The Collagen Question


The Collagen Question

Expert guidance on supplementing waning collagen stores, and how to inject ingestibles into your daily routine.

Bianca O'Neill

Fashion & Travel Journalist

0 minute read

Published: April 2022

Origin: Australia

Collagen is the ultimate natural source of youthful skin, keeping it plump and supple in our younger years.

But as we age our collagen stores wane. In fact, we lose at least 1% of our natural collagen each year, which is why collagen supplements have become so popular for boosting skin quality and firmness.

However, with so many options on the market, it’s hard to know where to start. Should you choose bovine (from cows), porcine (from pigs), or marine (from fish) collagen supplements? Liquid, tablet or powder? How many milligrams is the most effective dose? And how exactly do you add them to your diet?

The key benefits of collagen supplements

Raj Barker, our resident Holistic Nutritionist and Health Coach, explains that there are many benefits of adding collagen supplements to your diet. “Collagen is a protein in the body that naturally depletes as we age.

It is responsible for skin elasticity, and, as it depletes, a supplement can help maintain adequate levels in the body, and therefore prevent drastic changes in skin as we age.” 

“Collagen helps to heal your digestive lining, and to further prevent gut permeability, which ultimately helps to banish inflammation. When we decrease inflammation in the body, naturally we start to glow a little more from the inside-out.” 

“Collagen also aids water absorption in the digestive tract and supports healthy bowel movements.

When we prime our digestive systems, we simultaneously support our gut health, our immune function and the ripple effect can expand out to our mental and emotional health too.”

Collagen supplements have emerged in recent years as a potential solution to waning collagen supply, however experts are divided on their efficacy. 

Several studies have shown promising results, including one back in 2014 which showed improvements in skin elasticity within four weeks, and reduced wrinkles within eight weeks.

Others question whether a vitamin C-rich diet and plenty of sunscreen could achieve the same results, with less investment.

Either way, one thing is for sure – there are so many beauty lovers dedicated to the benefits of collagen supplements, that it has become a booming industry worth over $700 million worldwide.

Besides slowing the ageing process for your skin, collagen may have other key beauty benefits, including improving your hair and nail health. Although the main component of your hair and nails is keratin, not collagen, by using a collagen peptide rich in proline – an amino acid that acts as one of the building blocks of keratin – you can potentially improve hair and nail growth, health, and regeneration.

But a warning for those trying to keep their body hair at bay: at the same time as delivering luscious locks on your head, collagen supplements will potentially improve hair growth everywhere else too – so if you’re getting expensive laser hair removal treatments, be aware that it may stimulate hair regrowth, and slow your results.

Another potential benefit of collagen supplements lies in the fact that collagen helps to protect your joints. Several studies have shown that collagen supplements have reduced joint pain and inflammation, and may even help to prevent bone loss associated with osteoarthritis. 

Sorting myth from fact

Despite all the marketing spin, it does seem that some types of collagen are superior to others.

Barker suggests looking for hydrolysed collagen. “You support collagen synthesis when you have anywhere between 15 and 20 grams of collagen from hydrolysed collagen or gelatin (hydrolysed means the collagen is partially broken down into small peptides and amino acids).”

“A study by German researchers found that taking as few as 2.5 grams of collagen hydrolysate (which can be taken as a powdered supplement) for eight weeks improved skin elasticity in women aged 35 to 55.”

Look for a fully hydrolysed collagen peptide that allows for quick absorption, and pay attention to the source of the collagen.

Back in 2015, a study showed that marine collagen (derived from fish) was 1.5 times more efficient than bovine or porcine collagen sources. 

(However, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to avoid marine collagen and stick to the bovine option.) 

Although you may have seen some brands marketing ‘vegan collagen’, these supplements act instead as animal-friendly alternatives – as collagen can only come from animal sources.

Alternatives are either synthetically made in the lab from yeast or bacteria, or contain collagen ‘boosters’ comprising various minerals and amino acids that encourage your body to create its own stores. 

When it comes to choosing a collagen supplement, it can be confusing – you’ll have to decide between liquid, tablet or powder versions. 

Barker tells me she prefers powder-based collagen. “In general, you often get more bang for your buck when using a powder - compare a scoop of collagen powder to the size of a pill, for example. And in powder form, it can easily be incorporated into foods and drinks.”

The main benefit of liquid collagen is that it’s a readily absorbed form, seeing 90% absorption within 30 seconds.  Tablets are less quickly absorbed and often contain a smaller collagen dose, but are often preferred due to convenience.

Lastly, you’ll need to look closely at the dosage. As Barker previously mentioned, studies have suggested that doses between 2,500 and 15,000mg per day yield the most promising results, so check the potency of the supplement you are purchasing.

You may need to take multiple doses per day to hit an upper limit of 20,000mg, meaning a different brand or style of supplement might better suit your needs.

How to include collagen supplements in your diet

Liquid collagen often comes in a variety of flavours, and can be consumed as-is, or added to sparkling water for a refreshing drink. Powdered collagen is most popular as an addition to your morning smoothie.

Both liquid and powder forms can also be added to a variety of delicious recipes, including fruit-laden smoothie bowls, as an addition to the dressing on your daily salad, or even rolled into nutritious protein balls. 

Often advocates of collagen supplements suggest adding them to your daily coffee or tea, or even baking them into your favourite treats, however some experts suggest that collagen molecules come apart as the temperature climbs. So perhaps keep it as an addition to an iced latte or hydrating iced tea instead.

It’s the perfect way to cool off during the warmer months – and may even boost your skin quality while you’re at it.

Bianca O'Neill

Fashion & Travel Journalist


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