To many, collagen is a mystery supplement. Some suppose that it doesn’t have much effect on the body, while others rave about its skin-firming, hair-growing and joint-repairing powers.
I’m a personal fan of collagen, which promotes healthy bones and joints, better skin elasticity, hair and nail support and a youthful appearance. I was skeptical about these claims at first: How could a do-it-all powder like this exist? My fears went away when I noticed how much longer, healthier and shinier my hair was just within three weeks of use; but I’m not the only one that’s witnessed life-changing results by adding powdered collagen to my daily routine.
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A quick scan of Instagram tags will show you what millions of women already know: collagen works. The below nine women have credited their newly healthy hair and skin to different products, but they all noticed the same effect. “Thank you @vitalproteins for this hair growth,” says one user. “It’s safe to say I will be drinking these unicorn tears for the rest of my life,” another raves.
Unsurprisingly, celebrities are also big supporters of collagen. Kourtney Kardashian loves the Vital Proteins supplements so much that her lifestyle brand, Poosh, collaborated with Vital Proteins in order to create Vital Proteins x Poosh Blueberry & Lemon Collagen Vibes ($44) and Vital Proteins x Poosh Pink Moon Milk Collagen Latte ($49), two flavors out of many in their range of collagen powders, waters and shots.
Kourtney uses this in a warm cup of water in the morning as it kickstarts her day and “it has vitamin C and zinc, so it’s immunity-boosting especially, and everyone’s getting sick,” Kardashian said to Shape. It also has hyaluronic acid, which is essential for optimal skin health “and of course, it has collagen, which is great for skin, hair, nails—so many benefits. I drink this every morning.”
Another member of the family, Khloé Kardashian, is such a lover of collagen that she partnered with collagen-focused brand Dose & Co. to get the word out on the benefits of the ingredient. “When you’re pregnant, you start thinking about ways to better the world and yourself, which is why I became so interested in collagen in the first place, and I’m fortunate that I have a platform where I can share the things that have helped me and enrich my life with others,” she told NewBeauty.
Collagen is a structural protein that strengthens the tissue within your body. It supports hydration, firming of the skin, heart health and much more. What many people don’t realize, however, is that after the age of 20, we lose about one-percent of our collagen production each year. According to Delray Beach, FL dermatologist Janet Allenby, MD, this is when ingesting collagen becomes even more essential. “Type one and three collagen are the protein building blocks essential for growing skin, hair and nails,” she says. “Currently, the only effective form of collagen is taken orally, and the best supplements to ingest are low molecular weight versions so they’re absorbed into the bloodstream.”
While the before and after photos show that collagen works, Monroe, LA dermatologist Janine Hopkins, MD says scientific studies on efficacy are more important than before and after pictures on social media. “The main risk of taking collagen supplements is that you may be taking a product that has never been studied and proven to be effective with no active ingredients. Just because a product is endorsed by a celebrity or influencer does not mean it has been shown by scientific studies to be actively absorbed and effective in the body. Unfortunately, there is poor regulation of nutraceuticals, so companies can make claims without having to prove their claim. My advice is do your homework before purchasing a collagen supplement.” Dr. Hopkins also says that collagen “should not be used as a substitute for a healthy diet with good sources of protein and nutrients and a healthy lifestyle.”
One thing to note: not all collagen powders are created equal. According to Jen Smiley, founder of Wake Up & Read the Labels, “Studies show that taking too much collagen may lead you into indigestion, bloating and gas. Here’s the thing, there’s a study that shows the good scenario and the bad scenario of every single thing. So, every individual is different when it comes to supplements. We often turn to collagen in hopes of improving the health of skin, hair and nails. This is why collagen could potentially make you bloated if you are not reading the labels.” On the other hand, Smiley says there are studies that say collagen supports gut health, too. If taken in the right amounts with clean ingredients, “It can sooth, repair and strengthen the gut lining by rebuilding the lining of one’s digestive tract because it contains the amino acids—particularly glycine and glutamine—that are essential for its repair.” One that ticks all of her boxes (and ours) is Bruno MD Royal Collagen Peptides ($48), an all-natural solution to brittle hair and nails.
So, what ingredients should you be looking out for in your collagen supplements? “Some collagen has weird ingredients like ethylcellulose (a binder to keep the food together) and hydrozypropylcellulose (a food additive) and tons of more ingredients we cannot pronounce,” Smiley continues. “This type of collagen is not high quality and the additives—think synthetic flavors and polysorbate 80—can definitely lead to bloating. You want to make sure that you’re getting high-quality collagen from properly fed cows (the best is grass fed) and ensure there are no other added ingredients.”