Do collagen supplements or creams really improve skin quality?

There's definitely no shortage of marketing proclaiming the benefits of ingesting collagen drinks as well as the application of collagen creams. The question is, do these products actually do anything for your skin? 

Here's a quote from Dermatologist Dennis Gross from a feature in Harpers Bazaar. "IF ONLY A SMOOTHIE could give you firmer skin. While there are plenty of edible collagen "beauty powders" that promise to do just that, it isn't that simple", says Dennis Gross, M.D. A New York Dermatologist. "Collagen will not travel through your stomach into your bloodstream and then plump up your skin" he says with a laugh. "Your body breaks down collagen supplements into amino acids during the process of digestion-doing nil for your skin. Even applying collagen directly on your face won't do the trick. Topically, the molecules are too big to penetrate the skin. 

What exactly is collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body (around 30%), with approximately 60% of collagens makeup being the amino acids Glycine, Proline, Hydroxyproline and Alanine. Collagen is found primarily in bone, skin and connective tissues in animals, including human beings. There are no Vegan or plant based sources of collagen. Collagen is the "protein of youth" as it is responsible for keeping skin moist, supple, elastic and plump looking.

What influences collagen production?

There are a few factors such as estrogen levels, diet, stress, and lifestyle choices that can influence our bodies ability to produce collagen. From a dietary standpoint, ensuring our bodies have the proper mix of amino acids, vitamin c, minerals and anti-oxidants is important for optimizing our levels of collagen.

Is it beneficial to apply collagen creams?

The collagen molecule is simply to large to penetrate the skin barrier. Even if it could, topical collagen cream does not "turn into" or replace our bodies own collagen. It may provide a moisturizing effect, but that is the limit to its efficacy.

What about drinks or supplements?

While the may offer a small benefit, there are way better options. Collagen protein is primarily Glycine + Proline which are non-essential amino acids (meaning our bodies are able to produce these on their own) and an incomplete protein source. (simplified.....collagen is a poor source of quality collagen building protein)

Collagen also lacks the complete list of essential amino acids (acids which our bodies cannot produce). These essential amino acids must be obtained through other food sources or additional supplementation.

The tricky thing about collagen supplements and drinks is how the marketers conveniently forget about digestion.

Once ingested a collagen supplement goes through the same digestive process as all other proteins, being broken into smaller chain amino acids and then reassembled by our bodies into complete amino acid chains and the building blocks of new collagen. 

  • Higher quality protein sources will offer a greater benefit
  • Collagen contains only 8 of 9 essential amino acids (it's an incomplete protein)
  • Collagen is broken down during digestion just like all other proteins
  • Other nutrients, such as vitamin C are necessary for collagen formation

So while we are not against the use of collagen supplements, it's important to understand their limited ability when it comes to the maintenance and repair of healthy skin.  

What about all the claims of improved skin from collagen supplementation?

We have many clients that observe various types of diets and lifestyles. If you take an incomplete diet and add a collagen supplement, it could replace some of the amino acids and nutrients you may not be getting from your regular diet. An example would be an individual that is skipping meals, or perhaps having only a side salad and water. A healthy balanced diet is the best way to get the nutrients necessary for optimum collagen production.

Best option?

  • Eat a healthy balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. Add in a few complete protein sources such as chicken and fish. If you're vegetarian or vegan, try tempeh or quinoa.
  • For supplementation, try exploring Silica or Horsetail*. We also love Herbaland Vegan Collagen Booster.

How can we preserve the collagen we already have?

While the elimination of old or damaged collagen is a normal part of our body function, we can minimize it's premature destruction by:

  • Eat high quality (compete) protein sources that contain all 9 essential amino acids. (These can come from plant sources as well)
  • Ensure your diet contains enough fruits and vegetables (Vitamin C and anti-oxidants are important for collagen synthesis)
  • Reducing sugars and refined carbs
  • Avoiding excessive UV exposure (unprotected sun)
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Avoiding excessive alcoholic beverages
  • Reducing our stress levels


Find out more about how we can help maintain healthy collagen levels through the appropriate skin treatments in clinic. Call 250.590.5459 for a complimentary consultation.


*under the guidance of a physician if health issues are present. 

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