacturer has broken the collagen down into peptides so the body can absorb and use it.,” says Dr Elif. “Collagen supplements are available as powder, tablets, pills and liquid. Choosing between collagen supplement type is a matter of personal choice. There is no significant difference between them regarding efficacy,” he adds. Instead, which form you choose should be based on what works for your lifestyle.
“For the busy person who rarely prepares their own food capsules would be best,” says Lisa. “However, I would suggest that a powder form is most flexibly used because it can be added to many different food types or taken mixed with water or juice. Powder can be used in homemade jams, smoothies, and baked products; it can even be mixed with water or juice for a quick collagen ‘shot’.” Bone broth (which is high in collagen) can also come in powder form if you don’t have the time to make it yourself at home. “The takeaway message here should be to choose a form that you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle because the benefits are dependent on a regular intake.”
Is there an optimal amount we should be taking?
This depends on how depleted your collagen reserves are, your age and other environmental factors, but in general, Lisa advises a dose of 2.5-5 grams daily.
Are there any you would recommend?
“I only recommend those from reputable sellers who do not use preservatives, additives or fillers,” says Lisa. Basically, buying off random sites on the internet is a bad move. Stick to places like Boots, Holland Barrett, Cult Beauty, Look Fantastic and Feel Unique. And make sure you read through the ingredients list – fillers to avoid include carrageenan and titanium dioxide.
Anything else we should be looking out for?
“If you suffer with a diagnosed medical condition you should check with your GP before embarking on a self-prescribed supplement programme,” says Lisa. “Lastly, results differ between individuals, but I would suggest a minimum of eight weeks to really know if it is working for you.”