Collagen in moisturisers doesn’t work.
This pesky molecule is too big the penetrate the 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:
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the protein that keeps 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 are collagen drinks the best way to do it?
Let’s start by taking a look at the type of collagen they contain:
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How Many Types Of Collagen Are There?
Now, to make things more complicated, there isn’t just one type of collagen. There are about 30! 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. I could go into more detail, 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.
Wait, there’s more. 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.
WARNING! ALL collagen in skincare and drinks comes from animals, mostly fish. There are no vegetable or synthetic sources of collagen, so if you only use vegan skincare products, this is NOT for you.
Does Collagen In Skincare Drinks Work?
Collagen can’t get through the skin. But if you drink it, you can be sure it gets in. 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).
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.
Let’s Put Collagen To The Test
I had a hard time finding studies supporting the effectiveness of collagen drinks. 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 supplements 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.
Alternative Ways To Get Your Collagen Fix
The evidence collagen drinks work is so scant (at least for now), I’d rather get my collagen fix from other sources. Your know, those that have been proven to work. They are:
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
There is scant evidence that collagen drinks MAY help you rebuild the collagen you’ve lost. But, personally, it’s not enough to make me splurge on these expensive supplements. I’ll keep using my retinol and eating the rainbow for now.