Collagen is a naturally occurring protein in the body, made up of amino acids.
It is also available as an additional supplement.
But if you are vegan, as with everything you eat, it is important to distinguish between collagen containing animal derivatives and vegan collagen.
Here we take a closer look at what collagen is and what is contained in vegan collagen.
In this article, you’ll learn about:
- What collagen is and what it’s made from
- Vegan collagen and how it differs from animal-derived collagen
- The different kinds of vegan collagen supplements
- Vegetarian collagen supplements
- Vegan collagen powder vs. collagen protein
What is collagen?
Collagen helps support the maintenance of skin, hair, muscles, tendons, nails, bones and ligaments.
Eating a balanced diet and having enough protein is essential for the body to break down the protein into amino acids to create collagen.
As you age, your body produces less collagen, which means that you may have to find different, additional sources of collagen.
What is collagen made of?
The body makes its own collagen, through a process referred to as collagen synthesis.
For this to occur, the body needs a variety of amino acids, such as glycine, proline and hydroxyproline.1
There are many types of collagen. Type I is found in skin, bones and teeth. Type II, meanwhile, is found in cartilage and Type III is found in the skin, muscle and blood vessels.2
Marine collagen is a type of collagen protein that is sourced from fish and other sea life such as jellyfish.
Marine collagen is known to have a high collagen content. It is also absorbed well by the body and is considered eco-friendlier and more sustainable than other collagen sources.3
Bovine collagen comes from cows. It can help with joints and support the growth of hair and nails.
While gelatin is not technically classed as collagen, it is a collagen derivative, extracted from animal bones.
8 differences between vegan and animal sourced collagen
Now you might be wondering, what are some of the key differences between vegan and animal sourced collagen? From the ingredients to the production, find out what sets them apart from each other below.
Vegan collagen doesn’t come from animals
As vegans don’t consume or use any products that contain ingredients derived from animals, this is the same for vegan collagen products.
Instead, plant based collagen supplements sometimes come from more natural ingredients such as yeasts and bacteria.
But these are only just being produced now so they’re tricky to get your hands on at the moment.
Some vegan collagen provides the body with ingredients needed to produce collagen
As genetically modified vegan collagen isn’t quite on the market yet, a lot of vegan collagen products are known as ‘boosters’ or ‘builders’ instead.
This is largely due to the fact that you can’t actually get collagen from plants, but you can get ingredients that boost collagen from plants. These include:5,6,7
- Aloe vera
- Collagen support foods rich in vitamin C, as it boosts hyaluronic acid levels e.g. kale, oranges, red peppers etc.
Animal-based collagen actually comes from animal collagen
The clues in the name, but people often overlook where the collagen in animal based supplements actually comes from.
For example, bovine collagen supplements that are derived from cows, are usually made by boiling cow bones or other byproducts, the collagen is extracted and then dried to make it a powder or tablet.8
Marine and bovine collagen hasn’t been conclusively proved to work
When assessing the EU’s Health and Nutritional Claims Register, marine and bovine collagen claims have not yet been authorised as being proven to work (in the way they’re claimed to).
However, plant-based collagen support ingredients like Vitamin C do make the list. With claims like these being officially authorised:9
- “Vitamin C contributes to normal collagen formation for the normal function of blood vessels”
- “Vitamin C contributes to normal collagen formation for the normal function of bones”
- “Vitamin C contributes to normal collagen formation for the normal function of skin”
Vegan collagen often contains many types of bacteria and yeasts
As mentioned previously, while this isn’t widely available at the moment – actual vegan collagen is being produced using genetically modified types of bacteria and yeast instead of using animal products.10
A huge component of vegan collagen is vitamin C
When it comes to vegan collagen support supplements, a lot of them contain vitamin C as this has been scientifically proven in areas like the skin fibroblasts that are said to “have an absolute dependence on vitamin C for the synthesis of collagen”.11
Vegan collagen may have greater consistency across batches
Another key difference between animal and plant based collagen supplements, is that supplements made using microorganisms may have more consistency across batches and may be more allergy friendly.12
The vast majority of collagen supplements available to consumers are made from animal products, which makes it much harder for those who try to live a more sustainable or vegan lifestyle to find the products they need.
Vegan collagen supplements contain other important added nutrients
A wide range of nutrients are needed in order for our bodies to produce collagen. From amino acids to vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, phytoceramides and antioxidants.
However, these extra nutrients are not often found in traditional collagen peptides products.13
Can you get vegan collagen supplements?
Vegans can also get their collagen intake from supplements and protein powders.
Collagen supplements contain collagen protein which has been broken down into shorter chains of amino acids, known as collagen peptides.
These peptides are thought to stimulate the natural collagen production in the body, leading to visible and tangible results over time.
Some of the best supplements are those with a high concentration of collagen peptides.
Vegan products are not certified by a governing body, which means there are no certification stamps to look out for.
However, most product descriptions will highlight if an item is vegan. We have also created a list of what to look out for in our vegan beauty guide.
Some collagen-rich vegan sources include nuts, seeds, soya foods such as tofu and beans.
Can you get vegan collagen tablets?
You can get a range of vegan collagen support gummies and tablets – whether they’re targeted as collagen supporting or they contain ingredients that help collagen production like vitamin C, vitamin E, l-lysine and more.
Can you get vegan collagen powder?
You can also get your hands on vegan collagen products in a powder form too.
This is especially good if you struggle with regular tablets. And some powders also come with other beneficial nutrients like plant-based protein powder mixed in.
Are there vegetarian collagen options?
Yes, there are also vegetarian collagen options. Vegetarian collagen helps to support the collagen synthesis process as well.
Holland & Barrett have a range of vegetarian collagen supplements which contain vitamin c and astaxanthin, to help maintain healthy looking skin.
What are the benefits of collagen?
Collagen has attracted plenty of attention in recent years because of its perceived anti-ageing benefits.
Collagen fibres attached to cells gives skin the firmness seen in youthful skin.14
The older you get, the less collagen is produced in the body, leading to wrinkles and fine lines.
Other environmental factors such as pollution as well as smoking and drinking can also lead to skin ageing.
There are plenty of other benefits to collagen as well.
For instance, hydrolysed collagen, which is collagen that has been broken down into more easily dissolvable amino acids, can help to reduce joint discomfort.
The amino acids in collagen can help to build keratin in your hair.
As hair is made up of keratin, it is important for your body to have enough protein to maintain normal hair growth. Collagen can also aid nail growth and help to reduce brittleness.
Our handy guide ‘Could taking collagen turn back the clock?’ further explains how collagen works to keep hair and nails healthy.
Collagen powder or collagen protein?
Food sources rich in collagen include lean meat, fish and dairy products such as milk, cheese or eggs.15
During winter, many of us cut back on fresh fruit and vegetables, which means we could be missing out on nutrients like vitamin C, which help the body to produce collagen.
Supplementation is still possible though, even if there are certain foods that you cannot or do not eat.
You can take collagen in the form of tablets, combined with vitamin C, to help boost your immune system and the collagen synthesis process.
Collagen protein powders or gelatin powders (clearly not suitable for vegetarians or vegans) are also available, which you can use to make a drink for easier consumption.
Hydrolysed collagen is often available in powder as a dietary supplements too. There are also plenty of beauty products that contain collagen.
The final say
There are a number of key differences between animal derived collagen and vegan collagen supplements, from the ingredients used to the process and even the scientific evidence to back up the ingredients and the claims.
So if you’re interested in trying some plant based collagen supplements for yourself, check out our guide to 7 of the best vegan collagen supplements online today.
Before trying a collagen beauty product, remember to do a patch test on your skin first, especially if you suffer from sensitive skin.
Last updated: 22 June 2021