Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and is found in skin, bone, muscle, tendons, and ligaments. It gives skin and joints their structure, strength and flexibility.
The body can produce collagen when the essential building materials are available. Collagen is made up of several amino acids, the main three being glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. You can get these amino acids from protein-rich foods like meat, chicken, and beans as well as foods naturally containing collagen, like bone broth. Collagen supplements are also a good source and come in powders and capsules sourced either from animals or even eggshell membranes.
In addition to the amino acids, vitamin C is needed as a cofactor for collagen synthesis.
Over 28 different types of collagen exist, the most common types being types 1-4.
In addition to providing structure and strength to connective tissues, collagen also plays a key role in keeping skin moisturized and supple. Furthermore, it helps with healthy hair and nail growth. For example, one study found that 2.5 g of collagen supplementation daily boosted nail growth and improved brittle nails.
Nutrition is known to have a major influence in skin health. Collagen has become a popular supplement for skin and beauty care – and with good reason! Let’s dig into the benefits of collagen for healthy skin.
As we age, collagen breakdown naturally increases; this can start happening as early as age 25.
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. One study showed improvements in skin hydration with daily intake of 10 g of collagen over 8 weeks. Collagen gives strength to the skin to enable it to hold more water and maintain hydration.
Flexible, elastic skin is essential for reducing the formation of wrinkles. Numerous studies like this one report improvements in skin elasticity with supplementation of collagen peptides.
When considering eye wrinkle appearance in particular, researchers found that women who ingested 2.5g of collagen peptides over 8 weeks had an average of 20% reduction in eye wrinkle volume compared to placebo. Better yet, a significant reduction was found in as little as four weeks.
In addition to wrinkles, results are also promising for the use of oral collagen supplements for wound healing and alleviating skin aging.
Acne is one of the most common skin conditions. Occasional outbreaks of acne can be caused by several factors, the most common being hormonal changes. Fluctuations in hormones can lead to increased sebum production, which helps the naturally occurring bacteria on the skin called Cutibacterium acnes to grow. This bacteria can convert sebum into free fatty acids, which can provoke acne formation.
Many studies have also found connections to low levels of certain nutrients in people with acne compared to those without. However, no consensus exists on the exact relationship between diet and acne. Fat soluble vitamins A, D, and E may play a helpful role in skin health and reducing the presence of acne.
Gut health may also play a role in the presence of acne in some individuals. Research shows that people with acne tend to have key differences in their levels of gut bacteria compared to those without acne. Modulation of the gut microbiome through diet, lifestyle, and probiotics may indirectly influence the skin microbiome. However, research is still preliminary.
The best advice is to discuss skin concerns with a dermatologist for customized recommendations that can address underlying issues.
Skin health involves many different factors, including the strength of skin and the health of the skin microbiome. Collagen is important for maintaining strong, flexible, and hydrated skin, and collagen supplements can support this. However, there is no evidence that collagen is a solution for acne.
All acne, blackheads, whiteheads, milia, pimples, and breakouts begin as pore blockage. While there is no way to truly change pore size or open or close pores, a healthy daily skincare routine can help keep pores clean.
Collagen does not help prevent or manage poor blockage and acne, but it may help to make pores appear smaller. As you age, your body produces less collagen, which can lead to pores that appear looser and larger. Collagen supports skin firmness, which can firm up the skin around your pores.
Scars on the skin may be left over from past wounds or acne. When skin heals, hyperpigmentation can occur in which the healed skin is darker than the original skin color.
Collagen supplementation is not known to change the appearance of acne scars. However, several options are available for reducing the appearance of acne scars. These include dermal fillers, microneedling, chemical peels, and laser treatments.
One option called percutaneous collagen induction, or sometimes referred to as dermarolling or microneedling (which involves creating microscopic wounds in the skin to stimulate skin healing and promote collagen production), was studied, and participants showed improvements in the appearance of acne scars after 3 sessions.
Numerous studies have used collagen at varying dosages with good benefits. While the science is still emerging and dosage may vary based on desired health benefit, the general range of collagen dose for therapeutic effect is 2.5 g to 15 g per serving.
The best type of collagen is hydrolyzed collagen which has been broken down into amino acids to enhance absorption and use of collagen in the body.
Acne is a frustrating skin condition and should always be addressed by your dermatologist. But there are numerous options and nutrients to discuss with your dermatologist that may help with promoting healthy skin.
Nutrients and oral supplements that may help with skin health include:
Additional skincare and lifestyle options include:
While there are many do-it-yourself options to help manage acne, seeking the help of a dermatologist is best in several situations, which may include:
Wrinkles are a fact of life as we age. A major factor in age-related wrinkles is the reduced production of collagen with aging. With less new collagen formation and more collagen breakdown, skin can lose its strength, elasticity, and hydration, leaving skin looser, thinner, and drier.
Some people may want to reduce the appearance of wrinkles for aesthetic purposes. Regular collagen supplementation has been shown to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, including eye wrinkles by helping to strengthen the skin and improve skin hydration.
Cellulite is fat that gathers in between pockets of connective tissue just beneath the top layer of skin, pushing against the skin surface and appearing as bulges and dimples. While cellulite is not a health concern, some people may want to reduce its appearance.
Women approaching or in menopause are particularly susceptible to having more cellulite. As women age, estrogen levels begin to decline. Experimental data show that estrogen may protect skin cells against oxidative damage. When estrogen levels plummet in menopause, the increase in oxidative stress can lead to less collagen in skin, resulting in skin that is thinner, less elastic, drier, and more wrinkled.
Collagen supplementation can help reduce cellulite appearance through strengthening the connective tissue so that fat does not bulge through. Participants in a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study noticed improvements in skin and cellulite appearance after supplementing with 2.5 g bioactive collagen peptides daily for 6 months.
The most common options people consider to help manage cellulite include weight management, exercise, laser and radio frequencies, and topical treatments such as retinol cream however the research concludes there is no one truly effective treatment.
Collagen can help boost skin hydration by maintaining more water content in the skin tissue. Hydrated skin can help skin feel soft and elastic. One study showed that after 12 weeks of collagen supplementation skin water loss decreased and skin water content increased. The researchers attributed the improvements in skin water content to collagen creating an increase in natural moisturizing factor.
With the rise in collagen popularity has come claims that don’t have clear backing by science.
Myth 1: All collagen is created equal.
Truth: Quality matters. Look to buy supplements from companies that have high quality standards for sourcing their ingredients. Choose non-GMO products, and opt for grass-fed forms of collagen if from bovine sources. Care/of collagen powders are sourced from grass-fed cows in New Zealand.
Myth 2: Collagen can treat acne or other skin conditions.
Truth: In reality, collagen is needed to maintain healthy skin, joints, cartilage, gut health, and overall optimal health. But it cannot treat acne or other skin conditions.
Skin is our largest organ, so it is important to take care of it. You can care for your skin in the following ways:
Myth 3: Collagen only comes from beef and fish.
Truth: Care/of offers both bovine sources as well as groundbreaking eggshell membrane derived collagen that is suitable for vegetarians.
Collagen has numerous documented benefits for skin health, but it does not have known benefits to managing acne. A good skincare routine, healthy diet and lifestyle, and care from a dermatologist are great options for helping to manage acne. Collagen can help with skin elasticity, hydration, and firmness, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.