Do Collagen Supplements Actually Do Anything?

by Raychel Agramon, RN, MPM July 10, 2020 0 Comments

Do Collagen Supplements Actually Do Anything?

Aging is an inevitable part of life. However, most people would do anything to look younger than they actually are. This is one of the reasons why the plastic surgery business continues to flourish in the United States – and the entire world.

Sadly, not a lot of people are willing to undergo invasive procedures. Add to that, they can cost a lot! As such, many individuals have turned to cheaper and less expensive alternatives: anti-aging supplements.

One of the more popular ‘fountain of youth’ supplements is collagen, which comes in a pill, powder, or beverage form. It is also widely used in topical formulations, including creams and serums. 

Despite its fame – it raked in a revenue of $59 million just this 2019 – a lot of people are still wondering about its effectiveness. Below, you will learn more about collagen – and if its claims could actually hold water. 

Collagen and the Skin

Collagen is the most bountiful protein in the body, comprising 25% to 30% of the total proteins in the body.  It helps provide the structure of the skin, as well as the joints, bones, and muscles. 

Unfortunately, the collagen in the body dwindles in quantity as we age. To make matters worse, it can also be degraded by UV exposure, smoking, and a high-sugar diet, among many other things. As a result, these factors can lead to dry, inelastic, and wrinkled skin. 

With that being said, collagen supplements are usually taken to help boost the production of collagen in the body. It is believed that doing so may help reverse the above-mentioned effects, thereby leading to younger-looking skin. 

Do Collagen Supplements Actually Do Anything?

According to experts, this would depend on the supplement you take. 

  • Oral Supplements 

According to scientific studies, oral collagen supplements seem to hold more promise compared to their topical counterparts.

The study by Proksch et al. made use of collagen peptides at doses of 2.5 and 5 grams respectively. Results show that both groups demonstrated better skin elasticity and moisture, as well as decreased skin roughness. Follow-up studies also showed that enhanced skin elasticity was more pronounced in older participants. 

The study of Bolke et al., on the other hand, put a collagen drinking ampoule to the test. This beverage, which contained 2.5 grams of collagen and other vitamins, was given to 36 female participants. 

Skin assessments were carried out in these individuals after 12 weeks of use. The collagen group showed a 28% increase in skin hydration and a 41% decrease in skin roughness. Skin density also improved by as much as 24.8%.

While these results are all impressive, discontinuation of the collagen drink seemed to have reversed its promising effects. 

In conclusion, yes, science has shown that oral collagen may help make your skin plump and moisturized. However, the second study has shown that such effects can only be maintained as long as you take the supplements. With that being said, you may need to take collagen supplements continuously to enjoy its benefits on the skin.

  • Topical Supplements

Collagen creams, like its oral forms, can make your skin seem smoother and wrinkle-free. However, experts deem it as a sort of optical illusion, as the effects only happen on the surface. 

“It's not actually building collagen,” said cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Suzan Obagi in her interview with Self Magazine.

The natural collagen structure may explain why the cream’s effects are limited on the surface. Collagen has a braid-like design made possible by long-chain amino acids. These strands coil around each other to form triple helices, which, when connected, form fibrils. 

Because of this, collagen is believed to be a complex structure that is just ‘too big’ to penetrate the dermis. Yes, such creams can hydrate your skin, but that’s about it. It can’t reach the deeper layer of the skin, the dermis, where the actual collagen synthesis takes place. 

To address this obstacle, manufacturers have equipped their creams and serums with hydrolyzed collagen. Such are made through hydrolysis, where long collagen chains are broken down into smaller links named collagen peptides.

Because of this structure, some researchers believe that collagen peptides indeed reach the dermis. In effect, they help deliver the 'building blocks' that fibroblasts need to create more collagen.

What You Can Do 

Perhaps the most important thing is to use sunscreen regularly. As mentioned, UV radiation can degrade the existing collagen in the body. Since sunscreen can protect you from premature skin aging – and many other conditions, it is imperative that you apply it 30 minutes before you go out. You also need to re-apply it every 90 minutes thereafter.

Add to that, scientists believe that the best way to boost collagen production in the body is to take supplements that promote such a process. One example is a retinoid, which includes Vitamin A and its natural derivatives. According to a study, it may help prevent collagen degradation in the skin. Additionally, it may also help promote new collagen growth in the dermal layer.

According to another study, antioxidants such as vitamins, polyphenols, and flavonoids may also serve as good anti-aging components. Expert favorites continue to be Vitamins B3, C, and E, mainly because of their small molecular weights. In other words, their minute structures allow them to deeply penetrate the skin.

For one, vitamins C and E produce better anti-oxidative effects on the skin, which then lead to smoother, more moisturized skin. As for Vitamin B3 or Niacinamide, it is highly favored because of its ability to promote cell regeneration and metabolism.

In a Nutshell

Oral and topical collagens do work on the skin, but their effects are limited. For one, you need to take oral supplements continuously to enjoy its effects. As for topical preparations, you can enjoy surface benefits – as for deeper skin penetration, the effects are still not clear.

Because of these, experts advise health conscious people to go beyond collagen. Instead, they recommend supplements and lifestyle changes that indeed help boost collagen production in the skin.