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The benefits of collagen for your skin

Female standing to side on yellow background

Summary

1What is collagen?

Collagen makes up around a third of the protein in our body. It helps to maintain the structure of our skin, muscles, bones, joints, and more...

2The science behind it

Collagen is a protein made of long chains of amino acids. The chains form a tight structure – this way, they stay strong and taut...

3So, what can collagen potentially do for skin?

It may help improve skin elasticity and firmness, not only does smooth skin make us look youthful...

Known for its skin hydrating properties, collagen has a firm hold on the beauty world. But it’s not just celebrated for its skin plumping properties.

As H&B's Senior Nutritionist Alex Thompson explains, "you’ll find collagen in any part of the human body that needs to be strong, but also have elasticity," so collagen may provide support for skin that’s thinning or wounded.1,2

Whatever your goal – and however you'd like to take it – there are plenty of reasons to consider adding collagen to your routine. Here, we get the skinny on how collagen could support your skin.

Where is collagen found in the body?

Collagen makes up around a third of the protein in our body. It helps to maintain the structure of our skin, muscles, bones, joints, and more.1

Different types have different functions, but collagen's found in lots of things from your eyes to your intestines.1 It helps keep skin firm, elastic, and youthful – which is why you've likely seen it exploding in the beauty world.3

It’s important to note that further research is still needed to determine whether taking collagen supplements has the same effects as the collagen that our bodies produce, and how much of it we’d need if so.

The science behind collagen

Collagen is a protein made of long chains of amino acids. The chains form a tight structure – this way, they stay strong and taut.1
Lady stretching in front of brick wall
However, our collagen decreases as we age, typically more notably in our late twenties.3 As the amino acid chains break down, the structure of our skin becomes less secure. That's when we might notice our skin sagging and forming wrinkles.3

We can help our skin stay healthy by getting a balanced diet rich in nutrients like vitamin C, zinc and copper, and by avoiding smoking and excessive sun exposure.2,4,5,6

So, what can collagen potentially do for skin?

Here are just a few reasons to keep it on your radar:

1. It may help improve skin elasticity and firmness

Not only does smooth skin make us look youthful, but many of us want our faces to stay firm as we age. Taking collagen may help to preserve your skin's elasticity, meaning it's less prone to sagging or loose skin.3

2. May help protect thin, fragile skin

Low collagen means your skin can become thin and fragile. It might be dryer than usual, more prone to splitting, and slower to heal. 

Collagen may keep the epidermis (outer layer of skin) strong and help maintain skin thickness.

Research conducted on 72 women showed greater density in the epidermis after 12 weeks of oral collagen supplementation.2 However, due to the small sample size and follow-up period further research is needed.

3. May give you a glow

Regardless of whether “looking young” is important to you, hydrated skin is healthier skin. A small study using a collagen drink concluded that collagen plays a “highly significant” part in skin hydration and decreasing skin roughness.2

“It's been shown to be very good at having a moisturising effect - especially when you're combining it with hyaluronic acid within the same topical product, which a lot of products tend to do because they work really well hand in hand,” says Alex.

That said, hydration shouldn't start and end with collagen. Drink six to eight cups of water per day to keep your body and brain equally as healthy.7

Can I reverse wrinkles with collagen?

In short... no. Collagen can’t make you look like a baby! And after all, why would you want to?

It’s unclear whether collagen supplementation can replace lost collagen. However, some emerging research suggests it may be helpful for encouraging collagen synthesis.8,9

The youngest you’re expected to start losing collagen is around age 25.10 So it’s not suitable for children – young people have enough collagen and the body won’t benefit from having extra. On the other hand, it’s never too late to begin if you’re interested.

How can I take collagen?

When it comes to types of collagen and ways to take it, you’re spoiled for choice. Think about what’s best for you when it comes to:
  • the type of collagen: you’ll most commonly find type I or a combination of type I and III.
  • where it comes from: bovine (beef), marine (fish), and chicken collagen, plus vegan collagen support, are all readily available.
  • how you take it: collagen tablets, drinks, powders, gels, and even gummies: it's your choice. There’s also a wide range of skincare products, from collagen face oils to collagen face masks and moisturisers.
"The amount of collagen you're going to need will depend upon the particular issue or health goal you're looking at,” explains Alex.

Collagen powders typically offer the most collagen per serving, so these might be most useful if you want a high amount (for example, if your goal is sports recovery).
Woman smiling at the camera

How long does it take to see results?

Although collagen absorbs into your body quickly, you'll need to wait for the benefits to show, particularly when taking collagen for the skin.

A meta-analysis involving over 1,700 people found that results were most effective for skin hydration after 8+ weeks.3
While it shows potentially promising results for skin, remember that you can’t control where your collagen goes! The body uses it as it sees fit.10

While there’s an exciting growing body of evidence to suggest taking collagen can help improve your skin, larger clinical trials are required and what might work for one person might not work for another. However, it’s generally safe to take for most people and could be worth a try.

The final say

We could go on about collagen for days: it's a crucial part of joint health and thick, shiny hair, too.

But it's the potential skin benefits that draw the most attention. Natural ageing is to be celebrated, but if you'd like to...
  • help reduce fine lines
  • help prevent deep wrinkles
  • strengthen thin, cracking skin
...then collagen might just be worth a try.

Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Before taking any supplements or minerals, it’s best to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients through your diet first. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. If you have sensitive skin, eczema, psoriasis, acne or rosacea, consult a dermatologist before trying any treatments.
 

Sources

  1. Shoulders MD, Raines RT. Collagen Structure and Stability. Annu Rev Biochem [Internet]. 2010 Mar 29 [cited 2024 Jun 21]; 78: 929-958. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846778/
  2. Bolke L, Schlippe G, Gerβ J, Voss W. A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study. Nutrients [Internet]. 2019 Oct 17 [cited 2024 Jun 26]: 11(10); 2494. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6835901/
  3. Pu SY et al. Effects of Oral Collagen for Skin Anti-Aging: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients [Internet]. 2023 Apr 26 [cited 2024 Jun 21]; 15(9): 2080. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10180699/
  4. European Commission. Characteristics [Internet]. European Commission [cited 2024 Jun 26]. Available from: https://ec.europa.eu/food/food-feed-portal/screen/health-claims/eu-register/details/POL-HC-6505
  5. European Commission. Characteristics [Internet]. European Commission [cited 2024 Jun 26]. Available from: https://ec.europa.eu/food/food-feed-portal/screen/health-claims/eu-register/details/POL-HC-6542 European Commission. Characteristics [Internet].
  6. European Commission [cited 2024 Jun 26]. Available from: https://ec.europa.eu/food/food-feed-portal/screen/health-claims/eu-register/details/POL-HC-6364
  7. NHS. The Eatwell Guide [Internet]. NHS [reviewed 2022 Nov 29; cited 2024 Jun 26]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-guidelines-and-food-labels/the-eatwell-guide/
  8. Khatri M, Naughton RJ, Clifford T, Harper LD, Corr L. The effects of collagen peptide supplementation on body composition, collagen synthesis, and recovery from joint injury and exercise: a systematic review. Amino Acids [Internet]. 2021 Sep 7 [cited 2024 Jun 26]: 53(10); 1493-1506. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8521576/
  9. Dewi DAR et al. Exploring the Impact of Hydrolyzed Collagen Oral Supplementation on Skin Rejuvenation: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Cureus [Internet]. 2023 Dec 9 [cited 2024 Jun 26]: 15(12). Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10773595/
  10. Journal of Aesthetic Nursing. Collagen supplements: trend or truth for the treatment of ageing skin in menopausal women? [Internet]. Journal of Aesthetic Nursing [2021 Nov 2; cited 2024 Jun 26]. Available from: https://www.aestheticnursing.co.uk/content/clinical/collagen-supplements-trend-or-truth-for-the-treatment-of-ageing-skin-in-menopausal-women#B9
 

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