Headlines such as “Want Glowing Skin? Try Collagen” dominate Google search results for the term collagen. Friends and The Morning Show actress Jennifer Aniston told lifestyle news site Well+Good she tries to drink a collagen peptide-filled shake for breakfast each morning. Other celebrities, such as Kourtney Kardashian and Gwenyth Paltrow, consistently swear by the ingestible collagen powders and drinks they promote on their respective health and wellness websites, Poosh and Goop

So, with all of this talk about collagen, it’s no surprise Grand View Research, a U.S.-based market research and consulting firm, projects the global collagen market will grow from $4.27 billion in 2018 to $6.63 billion by 2025. 

Does that mean topical and digestive collagen really work? Influencers and celebrities have been known to endorse products they may not actually use, and available collagen studies have been small and uncontrolled, leaving results untrustworthy, at best. Dermatologists and other physicians point to collagen’s poor biosorption, externally and internally. 

Yet before discussing why topical and digestive collagen might not be truly effective, it’s important to know what collagen is, as well as the different types. 

Collagen, which usually has a triple helix shape, is a structural protein found in all mammals. With more than 20 different types, it makes up about one-third of proteins present in the human body. The word collagen comes from the Greek word kólla, which means glue—fitting for a protein found in most connective tissues, such as cartilage, skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels, plus corneas and teeth.

There are five main types of collagen, ranging from Type I through V. Most known for its ability to improve skin health and minimize wrinkles, Type I fibers make up about 90 percent of the body’s collagen and can be found in skin, bones, blood vessel walls, connective tissue, cartilage, and scar tissue. Type II collagen promotes joint health, while Type III improves the structure of muscles, organs, and blood vessels. Type IV develops in sheet-like form because it lacks an amino acid, and acts as a building block throughout layers of skin surrounding muscles, organs, and fat cells. This sort of collagen also assists in filtration of the kidneys. A fiber-like collagen, Type V is found in layers of skin and hair, the tissue of the placenta, and the cornea. 

Although the advertisements and product descriptions might be enticing, they’re not always true.

The body is constantly producing collagen from amino acids glycine and proline, plus vitamin C and copper. However, as humans enter their 20s and 30s, collagen production slows, triggering wrinkles, saggy skin, and weak cartilage in joints such as the knees. 

As aging men and women begin looking for solutions to improve skin conditions, stop wrinkles from forming, and improve joint strength, they tend to turn to collagen supplements, which are made of animal bones and tissues, in the form of digestible pills, powders, drinks, and topical creams. Although the advertisements and product descriptions might be enticing, they’re not always true.

Dermatologists agree the collagen molecule is too large to be absorbed into the skin when applied in a cream. However, many companies have tried to get around this by creating hydrolyzed collagen, a form of the protein that has been broken down to an ingestible size used in both oral supplements and lotions. Some physicians believe this may be too small to even make its way to the dermis to be beneficial, however.

There are many opposing articles about whether or not collagen supplements decrease wrinkles and sagging skin or aid those experiencing arthritis. Although several studies point to collagen as the answer to aging, they’ve often involved small sample sizes, run for a short period of time, lacked control groups, and haven’t been replicated. 

For example, one study explored the “effects of orally administered undenatured type II collagen against arthritic inflammatory diseases,” studying five women between 58 and 78 throughout 42 days. Although the research found a reduction in arthritis pain, the group surveyed was too small to yield trustworthy results. 

The truth is, no one can be sure if supplements work or not—yet. But what we do know is the supplement industry is not highly regulated by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA), which treats them as food rather than a drug. The FDA states on its website: “FDA is not authorized to review dietary supplement products for safety and effectiveness before they are marketed.” Such responsibility is on manufacturers and distributors to ensure products are safe before they go to market. This then puts the onus on consumers to research manufacturers prior to purchasing supplements.  

In 2017, Business Insider reported manufacturers have used contaminated products and left out ingredient information on labels. So, if you decide to take collagen supplements, choose wisely.

Buy collagen tested by U.S. Pharmacopeia, an independent, scientific nonprofit whose mission is to improve public health standards, and UL, a global safety certification company. Heavily research the companies you’re purchasing from and ensure they obtain the bones and tissues from cage-free, free-range, and antibiotic-free animals. Despite what some labels may say, collagen products are not vegan.

Before turning to pills and powders, you should try a change in diet to increase collagen intake. A well-balanced combination of lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can easily kickstart all the collagen synthesis your body needs. Prevention.com, a health and wellness site, suggests these seven foods promote natural collagen production: red bell peppers, tomatoes, salmon, sweet potatoes, lean turkey, eggs, and sunflower seeds. You can also naturally slow the rate at which you lose collagen by staying out of the sun, reducing alcohol consumption, and not smoking. 

So, just because topical and digestive collagen products are trendy doesn’t mean they’re the safe and healthy option to prevent signs of aging. We offer an extensive skincare line full of cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreens, and more, plus other non-surgical treatments to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin. 

Contact us for a free consultation today. 

Topics: Insider