Do Collagen Supplements Actually Work? Here’s What The Experts Say

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Collagen supplements are all the rage these days, and there are a ton of options available. 

But do collagen products work? If so, which ones — and if not, why are women buying them?

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What Is Collagen?

According to Wikipedia, collagen “is the main structural protein in the extracellular matrix found in the body’s various connective tissues. As the main component of connective tissue, it is the most abundant protein in mammals, making up from 25% to 35% of the whole-body protein content.”

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Kiran Gill MD, FACS (@kirangill_naplessurgeon)

In layman’s terms, and for beauty purposes, it keeps the skin elastic, which means less wrinkles. 

“Collagen is what keeps our skin from sagging, giving us that plump, youthful look,” says dermatologist Dr. Ohara Aivaz.

Although your body makes the protein naturally, it starts to make less as you age. 

“Starting in our mid-20s, we slowly begin to lose collagen,” Dr. Aivaz says. “For women, we can lose up to 30% of our collagen production in the first 5 years of menopause.”


Do Collagen Products Actually Work?

According to dermatologists, the consensus is pretty clear — collagen supplements do nothing to increase the skin’s elasticity and are a waste of money. 

 
 
 
 
 
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What does work is collagen injections, laser treatments, retinol cream, and actual procedures that take place during a doctor’s visit — so, not those powdered collagen supplements at the store. 

While ingesting them probably won’t hurt you, there are no outward skin benefits. 

It is a good source of protein, but since it’s not regulated by the FDA, doctors say you’re better off getting your protein from food.


What Doctors Say

According to market research firm Nutrition Business Journal, in 2020 consumers spent $293 million on collagen supplements, up from just $50 million in 2014. 

Wow.

Globally, as collagen makes its way into more foods and beverages, topicals, and even the operating room, the market is projected to reach $6.5 billion by 2025.

Its popularity has soared due to celebrity Instagram endorsements — if someone like Kourtney Kardashian, who looks ah-MAzing, is promoting a hot smoothie collagen beverage, of course people will think “If collagen supplements work for her, maybe they will work for me.”

That doesn’t mean most are gullible, and, in my opinion, the onus lies with the money-driven beauty industry banking on celebs to dupe women into buying snake oil. 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Kourtney Kardashian (@kourtneykardash)

Do I blame Kourtney for getting her bag? Nope. But I do think it’s irresponsible at best and egregious at worst to peddle a product to fans who look up to you and think a daily collagen smoothie will benefit their skin.

In addition to whether they work, the more important question remains — is it safe?

“It’s definitely among the top three products people ask me about, and I believe it does hold promise in some diverse areas of medicine,” says Mark Moyad, MD, director of the complementary and alternative medicine program at the University of Michigan Medical Center. “It’s also one of the most wacky and controversial.”

Moyad, author of The Supplement Handbook: A Trusted Expert’s Guide to What Works and What’s Worthless for More Than 100 Conditions, warns that most of the collagen studies done are small and at least partially funded by industry.

“The science is truly in its infancy,” he says. “There’s a lot of conflict of interest, and not enough quality control.”

Augusta, GA-based dermatologist Lauren Eckert Ploch says “Stomach acids break down collagen proteins you eat before they reach the skin intact,” so she’s not convinced it helps at all. “The jury is still out.”

“I think the elephant in the room here is safety,” says Moyad. “We are talking about ground-up fish, chicken, pig, and cow parts, and these parts tend to act as sponges for contaminants and heavy metals.”

Yuck. 

In one recent test of 14 popular collagen supplements, by the supplement testing company consumerlab.com, all products contained the levels of collagen they said they did. 

Great! 

But one also contained high levels of cadmium, a toxic heavy metal.

Not great!


The Hype Is Hearsay

Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki, who has degrees in Physics and Maths, Biomedical Engineering, Medicine and Surgery and has worked as a medical doctor at the Kids’ Hospital in Sydney, Australia, sums up the collagen supplement craze pretty well in this TikTok.


Products 

There are soooo many collagen products — the market is saturated with them. 

They come in creams, peptide powders in lots of flavors, capsules, tablets, coffee creamer, and there’s even collagen candy. 

 
 
 
 
 
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While the majority of experts say that ingesting collagen does nothing for your skin, it can be beneficial in one area, and that’s getting more protein on board. 

If you’re searching for the fountain of youth, you’re probably not going to find it in collagen products — save your money and don’t buy into the hoax.

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Have you tried this health trend? Do you think collage supplements work? Share with us in the comments.


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