POSTED: 27 Mar 2021

Do collagen supplements actually work?

Collagen supplements are often marketed as an easy way to boost levels of the very protein that regenerates your skin, hair and nails. They’re pretty much everywhere you look. In fact, it feels like you can’t move without a “wellness guru” preaching about the health and beauty effects of collagen supplements. Better still, there is so much variety that you’re spoiled for choice. You can buy them in the form of shots, pills or even collagen powder. However, what isn’t being discussed is do collagen supplements actually work? We’ve put together a fuss-free guide on whether these supplements are worth taking for beauty and how they can boost your hair, skin and nails.

What are collagen supplements?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. It’s responsible for helping our blood clot and offer structure to the skin. Over the years, it has enjoyed special popularity as a natural ingredient and can be found in a range of beauty products including creams, masks, lotions and even hair care. Recently, however, there has been an increase in the promotion and availability of dietary collagen supplements. These are widely available as pills and powders but you can also find pre-made drinks in the form of tinctures or shots. Most of the products contain hydrolyzed collagen which means that the protein is already broken down. As such it is easier for you to digest and absorb. In addition, the powder dissolves easily in both cold and hot liquids. These collagen supplements are often labelled as amino acids or ‘collagen peptides’. This is because, they are actually made up of the building materials that your body needs to make collagen protein.

Most collagen peptide products come from the hydrolyzed form of the protein. This is usually made from fish scales, bones or animal hides. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, there are some non animal derived collagen supplements. However these are usually harder to find and more expensive simply because the majority of collagen is found in animal tissues.

Can collagen plump up your skin and get rid of your  wrinkles?

Collagen makes up a substantial component of our skin. Indeed, it plays a huge role in making the skin stronger. In addition it imparts hydration and elasticity on your skin. Unfortunately, our bodies make less and less collagen as you we age. As a result, your skin becomes thinner, loses elasticity, gets wrinkles and dryer.

A number of studies indicate that collagen peptides containing collagen can actually slow down the skin ageing process. According to one such study, scientists assessed whether supplementation could boost skin tissue density. These results indicate that these supplements improve skin structure and hydration. They also hint at the probability that there is reduced skin ageing. In short, this and other similar studies suggest that supplements are safe and can efficiently increase skin hydration, density and elasticity.

Where there is less evidence is whether collagen skincare products also work. At the moment there isn’t any solid evidence for this. Beyond that, whether you decide to take collagen supplements or use collagen skincare, remember one thing. This is not a substitute for the basics! You must always use a good moisturizer, sun protection, and eating a balanced and healthy diet. Any added benefits of supplements or skincare you will just build on that.

Does collagen make your hair grow?

Hair follicle function is quite complicated and involves several aspects that come into play to produce normal hair growth. Despite this, there is some evidence that how collagen can help hair. Firstly, its important to understand that Keratin is a vital hair component that provides strength, structure and protects hair against humidity. Secondly, the process of hair growth requires both essential and non-essential amino acids. The body produces essential amino acids, but you need to get the the non-essential amino acids from your diet. One way to get this is to take collagen supplements as they contain at least three non-essential amino acids that are known to assist with hair growth and Keratin formation. In addition, it is thought that collagen may possesses strong antioxidative properties. This can protect your hair against destructive damage from reactive oxygen species or free radicals. In short, although there is a small amount of evidence that it restricts discolouration, age-associated hair thinning and hair loss.

Can it boost your nails?

Brittle nail syndrome is one of the common health conditions. It is characterized by nail peeling, raggedness and surface roughness. As we’ve already discussed, collagen is an essential component for the normal functioning of the entire body. There is some evidence that consuming collagen could significantly reduce brittle nail syndrome.

What else can these supplements do?

Beyond beauty, there are a number of potential health benefits to taking collagen. One of these is that collagen is vital for maintaining your cartilage’s integrity. This is the rubber-like tissue that protects your joints. As we get older, the amount of collagen available in our body will decrease, increasing the chances of developing osteoarthritis. Several studies show that taking supplements may help reduce joint pain and osteoarthritis symptoms.

Collagen also makes up roughly 1 – 10% of muscle tissue. Generally, your body needs this protein to keep your muscles strong and ensure proper body functioning. Research suggests that supplements can help boost muscle mass. This is particularly the case in people who suffer from muscle disorders such as sarcopenia, which is basically the muscle mass loss that takes place as you age.

With regards to bone, collagen is responsible for providing strength and structure. Bone mass decreases as the collagen levels lower as you age. This can result in bone diseases such as osteoporosis which is characterized by low bone density. Some research suggests that taking supplements could help you limit this age related bone loss.

Should you be taking collagen beauty pills?

There is no doubt that collagen is a hugely important protein for maintaining our tissues and organs. A number of diseases and age-related beauty problems such as wrinkles and hair loss are associated with reduced collagen production. This reduction is inevitable and occurs as we age. As such, a number of research studies have investigated whether taking collagen supplements can help reduce this decline and reverse these changes. With regards to skin, hair and nails there is some evidence that taking these supplements could help. However, the jury is still out on how much benefit these supplements impart in someone who is already well and has a healthy lifestyle. Nor is it clear, how much of the ingested protein or peptides survive the stomach and make it to the target areas. Basically, the body will absorb any nutrients and direct them to where it things they are needed the most. So do collagen supplements actually work and should you be taking them? The answer is it doesn’t hurt if you can find a safe and reputable supply of them. However, they may not be necessary if you already have a balanced diet that is rich in collagen.

What next?

Head over to our Instagram (@cityskinclinic) for more tips on skincare and professional skin treatments.

If you’re looking for skincare advice then head over to our skincare routines page.

Don’t forget to check out our Obagi virtual skin clinic for more about our professional at-home skin treatment kits.

To learn more about skin boosters and hydraters check out our Profhilo treatments in London.

Authored by:

Dr Amel Ibrahim
Aesthetic Doctor & Medical Director
Founder City Skin Clinic
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Associate Member of British Association of Body Sculpting GMC Registered - 7049611

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