truth about collagen drink for skincare and antiaging

The skincare question I get more often these days is: do collagen drinks for skin work? Can they really firm your skin, prevent wrinkles, and make you age faster… or is it just another marketing claim that’s too good to be true? After all, despite what brands say, collagen in moisturisers doesn’t work. This pesky molecule is too big the penetrate your skin. It sits comfortably on its surface, making it soft and smooth. But firming skin or replacing the collagen it has lost? No can do.

What if you drink collagen, instead? Collagen drinks are all the rage now. (Marketers must have realised we are onto them and came up with a new tactic to sell us collagen). They make the same promises skincare with collagen did. Plumper, firmer skin and a younger-looking complexion. But can they deliver or is this just another marketing trick to get us to splurge on the latest, useless fad? Let science be the judge. Here’s the truth about collagen drinks for skin:

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is the protein that keeps your skin firm and plump. It works because it’s part of the matrix that gives structure to the skin. Its job is to glue all these other substances together so your skin stays firm. When this structure loses collagen, it starts to sag and wrinkle. We start losing collagen pretty early. After we turn 21 (21, ladies!), we lose around 1% every year. Once we hit menopause, collagen disappears at lightening speed!

FYI, you’ll lose even more collagen if you live in a polluted city, eat a lot of sugar or don’t wear sunscreen daily. UV rays, pollution and sugar all destroy collagen, making your skin wrinkle and sag faster. You need to find a way to replenish the collagen your skin loses every day, but it must be the right type of collagen. Yep, there’s more than one type of collagen. About 30, in fact! Not all of them have to do with the skin. Some of these forms are only present in heart muscles, for example, so we can ignore them (for this discussion).

The types of collagen that are essentials for skin’s firmness and plumpness are Types I, III, V, VI, VII, XII. Types I, II and III make up 90% of all the collagen in your body, including a big portion of the collagen in your skin. Type I is the most abundant of them all while type III is found mainly in your skin. I could say more, but I don’t want to bore you. All you need to know is that a drink or supplement promises to firm the skin, it must promote the production of the right type of collagen.

To make things more complicated, there are different forms of each type of collagen! They are:

  • Hydrolyzed collagen: Fully formed collagen chopped down into small bits. It’s the most common type used in cosmetics.
  • Native: Fully formed collagen. It has a very large molecular structure that CAN’T penetrate skin.
  • Soluble: This is collagen that is not fully formed and is, therefore, said to penetrate skin better. It’s usually derived from young animals.

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What Are Collagen Supplements For Skin?

Ingestible collagen supplements made their debut on the market a few years ago, propelled by influencers who swore it was the secret to their flawless, wrinkle-free skin. Most of these supplements come in power form you can pour into your coffee or any beverage of your choice, while others come in liquid form and even pills. I’m a fan of liquid collagen because it’s the most practical for me. I pour it into a smoothie or a tea and am good to go. But it’s good to have choices, so you can use the form that’s easiest for you to consume.

Do Collagen Supplements For Skin Work?

Collagen can’t penetrate your skin, so serums and moisturisers with it don’t work. They can moisturise skin, but they won’t firm it. But if you drink collagen, you can be sure it gets into your body. Now it MUST work, right? Not so fast. Just because you managed to sneak in collagen, it doesn’t mean it’s gonna do you much good.

Here’s the deal: when you eat a plate of spaghetti, they don’t reach your stomach and intestines whole. They get broken down into all the smaller nutrients that make them up.It’s the same with collagen. Once the digestive process starts, collagen gets broken down into amino acids (FYI: collagen is a protein and all proteins are made up of amino acids).

“Despite popular belief that collagen supplements can help strengthen our skin, we have little data to truly support this,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, M.D. “Collagen is a large molecule that is digested by our intestines into smaller pieces when taken by mouth, so when we ingest powders or supplements, our skin is not seeing the full collagen molecule, but rather protein fragments or individual amino acids.”

Your body then uses these amino acids for whatever it needs at the time. It doesn’t know you were drinking collagen to firm your skin. I believe some of these amino acids may signal your body to amp up its collagen production a bit, but it’s not a done deal.

What Science Says About Collagen Supplements For Skin

I had a hard time finding studies supporting the effectiveness of collagen drinks for skin. Most of those claiming they work were open-lab (it means they weren’t blinded or placebo-controlled, so not the most reliable). Take for example this study done to test the effectiveness of Pure Gold Collagen, a nutritional supplement containing hydrolysed collagen, hyaluronic acid, vitamins and minerals.

The study shows that these collagen fragments create more cells that produced collagen and increase the production of hyaluronic acid (essential to keep your skin plump and hydrated). But, not everyone saw an improvement. Only 15% of people taking the supplements had fewer facial wrinkles after 60 days! I’m not sure I’d want to splurge on that…

I’ve found another study that’s more reliable. You know, one that was double-blind and placebo controlled. The researchers asked 69 women aged between 35-55 to receive either 2.5g or 5g of a collagen supplement or a placebo. Eight weeks later, the skin of women who had taken the supplement was more elastic than the skin of women who had taken the placebo.

Finally, A review of 19 studies published in the International Journal of Dermatology found that participants who used collagen supplements saw an improvement in the firmness and hydration in their skin. Their wrinkles look less noticeable too. Amazing, right? The catch? We don’t know if these results are due to collagen or one of the other goodies (think antioxidants, minerals, etc) found in these drinks.

Are Collagen Drinks For Skin Safe?

Now you know what results you can expect from collagen drinks for skin. But, are they safe? Yes, they are. In the studies I quoted above, “no side effects were noted.” What may not be safe is your wallet. While drinking collagen will benefit your overall health, if you’re doing it just to reduce wrinkles, you may not get the results you want. *sighs*

Are Collagen Drinks For Skin Vegan?

Unfortunately, collagen drinks are NOT vegan-friendly. Vegan is derived the connective tissues of cows of fish. If you come across a collagen drink that claims to vegan, they’re not telling the entire true. Here’s what I mean. Brands like Revive Collagen are launching plant-based collagen supplements, but they do NOT contain collagen. Instead, they use a substitute that mimics human collagen. Does it have the same effect? I couldn’t find any proof evidence it does, or that it does not. I believe there are enough other goodies, like antioxidants, in these drinks to benefit skin in some way – but do read the labels carefully to know what you’re getting.

What Are The Best Collagen Drinks For Skin?

I don’t recommend you try a collagen drink to fight wrinkles. But, if you’d like to use a collagen supplement for your overall health, knowing some of its benefits will show up on your skin, here are the best options for you to try:

  • Revive Collagen Enhanced Plus Premium Liquid Marine Collagen Drink (£44.99 for 14 sachets): This bovine collagen supplement is enriched with a sprinkle of antioxidants to help fight premature aging. Available at Revive Collagen and Sephora.
  • WeightWorld Marine Collagen Liquid (£19.99 for 15 sachets): This supplements uses hydrolysed marine collagen derived from wild fish sustainably sourced from the deep sea, sprinkles with wrinkle-fighting antioxidants. Available at Sephora.

What Are The Best Alternatives To Collagen Drinks For Skin?

The evidence collagen drinks for skin work is so scant (at least for now), I’d rather get my collagen fix from other sources. You’re know, those that have been proven to work. They are:

1. Retinoids

Retinoids are my fave way to boost collagen. Forms of Vitamin A, they include retinol, retinaldehyde and tretinoin (listed here from least to most powerful). They stimulate the production of collagen to keep skin firm and elastic. While they’re at it, they also fight free radicals before they give you new wrinkles and fade away dark spots. The catch? Retinoids are drying and irritating. Start with a small concentration a couple of nights a week and increase both dose and frequency (to every other night) slowly.


  • Paula’s Choice Resist Wrinkle Repair Retinol Serum ($42.00): An anti-aging serum with 0.1% retinol. It also includes antioxidants, like Vitamin E, to prevent premature aging, and soothing ingredients to reduce irritations. Available at Paula’s Choice and Sephora.
  • Skinceuticals Retinol 0.3 Night Cream ($62.00): This cream contains only 0.3% retinol but it packs an anti-aging punch. It comes in a moisturising base, but you need to use a separate moisturiser to counteract the dryness of retinol. Available at Dermstore and Skinceuticals.
  • Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Booster ($52.00): This high-strength 1% retinol booster has a moisturising base and plenty of skin-soothers to counteract the irritating effects of retinol. Use it on its own for maximum effect or dilute it with moisturiser if it’s too harsh for you. Available at Cult BeautyNet-A-PorterPaula’s Choice and SpaceNK.
  • Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM ($65.00): A micro encapsulated 1.5% retinol serum in an oily, moisturising base to fight wrinkles and fade away dark spots. Available at Beauty BayCult Beauty, and Peter Thomas Roth.

2. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen. The more Vitamin C your skin age, the more collagen it produces and the faster you age. The best form of Vitamin C (yes, there are many!) to boost collagen is L-Ascorbic Acid. This antioxidant also fights free radicals and brightens the complexion. 15% is more than enough to do the job. You don’t need more than that. If that irritates your skin, opt for a smaller concentration or one of its derivatives. They work more slowly but hey, better slow than never, right?


  • Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum ($80.00/£67.00): This CEF serum contains marula oil to moisturise dry skin, but that gives it a slightly sticky texture. Available at Cult BeautySephora and SpaceNK
  • Paula’s Choice C15 Booster ($49.00): A powerful CEF serum that brightens skin and fights premature aging. Available at SephoraNordstrom and Paula’s Choice
  • Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($166.00): The original CEF serum, it’s still the gold standards on the market to prevent wrinkles, boosts sun protection, and brighten the complexion. Available at Dermstore

3. Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is a popular exfoliant that brightens the complexion, hydrates skin, and fades away dark spots. It’s also the best exfoliant for treating sun damage – and not just because it can fade away those pesky sun spots. Glycolic acid can also boost the production of collagen – but only at 10% or higher concentration. It’s hard to find such high concentrations in skincare products – for a reason. High concentrations irritate and dry out skin. Your best bet is to go for Glycolic Acid facials 3 or 4 times a year. Your aesthetician uses much higher concentrations than those used in your skincare products and does so in a safe environment. Win win.

4. Copper Peptides

If you’re a regular here, you know I’m not a big fan of peptides in general. Despite what brands tell you, there’s not much proof they do much of anything for your skin. Copper peptides are the exception. Copper is essential for the production of collagen and, when I don’t use them, I do see a difference in my skin. It just looks worse for wear. The most popular copper peptide is GHK-Cu. It boosts the production of collagen, elastin, and other components of the skin’s natural barrier; has anti-inflammatory properties; and helps heal wounds. Pretty awesome, isn’t it?


  • Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream ($68.00): A lightweight moisturiser loaded with amino acids (the building blocks of your skin) to moisturise skin and plump it up – without clogging your pores and giving you breakouts. Available at Cult BeautySephora and SpaceNK.
  • Niod Copper Amino Isolate Serum 2:1 (£42.00): The product that converted me to copper peptides, it works by keeping skin in a constant state of repair, making sure that everything’s functioning properly. Available at Beauty Bay, Niod, and SpaceNK.
  • The Ordinary Buffet + Copper Peptides 1% (£28.90): Your best bet if you want to see what the fuss is about without committing too much money. Plus, it has 5 more peptide complexes, including Matrixyl 3000 to boost collagen and SYN-AKE to freeze muscle movements (no, it doesn’t work as well as Botox). Available at Beauty BayCult Beauty and Look Fantastic.

5. Lasers

Lasers are perhaps the most effective solution to boost the production of collagen in your skin. But, they’re expensive, so you need to do your research. Not all types of lasers are created equal. The best types to boost collagen are Genesis Laser and MedLite laser. They both have been proven to boost collagen for up to 5 years! The catch? You need at least 6 sessions. If you can afford the splurge, it’s totally worth it.

6. Other Ways To Boost Collagen

You can check out my post, “8 Ways To Rebuild Lost Collagen For Firmer, Younger-Looking Skin” for more information on how these treatments work and the best skincare products to rebuild your lost collagen.

You can also do a lot to slow down collagen loss:

  • Eat a healthy diet rich in vegetables and poor in sugar
  • Quit smoking
  • Wear sunscreen every day

The Bottom Line

Are collagen drinks for skin worth it? It really depends on your goal. If you want to boost collagen in your skin specifically, you’ll better off sticking to retinol. When you drink collagen, your body doesn’t know you’re doing it to look younger and may redirect that collagen somewhere it needs it more, like your joints. But if you’re doing it for your overall health, go ahead. You’ll see some benefits in your skin too.