Is Collagen the anti-aging super supplement it claims to be? If you listen to the hype, you might imagine it’s the cure-all for skin, hair, nails, joints, muscles, gut health, weight, energy, immunity, heart health, mood, and more.
While research indicates that, when taken orally over time, Collagen supplements may improve the elasticity and appearance of your skin, dramatic anti-aging effects from short-term use are unlikely. No research yet suggests that Collagen offers benefits for hair, weight loss, and other health uses.
Before you invest in this potential wonder supplement, read on to learn the facts about Collagen and what it can and can’t do to support your health as you age, and what other options may help you look and feel your best at all ages.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, making up 30% of total protein. It provides the fundamental structure and strength for making and repairing connective tissues in your body including skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, blood vessels, and intestines.
Collagen molecules assemble into long, fibrous bundles called Collagen fibers that give structural integrity to these tissues. There are at least 16 types of Collagen, and different types are found in different tissues.
When your body is Collagen-deficient, you may experience wrinkled or sagging skin, stiff and aching joints, brittle nails, weak muscles and bones, more frequent injuries, poor wound healing, and digestive issues. Your overall vitality may suffer.
Deficiency can occur with aging, malnutrition, inactivity, smoking, excessive sun exposure, chronic inflammation or disease, and genetics.
How to Maintain Healthy Levels of Collagen
The most important thing you can do to support Collagen levels in your body is to consume sufficient protein. Protein, composed of amino acids, provides the building blocks to synthesize new Collagen. The amino acids proline, glycine, and lysine play critical roles in Collagen formation. Consuming foods rich in these amino acids (like beef, pork, poultry, bone broth, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils, and quinoa) can help support Collagen production.
Regular exercise also plays a part in Collagen levels. Physical activity has been found to promote Collagen synthesis in both tendons and skeletal muscle.REF#3169 Maintaining lean muscle mass may slow Collagen breakdown and help preserve muscle mass as you age.
By consuming adequate amounts of total protein and key amino acids you provide your body with the nutrients it needs to maintain Collagen reserves and produce new Collagen over time.
Overall Protein Intake Goals to Support Collagen
- Adults Aged 18-64: 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day
- Adults Over Age 65: Up to 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight to counteract age-related muscle and collagen loss
Diet and exercise may be enough to support natural Collagen production and slow age-related decline. However, when you can’t consume enough protein, research shows that your skin may benefit from a Collagen supplement in the form of powder, capsule, or liquid.
Skin Benefits of Collagen Supplementation
To date, the most promising research on Collagen supplementation relates to its effects on skin tissue.
Your skin undergoes many unfavorable changes with aging that degrade its youthful appearance and health. Research shows that as we age, the number of fibroblasts — connective tissue cells found in the dermis layer of skin that are responsible for producing Collagen — declines.
Fewer fibroblasts means less Collagen production. There is also a reduction in the enzymes involved in assembling collagen fibers, and a decrease in vascular supply to nourish the skin. This leads to a loss of elasticity and hydration, making skin more fragile and prone to wrinkling.
A meta-analysis of recent research of 26 randomized clinical trials involving 1,721 patients demonstrated oral Collagen can significantly improve skin hydration and elasticity.REF#3170 The effects seem most robust with hydrolyzed Collagen sources taken daily over six- to twelve-week periods.
Hydrolyzed Collagen, also known as Collagen hydrolysate, is a special form of Collagen that has been broken down into small peptides using enzymes or heat so it can dissolve in liquid and be easily absorbed when taken as a supplement.
Studies on oral Collagen supplementation, especially using hydrolyzed Collagen peptides, confirm that Collagen fragments are being delivered to the skin after supplementation. This provides building blocks of protein to renew the skin's foundation from the inside out. Results were most significant after eight weeks of use, concluding that long-term use of Collagen supplementation is more effective than short-term use.
Most of the studies on Collagen and skin health have been done by companies that make Collagen supplements. More large-scale, unbiased studies are needed to support the use of Collagen for anti-aging purposes. However, current evidence suggests supplementation may be an effective and safe way to nourish aging skin and stimulate new Collagen production.
Topical Collagen creams have not been found to have the same effect. While they provide ingredients meant to hydrate and firm up the skin's surface, they have been proven to have limited ability to penetrate deeply. According to Patricia Gonzales of Cellular Skin RX, Collagen has a beneficial effect when taken internally, but is useless when used topically.
Other Potential Health Benefits of Collagen Supplementation
Most claims that Collagen supplementation can benefit nails, hair, joints, muscles, and digestion are premature. However, while more research is required, several studies indicate a positive effect of Collagen hydrolysate on joint health.
Collagen Supplements May Support Joint Health
In a 2008 randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study, college-aged athletes with joint pain, mobility, and inflammation were given Collagen hydrolysate or a placebo over a 24-week study period. While the study was small and the first of its kind, it suggests Collagen hydrolysate may be effective in supporting joint health.REF#3171
A 2020 review of 41 published studies, 25 of which were clinical studies, arrived at a similar conclusion but confirmed that more large-scale research is needed before the supplement can be recommended for joint health.
Collagen for Nails or Hair
A small 2017 study with 25 participants using 2.5 grams of specific bioactive collagen peptides over 24 weeks showed faster nail growth and a decrease in broken nails, with improvement noted four weeks after supplementation ended.REF#3172 Evidence to support the use of Collagen for nails is limited and larger studies are needed to confirm these results.
There is no reliable evidence showing benefits from applying Collagen topically to nails. Additionally, no studies support the use of Collagen for hair health or other health issues.
Collagen Supplement Safety
Collagen supplements have not been shown to cause any side effects in clinical studies and are considered safe and well-tolerated. However, certain supplements may have ingredients you may be allergic to. Always check the label for ingredients before taking any supplement.
For now, the best way to ensure you maintain Collagen at optimum levels for your body is to consume the right nutrients, exercise, relax more, avoid smoking, use sunscreen, and get a good night’s sleep.
5 Effective Options for Healthier Skin, Hair, and Nails
While Collagen supplementation offers limited proven benefits, nature offers a variety of herbs and plants that can add shine, volume, and strength to your skin, hair, and nails. A few of our favorites include:
- Oregano Oil: Natural oregano oil contains antioxidants and has been found to promote hair growth and relieve thinning, frizz and dandruff when applied topically or to the scalp.* It may also promote normal inflammatory function of the skin.
- Licorice: Licorice Root is valued for its ability to brighten skin and help reduce hyperpigmentation, dark circles, uneven skin tone, and scarring.
- Lavender: Used topically, Lavender oil can help manage minor skin irritations and bug bites
- Rosemary: By promoting blood circulation, Rosemary oil may promote normal aging, help manage skin breakouts, and promote healthy hair and nail growth.
- Eucalyptus: This refreshing plant has been shown to add shine to your hair, strengthen your roots, and promote healthy nails. It may also help with dandruff.*
For more information on natural approaches to personal care, check out the following articles by Gaia Herbs:
- How To Use Herbs For Skincare + 8 Of The Best To Try
- 10 Natural Ways to Grow Healthy & Strong Nails6 Best Herbs for Hair Growth, Plus Hair Care Tips
- How To Make Homemade Shampoo (bar, liquid, & dry) + Conditioner The Easy Way
There are no guarantees for growing old in perfect health. But the sooner you commit to healthy lifestyle choices, the more likely you will enjoy the benefits of healthy skin, hair, nails, muscles, and joints as you age. In time, Collagen may also prove to be an essential tool in your anti-aging kit.
- 1. , "Extracellular matrix adaptation of tendon and skeletal muscle to exercise", Journal of Anatomy . 1 1. , "Extracellular matrix adaptation of tendon and skeletal muscle to exercise", Journal of Anatomy .
- 2. , "Effects of Oral Collagen for Skin Anti-Aging: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis", Nutrients . 2 2. , "Effects of Oral Collagen for Skin Anti-Aging: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis", Nutrients .
- 3. , "24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain", Current Medical Research and Opinion. 3 3. , "24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain", Current Medical Research and Opinion.
- 4. , "Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails", Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology . 4 4. , "Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails", Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology .