What are the Health Benefits of Taking Collagen? The Science Explained

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    Do you want to maintain a healthy complexion throughout your life? What about healthy bones and connective tissues?

    What is collagen powder and what does it do?

    Collagen powder, a supplement used to increase collagen levels in the body, is a hydrolyzed version of collagen protein that has been taken from animal tissues.

    An essential building block of the skin, collagen is naturally produced in the body. The most abundant of all the proteins, collagen is what gives the skin and joints their structure, and it helps keep them strong and flexible. It is especially concentrated in the middle layer of the skin where it plays a key role in keeping the skin moisturized and supple, maintaining the elasticity and plump appearance of healthy, youthful skin. As people age, collagen levels naturally decline. Though it can start to happen as early as age 25, the natural decline can be accelerated by sun exposure, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, stress, lack of sleep, and lack of exercise. Research has shown that taking collagen regularly can help reinforce the skin's natural moisture barrier, support elasticity, and help reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

    This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of female subjects between 40 and 60 years old found that oral intake of low molecular weight collagen peptide (LMWCP) significantly improved hydration, elasticity, and wrinkling of human skin.

    Collagen is a protein made of amino acids, though it lacks tryptophan so it is considered an incomplete protein. It is composed of 3 chains that are wound together to form a triple helix. Since glycine is the smallest of all the amino acids, it allows the chain to form a tight configuration, and it can withstand stress.

    In addition to skin health, collagen supports strong bones and teeth, healthy hair and fingernails, healthy joints, tendons, and ligaments. Although it can be consumed in food, supplementation can be more efficient. Vitamin C is also crucial for collagen synthesis.

    Types of collagen

    Most scientists believe that there are 28 types of collagen, though there are some who would argue that there are only 16 and others who would claim an even larger number. The most plentiful of all of them are types I, II, and III.

    Type I is the most prevalent type of collagen in the body. This is the type of collagen you’d be looking at if you were interested in preserving the levels of collagen in your skin, hair or nails. Because it is so prevalent in connective tissues, the reduction of type I collagen often results in fine lines, sagging skin, brittle nails, and thinning hair.

    But type I collagen isn’t just a substance that hydrates your skin, keeping it healthy and youthful looking. It’s also a major component of the tendons, organs and bones.

    Type II collagen is much less prevalent in the body than type I, but still extremely important. It is the main component of cartilage and is essential for a healthy skeletal system. Athletes and generally active people who rely on their joints could benefit from adding type II collagen to their diet.

    Type III collagen is generally found in reticular fibers such as bone marrow, and in large blood vessels, the uterus and bowel. It is usually found alongside type I collagen in the body.

    Collagen powder nutrition information

    Reading labels should be mandatory in order to purchase supplements of any kind. When looking for collagen powder, it is important to look for the protein content per serving, the sugar content, and any other ingredients. Some brands include herbal extracts, megadoses of biotin, and vitamins and minerals that you might not want or need to be taking. Find a trusted source or talk to your physician or healthcare provider for the best options for you. Care/of has a premium collagen product Unflavored Collagen Powder with an easy-to-read label that lets you know you’re getting Grass-fed Collagen Peptides (Bovine) and nothing else.

    Health benefits of collagen powder

    Skin health

    There is an abundance of evidence to confirm that type I and III collagen production naturally reduces with age, though lifestyle choices like sun exposure and smoking may accelerate the pace. As a result the skin loses its elasticity, begins to wrinkle, and loses that plump, smooth, youthful look of, well, youth. There is, however, good news. There is plenty of research to support the improvement of skin health and appearance with collagen supplementation.

    This double-blind, placebo-controlled study of women ages 35-55 explored the effect supplementation of specific collagen peptides has on human skin. Researchers found significant improvement in elasticity and overall skin quality in the study group versus the placebo group. They also found a positive influence on skin moisture and skin evaporation, though the data was not statistically significant.

    This double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 120 subjects found that oral supplementation with collagen peptides improved skin elasticity while also having a beneficial effect on joint health and general wellbeing.

    Joint health

    Collagen is believed to promote joint mobility, healthy cartilage, joint health and flexibility.

    A 24 week study on the use of collagen as a dietary supplement for athletes with activity-related joint pain showed promising results supporting joint health for those with exercise related discomfort. Additional research is needed.

    Eggshell membrane is a source of collagen that can promote joint comfort in as little as 7-10 days. CareOf has a premium vegetarian collagen product that is sustainably sourced from eggshell membrane that naturally contains collagen and hyaluronic acid.

    Bone health

    As people age their bones can become less dense. Some research has found that daily doses of collagen powder could promote bone health.

    This randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study of 102 postmenopausal women with primary, age-related reduction of bone mineral density (BMD) found significantly increased BMD of the lumbar spine and the femoral neck of the control group after 12 months of daily oral administration of Specific Collagen Peptides (SCP). While a significant finding, more research is still needed.

    Muscle health

    While there is evidence that collagen powder may support muscle mass as a source of protein, most research indicates that whey protein powder would be the better choice.

    In this study, 22 females took 30g of protein (half took collagen, the other half took whey) 2 times per day for 6 days and did one-sided resistance training. While the collagen group experienced muscle growth, it was not as much as the whey group, indicating that whey protein is a more effective supplement to support skeletal muscle retention in older females than collagen.

    Heart health

    There are no specific studies of collagen powder and heart health, though some contend that it could promote heart health by its impact on a healthy lifestyle.

    Potential side effects of collagen supplements

    There have been no major side effects reported when taking collagen supplements, including collagen powder. The only potential side effect seems to be mild digestive discomfort depending on ingredients being used in the supplement and the amount of collagen being taken. Pregnant and breastfeeding persons should avoid collagen supplementation.

    How to properly supplement collagen powder

    There is no best way to supplement collagen powder. It is purely a matter of personal preference. You can mix it with any liquid and take it at any time. It can be added to your morning coffee, smoothie, juice or blended drink. You can also mix it with water in a shaker cup or even incorporate the powder in your oatmeal, yogurt, pancakes, eggs, or even your favorite cookie recipe. The choice is yours. Get creative.

    How much collagen powder should I take?

    Most collagen powder comes with a scoop and instructions for dosage. Read the label and ask your healthcare provider or a registered dietician for the best dosage for your particular needs.

    Final takeaways

    Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, but it can start decreasing naturally as early as age 25. Exposure to the sun, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption, poor sleeping habits, and stress can also cause depletion of collagen in your body. Collagen supplementation can help and collagen powder makes it easy. Get all the facts before you make your decision. As always, consult with your physician or healthcare provider before starting any supplementation.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.