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How does collagen help aging skin & should you supplement with it?

Last Updated: August 13, 2021

Looking for another weapon in the battle against aging skin? Learn how your body’s natural collagen works and how collagen skincare and supplements help it.

Everyone gets old, but no one wants to look old. Luckily, there are ways to age gracefully. Exercising regularly, sleeping soundly, eating a balanced diet, and wearing sunscreen are all great habits that keep us healthy as we move through the great wheel of life.

Another helpful addition may lie in supporting and supplementing a natural resource already in our bodies: collagen. Let’s dive in.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health related diagnosis or treatment options.

So what is collagen?

Body illustration with pump bottle

It is the most plentiful protein in the human body, accounting for roughly 33% of all bodily protein.

There are over a dozen different types, but the ones found in the body are primarily type I, II, III, and IV. Type I is, by far, the most plentiful, accounting for about 90% of all bodily collagen.

What is the role of collagen in the body?

It acts as a sort of scaffolding for much of the body. It provides structure and support for things like bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, and muscles.

As we age, we produce less collagen, leading to weaker support for these systems. That’s part of the reason why, as we age, we develop wrinkles in the skin, weaker bones, and decaying muscle mass.

Benefits of collagen supplements for the skin

Skin layer illustration

It’s linked to a wide variety of bodily benefits, including combating age-related joint health and pain, muscle loss, and bone loss. But today, we’re focusing on collagen’s effect on the skin specifically.

What makes it a big deal for skincare is its ability to combat wrinkles and dryness. When it comes to skin health, a 2019 study conducted by doctors at the Dermatest GmbH Research Institute in Germany, found that subjects who took a collagen supplement developed healthier skin.


Bovine collagen vs. marine collagen: What’s the difference?

Bovine collagen, also called collagen peptides, is derived from cow hide, while marine collagen is typically sourced from fish scales and skin.

Sourcing sustainable collagen from both of these sources is key when picking which type is best for you.

In terms of actual effects, bovine and marine collagen work similarly and both easily dissolve in powder form.

How to introduce collagen in your health routine

Collagen is very popular these days. That’s why it's easier than ever to start introducing it into your daily routine.

Supplements take many forms, but the key ingredient is always collagen peptide or hydrolyzed collagen.

Collagen powder

One of the most popular forms of collagen, these powders work just like your daily protein or magnesium powder.

Most quality powders are either tasteless or livened up with natural flavoring.

Collagen vitamins & gummies

For all the pill-takers out there, supplements also take the form of collagen pills and gummies.

Pills and gummies are just as effective as powder, so the right one for you only depends on your personal preference.

Liquid collagen

Supplements can also be found in liquid form, usually as hydrolyzed collagen mixed with water, vitamins, and flavorings.

However, most research has focused on physical, not liquid, collagen. The effects of liquid supplements need more study.

Green bottle illustration

Topical collagen cream

Because of its skin-revitalizing effects, there are tons of topical collagen creams available.

Again, most research has been conducted with physical, ingested collagen, not topical application. Individuals have reported positive results, but more formal research is needed.

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Collagen side effects

In terms of side effects, there aren’t very many documented ones associated with taking collagen supplements. The most common include bad mouth taste, feeling bloated, and light heartburn.

Supplements may also provoke an allergic reaction, as many are derived from fish, egg, or meat products.

6 ways to increase natural collagen without supplements

Don’t forget that the body naturally produces collagen too! As we age, our body produces less natural collagen, but there are still ways to preserve and protect our existing collagen, as well as boost our body’s natural production of it.

Add retinoids to your routine

Retinoids are vitamin A based formulas that have been used in skincare for decades. They help increase production of collagen alongside blood vessels.

Retinoids sometimes increase skin sensitivity, so it's important to not overuse them and to apply sunscreen daily.

Use sunscreen every morning

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Always use sunscreen!

Dr. Caroline Robinson, board-certified dermatologist and member of the Roven beauty board, agrees. What’s her medical advice? “The single best thing you can do for your skin is protect it from the sun,” she says.

A daily face sunscreen protects your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays, which can damage skin and advance skin aging.

Limit added sugar intake

Add this one to the bucket of reasons why a healthy diet is so important: Too much sugar can have a bad impact on your collagen.

Excessive sugar can damage your collagen and inhibit it from self-repairing, leading to faster wrinkles. Try not to eat foods with a lot of added sugars.

Use hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid, or HA, is naturally found in our skin. It helps hold in water and keep everything nice and hydrated.

Like collagen, HA production decreases as we get older. For folks with dry skin, try adding an HA serum to your skincare routine.

5 great collagen supplements to try

But, if you do want to test supplementing, here are a few of our top-rated supplement recommendations.

Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Photo of Tonic products on table with fruits and glasses of juice

Tonic Products Gym & Tonic Collagen Protein & Tonic Beauty Collagen

Both made from bovine collagen, these paleo-friendly (and free from dairy and soy) are highly soluble powders that dissolve quickly and easily. They are also flavorless and odorless. Tonic’s Beauty Collagen is made with Types I and III, while Gym & Tonic Collagen Protein combines collagen and protein powder together in one supplement for all of your needs.

Grove member Nicole O. said about this product, “I've been using Gym and Tonic for a little more than 2 years. My hair is strong and has grown so much. My new hair dresser, who I've actually known for over 30 years, was amazed at how long and lustrous my hair is. Unlike other powders I've tried, this dissolves wonderfully. I use it every morning in 8 ounces of coffee. It is absolutely flavorless. I've used it a few times in smoothies and have not noticed any difference in the flavor or texture.”

Photo of Honu marine collagen

HONU Marine Collagen Powder

A fish-based collagen powder free from dairy and beef, this supplement is made from sustainably sourced Alaskan pollock and packaged in recyclable glass jars. A great option for pescatarians!

Lynne B. writes “I put a couple of teaspoons in my coffee every morning. No taste, not even aftertaste. I've been using it for about six weeks and find that my skin is softer and my nails are stronger. Wrinkles still there, but maybe with time they will diminish too. One can hope.”

Photo of Ora Organic collagen on plate with glass

Ora Organic Aloe Gorgeous Vegan Collagen Booster Powder

Aloe Gorgeous is a vanilla-flavored, organic, vegan powder packed with aloe vera, protein, silica, and vitamins C and E. These ingredients help boost your natural collagen instead of adding in supplemental forms from cows or marine life.

Megan H. says “I’ve been using this product for about a month. I’ve experimented with different ways of taking it and so far my favorite is mixed into my smoothie. It has a subtle vanilla/coconut flavor. I’ve also mixed it with coconut milk which was good if you can get over the gritty texture, and mixed into coffee which wasn’t bad if you like a little coconut flavor. I’m definitely starting to notice the benefits! My skin is smooth and glowing and I’m also noticing my nails are stronger and growing as well! A little pricey as you only get 20 servings but still worth it!”

Photo of Neocell collagen gummies

Neocell Beauty Shield Collagen Gummies

Each of these naturally flavored supplements harnesses the power of vitamin C, amla fruit (Indian gooseberry) extract, and hydrolyzed bovine collagen to help reduce visible signs of aging, such as the appearance of fine lines, for a more luminous complexion.

Amy S. says “I am really bad at taking any kind of vitamin or supplement but I stuck with this for 2 months now and Wow! My hair is stronger, my nails are longer and I have even had my girlfriend say my lips look plumper 😊. I’m telling everyone about this product!”

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