Collagen for Younger Skin
There are plenty of products that tout the benefits of topical collagen, but those benefits are questionable at best. Are the benefits of ingesting collagen for skin just hype too? I’m a believer of inside-out beauty because I see it “in action.” You will definitely look younger if you control oxidative stress and inflammation, lower high cortisol levels and maintain a normal blood sugar level (as opposed to a fasting blood sugar over 80-85 ng/dl)—but that’s all just “for starters.”
I’ve heard all the anecdotes, so it’s best I uncover the real science behind the possible anti-aging benefits of collagen for skin. Truth or hype? Let’s take a look at my findings.
What is Collagen?
Collagen contains 19 different amino acids and is called a “complex protein.” Taking collagen supplements or good old bone broth are both great ways to ingest amino acids such as glutamine, arginine, glycine, hydroxyproline, and proline which can heal leaky gut and likely ease arthritis pain. These amino acids have other benefits too, and I’ll review them below.
Whether you’re from the weight training camp or the leaky gut camp, you have heard of l-glutamine. Many are familiar with its benefits for muscles and GI lining. Research shows l-glutamine also benefits anxiety and insomnia through its boost of the calming neurotransmitter, GABA.
L-arginine breaks down into nitric oxide within the body; and more when it’s combined with l-citrulline. Nitric oxide benefits your entire arterial system as well as your heart.
Collagen is about 30% glycine. Glycine helps build healthy strands of DNA. It’s also one of the three amino acids which form creatine, a commonly used weightlifting supplement. Creatine is additionally a little-known mitochondrial function supplement. Findings show glycine is also helpful for inducing sleep. An obscure research finding is related to the use of supplemental glycine in patients with CIRS; patients who have a low “VIP” and are breathless due to this. Glycine can help increase the VIP.
Proline and Hydroxyproline
Proline and hydroxyproline help protect the structure of blood vessels and are beneficial for your joints and cardiovascular system. The body’s successful use of hydroxyproline (including in the skin) requires the addition of vitamin C.
Different Types of Collagen
There are three types of collagen, but in this article, we’ll focus on Type 1 (mostly) and Type 3 (a little).
Type I collagen is the most abundant form of collagen which occurs in our body. It’s the principal type of collagen in connective tissues, ligaments, and tendons. It’s also present in bones and within the GI tract. Further, it’s the collagen present in 80%+ of our skin’s collagen. One benefit of this type of collagen is it gives the skin it’s elastic quality, along with elastin. It’s also useful for holding the skin tissues together; preventing tearing.
Type 3 collagen is a key component of the extracellular tissues which make up our organs including the heart and skin. It’s generally found with type 1 collagen. It helps give skin its firmness as well as it’s elasticity. It comprises 15%+ of the collagen in our skin.
Bogus Collagen Claims for Cellulite
I thought I’d search and find convincing studies about how great oral collagen is for cellulite because I have heard this hum in the background (haven’t you?). I checked out all of the scientific ways to get rid of cellulite and nowhere did I find that oral collagen was helpful.
That is one myth I’d like to dispel before I continue. Sorry to be a kill-joy but I’m presenting the facts. I saw studies using a specific brand of collagen which skewed its study findings and does indeed advertise that it helps cellulite. You can try it for your skin and see if it helps your cellulite; although the data doesn’t match the claims.
Anti-aging benefits of collagen from eggshells
A type of collagen you can ingest or take in supplemental form is derived from eggs. Egg collagen is present in egg whites and egg shells. It is primarily type 1 collagen—the most prevalent type of collagen present in the skin. I found a review of two pilot studies which involved this type of collagen. (1)
Egg collagen supplementation was tested in two groups who took 300 mg per day for either 50 days or 5 weeks. The 50-day group of volunteers was given questionnaires, while the 5-week group had to test skin hydration (via corneometry). They also had elasticity testing (via cutometry).
Pigmentation testing, in my opinion, is not a clear variable in collagen supplementation and hence, will not be a part of this discussion.
In the pilot study 1, participants were “satisfied with the effects obtained on their face in general” (100% satisfied).
In addition, 100% of the volunteers were satisfied with facial skin softness, and 94% were happy with the improvement of facial skin hydration.
Pilot study 2 revealed improvement in the cutometric measurement of elasticity of the skin (12% increase; statistically significant) and no significant change in skin hydration. As with all of the published studies, the manufacturer conducted and financed the studies. There were no “control” groups.
Benefits of Collagen for Skin Might Include Increased Elasticity and Decreased Wrinkles
A company with a commercial brand of collagen supplements performed two self-funded studies. A brand of “proprietary collagen peptides” (unidentified source), combined with hyaluronic acid and vitamin C yielded some positive benefits in the following studies.
In the first double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (2) (meaning they at least scientifically conducted the study), 69 women ages 35-69 were “randomized” to receive 2.5 grams or 5 grams of collagen powder or a placebo; once daily for 8 weeks. Scientifically based measurements were made using the methods mentioned in the above study.
After 4 weeks of treatment, the women who were 65-69 were measured to have statistically significantly higher skin elasticity levels. After 8 weeks, skin elasticity in both collagen supplement dosage groups showed a statistically significant improvement in comparison to placebo. Skin moisture and overall appearance were improved, but not considered statistically significant.
In the next double-blind, placebo-controlled study (3), the effectiveness of the same collagen product was assessed to precisely pin down efficacy or lack thereof in wrinkles around the eyes. A hundred and fourteen women ages 45-65 years were randomized to receive 2.5 grams of the collagen product or a placebo; once daily for 8 weeks.
Under-eye wrinkles were objectively measured in all subjects at 4 weeks and 8 weeks. Skin biopsies were done to analyze the content of elastin, procollagen I, and fibrillin at the beginning of the treatment and after 8 weeks of intake.
When the researchers measured eye wrinkle volume, they found a statistically significant reduction of wrinkles at both the 4-week and 8-week mark.
At the 8-week mark, biopsies revealed there was also a significant amount of elastin (18% more), procollagen type 1 (up 65%), with no significant increase in fibrillin.
Studies involving Collagen Hydrolysates Might Improve Hydration and Elasticity
Another company which produces a product with a higher concentration of linked proline-hydroxyproline and hydroxyproline-glycine, claiming (without proof) superior GI absorption has performed two studies as well.
In the first study (4), 32 volunteers received either a placebo, 3 grams of the collagen peptide, or 3 grams of the collagen peptide plus 500 mg of vitamin C. Measurements of skin hydration and elasticity were taken with a corneometer and cutometer. There was a statistically significant increase in both hydration and elasticity in the collagen-takers, with no enhancement seen due to vitamin C.
A second study compared a “small” amount of collagen hydrolysates to a larger amount (5) in another study with numbers of enrollees again (in my opinion) too small for any conclusion to be drawn. However, I’ll give you the conclusions of the study. The researchers thought they sufficiently demonstrated that high-dose collagen lysate supplementation out-performed low-dose supplementation. They looked at facial skin moisture, wrinkles, elasticity and “roughness.” The two groups were compared to a placebo group, and results were measured at the 4-week and 8-week mark.
The Final Two Studies on the Benefits of Collagen Ingestion
Once again, we find a company has funded a number of studies which favor their product. While we might frown upon this practice, pharmaceutical companies test drugs in human clinical trials the same way; and they usually financially compensate the entities or individuals testing their drug(s). At least none of these studies have shown there to be any side effects from collagen ingestion.
The company sells a hydrolyzed collagen. It’s “secret formula” is revealed enough so that I can share the type of collagen used is primarily type 1 which is derived from fish skin. It’s a liquid formula containing minerals, vitamins (including vitamin C), hyaluronic acid, black pepper extract and borage oil. It also contains sucralose, lecithin, and stevia. They claim the liquid formulation makes it more absorbable. To point out, all collagen powders for sale will dissolve in liquids (if they are decent products); hence becoming a “liquid product.”
Here are the findings of this (6) study. Close to 300 volunteers between the ages of 18-74 were randomized to take 50 cc’s (1.69 ounces) of the product or a placebo. Measurements of efficacy were observational as well as measured. After 60 days, there was a reduction in wrinkles and an increase in skin hydration. After 84 days skin appeared more firm and collagen density was measured to be increased.
Our last study (7) also involves this product. 120 volunteers consumed 50 cc’s of this same product or a placebo. At the end of the 90 day study period, 7.5% of the non-placebo takers had a measurable increase in skin elasticity which was statistically significant. In addition, a substantial amount of collagen-takers reported they felt their overall skin appearance was improved.
I have not cited studies done in pigs or Wistar rats. What you read above are all human studies; what will follow is my guidance.
Does oral collagen ingestion improve the look of your skin?
This is a hard call. The only studies we have are self-funded studies. We do see many “anecdotes” and “verified purchaser” 5-star reviews on the internet, but I don’t make “scientific calls” based on such things. We do, however, have substantial proof that collagen protein will help leaky gut. So, maybe these skin studies do have some validity. It certainly wouldn’t hurt you (and would be good for your gut) to have some daily bone broth. If you decide to give collagen supplements a “go,” let me tell you what to look for and what I observed in myself.
I have been taking supplements for leaky gut/Crohn’s since April. My GI tract is now functional and the type I collagen I took (Collapex protein) is something I still add to my morning “GI drink” at 2 TBPS per day. Anecdotally–not scientifically, but anecdotally–I “look better.” People have said that I look younger, too. This might be due to all of the FIR detoxing and mitochondrial stimulation tricks that I’m doing, but it’s a fact. I’m not stopping my supplement any time soon.
Taking collagen supplements
This collagen is derived from beef; generally the cartilaginous parts. It is full of type 1 and 3 collagen. Find organic, grass-fed derived with no other toxic additives.
A product made of chicken collagen is going to be mainly type 2 collagen, so if you are looking for GI or skin benefits, this type isn’t for you. This might help if you are looking to improve arthritis pain. Do note that arthritis pain improves with type 1 collagen in some decent clinical studies.
Recall this type of collagen is Type 1 and derived from the shells as well as the whites of eggs. If we believe the studies, this would be helpful.
Collagen derived from fish is an easily absorbed form of mostly type 1 collagen. This type of collagen is also appropriate.
What’s the Bottom Line?
If you are going to increase your collagen intake, take pictures so you can do a 2-month b/a test. Studies show collagen absorbs more efficiently with the addition of vitamin C, so think about adding some to your collagen drink.
While there is no doubt the right form of hyaluronic acid and vitamin c applied topically will plump up wrinkles, there is no such evidence for oral hyaluronic acid. Some collagen products you will find might be formulated for hair and nails; for which there is the same sort of positive evidence that you see with the benefits of collagen for your skin. Those formulations might contain biotin, for example; a well-known vitamin to help reverse hair loss. Do make sure that your formulation doesn’t have “nonsense ingredients,” sugar or any artificial sweeteners other than stevia.
(1) J Diet Suppl. 2017 Nov 2;14(6):706-714. doi: 10.1080/19390211.2017.1310781. Epub 2017 Apr 21.
Beneficial Effects of Oral Supplementation With Ovoderm on Human Skin Physiology: Two Pilot Studies. EGGSHELL COLLAGEN
Aguirre A, Gil-Quintana E, Fenaux M, Erdozain S, Sarria I
(2) Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55. doi: 10.1159/000351376. Epub 2013 Aug 14.
Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skinphysiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S.
(3) Skin Pharmacol Physiol.
Oral Intake of Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides Reduces Skin Wrinkles and Increases Dermal Matrix Synthesis.
Proksch E. · Schunck M. · Zague V. · Segger D · Degwert J.· Oesser S. (Many repeat Authors from above)
(4) J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2014 Jun;16(3):132-7. doi: 10.3109/14764172.2013.854119.
Effects of collagen tripeptide supplement on skin properties: A prospective, randomized, controlled study
Sun Young Choi,Eun Jung Ko,Yong Hee Lee,Byung Gyu Kim,Hyun Jung Shin,Dae Bang Seo,Sang Jun Lee,Beom Joon Kim, Myeung Nam Kim
(5) J Sci Food Agric. 2016 Sep;96(12):4077-81. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.7606. Epub 2016 Feb 10.Ingestion of bioactive collagen hydrolysates enhance facial skin moisture and elasticity and reduce facial ageing signs in a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled clinical study.
Inoue N, Sugihara F, Wang X.
(6) Clin Interv Aging. 2014; 9: 1747–1758.
Published online 2014 Oct 13. doi: 10.2147/CIA.S65939
Daily consumption of the collagen supplement XXXXXXXXXXXX reduces visible signs of aging.
(7) Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2017;30(3):146-158. doi: 10.1159/000464470. Epub 2017 May 20.
An Insight into the Changes in Skin Texture and Properties following Dietary Intervention with a Nutricosmeceutical Containing a Blend of Collagen Bioactive Peptides and Antioxidants.
Genovese L, Corbo A, Sibilla S.