Skip to content
Current Dispatch Times: Normal [Same Day Before 3pm EST]
Current Dispatch Times: Normal [Same Day Before 3pm EST]

Collagen Supplements are Marketed for Health, Beauty, and More - but Do They Work?

By now, you’ve heard about collagen supplements and the various applications for which they’re used. You probably have at least one friend who adds a collagen supplement to their coffee every morning and maybe another who claims collagen supplements are pointless.

When newer supplements reach this level of popularity, it’s natural to wonder if you’re missing out on something by not giving it a try. But if you’re a frequent reader of ours, you’ve (hopefully) been convinced to start a (quality) protein supplement. We recommend protein to just about everybody to help hit protein goals that you very likely don’t reach with food alone. Since collagen is a type of protein, you might wonder if you need collagen, too. So, let’s talk about everything you need to know about collagen, collagen supplements, and the best collagen for you.

 

Shop Collagen Supplements

 

What is Collagen?

You already know that collagen is a type of protein. In fact, it’s the most abundant form of protein in the body, accounting for about 30% of all protein. Collagen can be found in bones, skin, tendons, muscles, cartilage, hair, skin, and nails.

Structurally, collagen is a resilient fibre-like triple-helix, which allows for stretching and compressing. As with any protein, it’s composed of amino acids. Collagen is made of mainly glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. This unique combination is what separates collagen from other types of protein.

 

Types of Collagens

There are about 28 known types of collagens divided into groups based on their structure; however, each one of them contains at least one triple-helix. We have the most information on the five types found in the human body. They are:

Type I

found in tendons, bones, and organs. Type I collagen makes up about 90% of the total collagen in the human body.

Type II

found in cartilage.

Type III

found in the reticular fibre networks that create the supporting tissue of many internal organs, including the skin.

Type IV

found in the basement membrane of the cells.

Type V

found in the hair and nails.

 

Collagen’s Role in the Body

Beyond forming the structures of many body parts, collagen is important for healthy, functional, pain-free joints, the appearance of healthy, youthful skin, and the health and appearance of hair and nails.

There are several conditions resulting from inadequate or defective collagen in the body, including:

  • Alport syndrome
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Chondrodysplasias
  • Vitamin D deficiency

 

Sources of Collagen

In addition to various types, there is also endogenous collagen and exogenous collagen.

  • Endogenous Collagen – natural collagen produced by the body.
  • Exogenous Collagen – synthetic collagen from outside sources.

 

So, collagen from food and collagen supplements that humans consume is exogenous collagen. Exogenous collagen is found only in the animal kingdom, and while you can find “vegan” collagen supplements, these are products that contain ingredients that encourage the body’s endogenous collagen production and don’t include actual exogenous collagen.

 

Food Sources of Exogenous Collagen

We consume animal collagen anytime we consume these foods:

  • gelatin
  • bone broth
  • red meat
  • fish

 

Gelatin is created by boiling animal parts, including bones, skin, and cartilage, in water. Similarly, bone broth is made by simmering animal bones in a water and vinegar mixture for long periods.

Red meat, especially tough cuts of meat, is a good source of collagen. However, most experts agree that eating too much red meat is not recommended for your heart or overall health.

 

What is Collagen Loss?

One of the main reasons we start to look older as we age is that our bodies become less effective at producing quality protein. This is one of the main reasons collagen supplements have become so popular.

Collagen loss is the natural process by which the body produces less collagen as we age. In addition to producing less, the collagen that it does produce is typically of lower quality, meaning the collagen molecules are less structurally sound, flexible, and resilient.

 

Symptoms of Collagen Loss

The following symptoms can indicate collagen loss:

  • sagging skin
  • wrinkles
  • dry, dull skin
  • reduced epidermal thickness (thin skin)
  • reduced bone strength
  • joint pain
  • lifeless hair
  • tooth sensitivity and pain

 

Collagen loss happens naturally, but several factors can significantly increase and influence the process. These factors include:

  • smoking
  • excessive alcohol use
  • a diet high in processed foods
  • a diet high in added sugars
  • excessive sun and UV exposure

 

Preventing Collagen Loss as You Age

 

The easiest way to reduce natural collagen loss is to ensure you’re living a healthy lifestyle. While “healthy” is certainly subjective, in this case, we’re talking about things that most people would consider to be healthful.

 

7 Lifestyle Tips to Prevent Collagen Loss:

  • quitting smoking
  • reducing alcohol use
  • eating a balanced diet
  • protecting your skin from the sun
  • using quality skincare
  • getting enough sleep
  • controlling stress

 

In addition to these changes you can make, the next best thing to prevent collagen loss and restore your collagen production is to ensure you’re eating foods that encourage your body’s natural endogenous collagen production. We will discuss how you can do this later. Additionally, you can take a high-quality collagen supplement.

 

The Best Collagen Supplements to Prevent Collagen Loss

You might be thinking, wait just a minute, don’t you always suggest food first? Wow, yes, thanks for remembering! We do typically suggest that using supplements should come after you’ve unsuccessfully attempted to modify your diet to include the nutrients you’re lacking. There are very few exceptions to this rule, but collagen supplements make that list.

The reason is that, unfortunately, eating foods with collagen doesn’t necessarily prevent collagen loss, nor does the body take those collagen molecules and plop them into your skin and bones or wherever else you need them. When we consume meat and other animal products, the collagen is broken down the way any other protein is broken down—into amino acids. So, research doesn’t support the idea that consuming animal collagen foods benefits the skin or joint health directly.

 

What are Collagen Supplements?

There are two kinds of collagen supplements on the market. They are:

  • supplements that encourage the body’s natural collagen production and contain no actual collagen
  • supplements that contain collagen derived from animal sources

 

Here, we’re specifically focusing on the best collagen supplements that contain collagen itself. There are many sources, including:

  • bovine (cow) collagen supplements
  • poultry (chicken) collagen supplements
  • marine (fish) collagen supplements

 

This is the part that might turn some of our more squeamish readers off. The best collagen supplements are not sourced from the typical parts of animals we’re used to consuming, like muscles and even some organs.

Instead, collagen supplements are sourced from less desirable yet collagen-rich parts, including:

  • hide/skin
  • tendons
  • bones
  • cartilage
  • eggshell membranes (poultry collagen supplements)
  • scales (marine collagen supplements)

 

Types of Collagens in Various Sources

Each of these collagen sources has a different profile of the types of collagens. As a result, they also influence collagen production in our bodies differently.

  • Bovine collagen has been shown to increase collagen types I and III
  • Marine collagen and poultry collagen increase types I and II

 

We learned above that type I collagen forms mainly tendons and bones, type II forms mostly cartilage, and type III forms the supporting tissues of organs like the skin.

 

How are the Best Collagen Supplements Made?

The best collagen supplements are made from healthy animals. First, the skin, tendons, bones, cartilage, or scales mentioned above are cleaned with an alkaline sodium hydroxide mixture to remove any remaining fat.

Next, the animal parts are soaked in an acidic vinegar mixture heated to 88 degrees Celsius. This process allows the intact collagen molecules to be released.

Lastly, various techniques are used to create a smooth, odorless, tasteless collagen powder or liquid collagen supplement.

 

Different Types of the Best Collagen Supplements

As with many supplements, the best collagen supplements are available in various forms, including liquid collagen, collagen powder, and topical creams.

 

Liquid Collagen Supplements

Liquid collagen supplements are in ready-to-drink liquid form. But the differences between the various types of collagen supplements go beyond this.

Liquid collagen supplements are more commonly made of marine collagen. Marine collagen has its benefits. As we mentioned before, it influences collagen types I and II. But it’s important to understand that their types differ from that of bovine collagen, which works in different ways.

Typically, liquid collagen supplements contain lower collagen doses per serving compared to collagen powder. While there is no recommended dosage for collagen supplements, most research suggests that anywhere between 10-20 grams are ideal. Liquid collagen supplements typically fall on the lower end of that range.

Lastly, liquid collagen is more often marketed and packaged as the ready-to-drink, grab-and-go option. This means, often, the liquid collagen supplement comes along with added sweeteners to make the drink enjoyable and typically has a longer list of ingredients.

 

Shop Liquid Collagen Supplements

 

Collagen Powder Supplements

Collagen powder typically comes in a flavourless powder that effortlessly mixes into any beverage. Collagen powders typically have higher doses, averaging at about 15 grams per serving.

Additionally, collagen powders are more often sourced from cows, which, again, have a different profile.

While liquid collagen may be more convenient in a grab-and-go sense, other people might find collagen powder to be easier, given it can be easily added to any beverage without disturbing the expected taste.

 

Shop Collagen Powder Supplements

 

Topical Collagen

Lastly, topical collagen creams and gels are used and marketed in different ways from liquid collagen and collagen powders. Topical creams are sold as beauty products to enhance the appearance of the hair and skin by simply using a moisturizer or serum.

Unfortunately, topical collagen creams are pretty much just hype as science proves time and time again that collagen molecules are much too large to be absorbed directly through the skin. So, if you’re trying to affect your collagen levels, you need to stick with liquid collagen or collagen powder supplements.

 

The Benefits of the Best Collagen Supplements

Now that we’ve discussed the types of supplements and how they’re made, let’s talk about the benefits of the very best collagen supplements.

 

Collagen Supplements Benefit Skin Health and Appearance

One of the more popular reasons people have been reaching for collagen supplements is to support their appearance. Research shows that using a collagen supplement improved skin’s hydration, elasticity, and appearance of wrinkles compared to a placebo.

 

Collagen Supplements Support Bone Health

Impressively, collagen supplements have also been shown to support bone health. For example, in people at risk for osteoporosis (mainly older women), studies found that using a quality supplement led to a significant increase in bone mineral density.

 

Joint Pain Reduced by Collagen Supplementation

Aside from our skin, another place it’s easy to notice collagen loss is our joints. Not for the appearance but for the way they feel. Our joints are constructed from cartilage and tendons, and as the body’s ability to create collagen decreases, those structures begin to break down. This leads to joint pain and stiffness.

Research shows that both the aging population and active individuals benefit from collagen supplements in pain reduction and joint integrity.

 

Collagen Supplementation to Support Gut Health

One of the lesser-known benefits of collagen supplementation is the support of gut health. This is because collagen actually plays vital roles in the digestive system, including:

  • regulating gastric juices
  • healing the lining of the stomach
  • protecting against inflammatory bowel disease

 

Supplementing with collagen is known to raise collagen levels in the body, contributing to more optimal collagen levels in the digestive tract. This supports overall digestive health.

 

Collagen Supplements for Athletic Performance

Lastly, we mentioned collagen supplementation is popular with active individuals thanks to pain reduction in joints; however, there are more reasons to use collagen supplements when you’re athletic. The reasons are three-fold:

 

Collagen Supplements Support Faster Injury Recovery

Research shows that supplementation enhances the body’s recovery from traumatic injuries and wounds, including muscle injuries and burns.

Unfortunately, the more active you are, the more you risk injuries. But supplementing with collagen means you’ll be out for less time.

 

Collagen Supplements Promote Better Quality Sleep

We always talk about rest being one of the most overlooked pieces of the fitness puzzle. If you’re eating well and exercising like crazy, you likely still won’t see the results you’d like if your rest and recovery are subpar.

Consuming collagen before bed might help promote more restful sleep thanks to glycine, one of collagen’s main amino acids. Glycine supports less fatigue, better mental clarity, and improves how fast and how deeply you sleep.

 

Collagen Supplements Support Increased Muscles Mass

The cherry on top is that collagen supplementation has been shown to improve the body composition (reduce body fat and increase lean muscle mass) of active men when combined with resistance training.

 

Who Can Benefit Most from Collagen Supplements?

With all those benefits mentioned, it’s safe to say there are a lot of folks who could benefit from using the best collagen on the market. However, the following people would benefit the most, and we strongly recommend:

  • Incorporating collagen powder if you have arthritis or suffer from joint pain.
  • Using collagen powder if you’re aging (about 45 or so).
  • Using collagen powder with your protein powder if you’re athletic or active.
  • Investing in the best collagen powder if you want to support the appearance of your hair, skin, and nails.
  • Prioritizing collagen powder if you’re injured or having surgery.

 

All of the individuals mentioned fall into a category of people we say would benefit the most from consistently using one of the best collagen powders on the market.

 

Which is the Best Collagen Supplement?

We can easily take topical collagen gels, creams, and serums off the list when we begin to discuss the best collagen supplements. However, it gets more complex when we’ve narrowed it down to just liquid collagen versus collagen powder.

Often, when we’re asked what version of a specific supplement is the best, our answer usually is: it depends. It depends on your unique preferences and what you’re looking to get from the supplement. So, instead of a one-size-fits-all answer, let’s talk about the best collagen supplement for you.

 

The Best Collagen Supplement for You

We can determine the best collagen powder for you by starting with your goal and working backward. Once we understand your goal, we can determine the best types of collagens to achieve that goal and therefore choose the source that will work best: bovine, poultry, or marine. From there, it’s easy to recommend the best collagen powder for you.

First, though, we should mention if you’re a pescatarian and eat only seafood, marine collagen may be the best collagen for you regardless of your goals. This is because the collagen powder will fall in line with your dietary restrictions. Additionally, all collagen powders will provide the micro-ingredients to influence your body’s collagen production all over, even if it’s mostly influencing the kinds you’re not particularly interested in.

 

The Best Collagen Powder for Bone and Joint Health or Injury Recovery

Studies show that type II collagen benefits joint health the most while collagen supplementation, in general, supports bone density levels. That being said, look for a marine or poultry collagen powder that contains type II collagen.

 

We recommend: SD Pharmaceuticals Sport Collagen Powder

This collagen powder uniquely combines sources to provide types I, II, and III. The formula is hydrolyzed for better bioavailability. Sport Collagen Powder also includes vitamin C, zinc, BCAAs, and L-tryptophan to support the recovery process, whether it’s after a workout or after an injury.

 

The Best Collagen Powder to Support Hair, Skin, and Nail Appearance

Collagen types I and III are best for supporting a youthful appearance, which means bovine collagen powder is the better option here.

 

We recommend: Allmax Collagen Powder

Allmax is one of our favourite supplement brands because it’s always at the forefront of innovation in its products, and the company’s collagen powder is no exception. Allmax’s collagen powder comes from grass-fed and pasture-raised cows and is combined with biotin and vitamin C for better beauty support. Additionally, the collagen powder is hydrolyzed, which is important for better absorption.

 

The Best Collagen Powder for Gut Health

As with joint health, type II collagen is best for supporting gut health and combatting leaky gut. As such, marine or poultry collagen powder works best when this is your main goal.


We recommend: Yummy Sports Marine Collagen Powder

Yummy Sports is an up-and-coming supplement company with products that live up to the yummy name. This collagen powder is unique because it’s flavoured—most other options are flavourless. In addition, it contains hydrolyzed collagen and hyaluronic acid, which help better support skin and hydration health.

 

The Best Collagen Powder Athletic Performance and Fitness Results

When you’re looking for more support for your active lifestyle, a collagen powder that combines the three main types might be the most beneficial. When you combine sources and types I, II, and III collagen, you’re ensuring support to your bones, muscles, joints, recovery process, and more.

 

We recommend: the SD Pharmaceuticals Sport Collagen Powder mentioned above or Mammoth Super7 Collagen Powder

Super 7 combines bovine collagen with marine collagen to provide a collagen profile that includes three types of collagens. Additionally, this collagen powder includes vitamin C, biotin, zinc, L-tryptophan, hyaluronic acid, elderberry, bromelain, and coenzymeQ10. This unique formula enhances recovery and boosts immune function, and is designed specifically for athletes.

 

Why Should You Try Collagen Supplements?

It’s probably obvious why we feel you should give collagen supplements a try.

So, to sum up, collagen powder can help:

  • improve your athletic performance and recovery
  • support healing after injury or surgery
  • improve the health and appearance of your skin, hair, and nails
  • improve digestion
  • reduce joint pain
  • support bone density in populations otherwise vulnerable to bone loss

 

Beyond that, collagen makes up a massive portion of the protein in your body, virtually creating the structures of all organs. So as time goes on, it wouldn’t be surprising if research proves there are even more benefits to using the best collagen supplements.

 

Risks of Using Collagen Supplements

As with all things, using collagen supplements does come with some risks. Additionally, most of these risks can be minimized by choosing a reputable supplement brand known for quality products you can trust.

As always, look for supplements that are third-party tested, informed-choice certified, and GMP certified. In this way, you’re eliminating the biggest risk experts pose about collagen supplements—not knowing what’s inside the product or risking these potentially dangerous animal parts taken from unhealthy, mistreated animals.

 

Side Effects from Collagen Supplements

There are some side effects you should know about when you begin using a collagen supplement, including:

  • risk of an allergic reaction
  • increased risk of kidney stones, especially if you have a history of stones
  • risk of hypercalcemia

 

Lastly, collagen use might negatively impact your mood because it can decrease tryptophan, leading to lower serotonin levels.

 

Is it Better to Use a Collagen Supplement or a Protein Supplement?

If you have an either-or type of dilemma, complete protein sources should always be prioritized. This is true for amino acid supplements and collagen powders alike. You always want to ensure your body gets the protein it requires to support your body.

Incomplete proteins, like amino acid supplements and collagen powders, don’t do the body any good if they do not have appropriate amounts of all nine essential amino acids that make up a complete protein. The additional amino acids provided from these supplements can only do their jobs after that initial threshold is met.

So, while we love collagen supplements (and amino acid supplements) in addition to protein supplements, they shouldn’t be prioritized over something that will help you meet your overall protein goal. But, if you’re looking for extra support for your athletic performance, gains, beauty support, digestive health, or recovery, don’t sleep on these additions.

 

Shop Protein Supplements

 

Other Ways to Increase the Body’s Natural Collagen Production

If you’re not sold on supplementing collagen or your lifestyle doesn’t allow for it (we see you, vegans and vegetarians), there are other ways to help increase the collagen in your body. It’s important to consider how collagen is naturally synthesized to understand how. Please, keep in mind that this is a complex process that we’ve significantly simplified.

 

Collagen Synthesis

  1. When we consume protein foods, they’re broken down into amino acids. The cells then use proline and glycine to create and secrete procollagen. This process also requires vitamin C and copper.
  2. Procollagen is then synthesized into collagen when it combines with any other amino acids with the exception of proline and glycine.
  3. The structure is a triple-helix (three chains twisting around one another). Each of the chains is comprised of 1,050 amino acids held together by hydrogen atoms. The amino acid glycine accounts for the middle of the triple-helix. The strands of collagen fibres combine to create sturdy, striated horizontal sheets. The complex structure is what gives collagen the unique strength and flexibility required for the body.

 

This process happens naturally, but as we mentioned when we talked about collagen loss, the body becomes less effective at synthesizing collagen as we age, and the quality doesn’t compare to that of a younger person. This collagen loss is responsible for much of the natural aging process, including:

  • sagging skin
  • wrinkles
  • decreased joint health

 

Luckily, eating foods with exogenous collagen is not the only way to encourage collagen production. By consuming foods that contain the main amino acids and other micronutrients necessary for the production process, we can actually encourage the body’s natural endogenous collagen production. So, vegetarians and vegans can get similar results by ensuring their diets are rich in the following macro and micronutrients:

 

Protein

The single best thing you can do for your collagen production is to ensure you’re consuming enough total protein. Food should always be your first choice, so consider adding any of the following to your diet:

  • dairy
  • tofu
  • legumes
  • meat and poultry
  • seafood

 

You should aim for approximately 1-2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. This is a lot of protein, and most people don’t hit that with food alone, which is why we encourage people to add a high-quality protein supplement to their daily nutrition, like:

 

Glycine

As previously mentioned, glycine is an amino acid critical to the production of collagen, and it’s a main component of the structure. Glycine is a nonessential amino acid, which means the body uses other amino acids to create glycine.

However, we can also consume glycine to ensure the body has enough for all the collagen production.

Foods rich in glycine include:

  • gelatin
  • cabbage
  • bone broth
  • animal skin
  • thick cuts of meat (like chuck)
  • seaweed
  • dairy
  • asparagus
  • spinach
  • legumes
  • seafood

 

Proline

Proline is what’s known as a secondary amino acid or an amino acid that contains a secondary amine group. Like glycine, it is nonessential, meaning the body synthesizes proline on its own.

As with glycine, consuming foods rich in proline can ensure your body has the proper micronutrients to produce collagen (though plant sources don’t provide nearly as much as animal products).

So, try to incorporate any of the following foods into your diet:

  • bone broth
  • poultry and meats
  • organ meats
  • wild-caught fish
  • gelatin
  • egg yolks
  • cabbage
  • asparagus
  • peanuts
  • beans

 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a nutrient you’re probably familiar with. It’s beneficial in many ways, including immune function, antioxidant support, and more.

Vitamin C is critical to the collagen production process, so including many vitamin C-containing foods can help.

Common foods rich in vitamin C include:

  • kiwi
  • strawberries
  • citrus
  • tomatoes
  • bell peppers
  • cruciferous vegetables

 

Copper

Lastly, copper is a micronutrient involved in several cellular functions in the body. As with vitamin C, it’s a supporting micronutrient in the collagen synthesis process, and the body cannot make it on its own. That means ensuring your diet contains copper is essential.

Add any of these foods to your diet for copper:

  • dark chocolate
  • lobster
  • oysters
  • liver
  • leafy greens
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • spirulina
  • nuts and seeds

Conveniently, most of these micronutrients are available in supplement form, so if the foods listed above aren’t readily available, you still have options.

Collagen is critical to our health, and an unfortunate piece of getting older is less natural collagen production. Luckily, there are quick and easy options for anyone to protect their existing collagen and help their body produce more, including collagen powder and liquid supplements and knowing the right foods to eat.

Previous article 7 Reasons You Need N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) Supplements
Next article The B Vitamin That Brings Its A Game