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.
What is collagen?
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 hydroxyproline1 . 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 vessels2 .
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.
Are there vegan collagen alternatives?
There are a number of different sources of collagen.
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 sources3 .
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.
Whilst collagen is typically sourced from animals, it can also be sourced from plants.
Vegan collagen is plant-based and can be formed into a powder.
You can also find vegan collagen in cosmetic products, such as serums and creams which include vitamin C.
Vitamin C regulates the collagen synthesis process in the body. This can help to support the appearance of youthful looking skin.
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.
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 skin4 .
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 eggs5 .
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.
Hydrolyzed collagen is often available in powder as a dietary supplements too.
There are also plenty of beauty products that contain collagen.
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: 11th November 2020