Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
6 min read
Collagen is a protein that is found throughout the body, providing structure and cushioning power to many parts of the body, including our skin, hair, nails, bones, muscles, and joints. Getting adequate amounts of collagen (at least 2.5 to 15 g per day) supports skin strength and elasticity as well as helping with other parts of the body such as promoting nail health and growth.
We consume collagen in the foods we eat, but our bodies also produce it. After the age of about 25, the body’s collagen production drops and continues to decline as we age. The results of collagen decline are often visible to see, as skin becomes less elastic and more susceptible to signs of aging, like wrinkles.
Although there are a variety of food sources of collagen, such as meat, eggs, bone broth, and spirulina, collagen supplements are another popular option to counteract the effects of declining production. It’s also important to get enough vitamin C, however, because of its crucial role in the synthesis of collagen.
First, it’s important to understand that there are different types of collagen in your body.
There’s also various forms of collagen you can take as a supplement. Collagen supplements made from animal skin and hides that are completely broken down to an absorbable form are known as hydrolyzed collagen or collagen hydrolysate. Partially hydrolyzed collagen, also known as collagen peptides, has also been broken down, but not as completely for the body to absorb.
Vegan collagen supplements do not provide collagen directly, but instead are consumed to stimulate the body to produce more collagen. There are, however, some collagen supplements made from eggshells that contain collagen.
When collagen hydrolysate is taken orally, it is absorbed by the intestines and has been shown to collect in the body’s cartilage. It can then stimulate cell growth, and there’s evidence to show that it supports hydration and elasticity in the skin. There’s also evidence that it strengthens nails. One study of postmenopausal women found that collagen supplementation led to bone mineral density increasing and encouraged bone growth. However, it’s important to understand that collagen isn’t a one-time solution that supports muscle, bone, and skin health. Instead, think of it as a daily part of any wellbeing maintenance routine. It can take weeks or months for the results to show, but the key is consistency and maintaining collagen supplementation for the long term.
Natural eggshell membrane is often used in supplements to improve joint health. Many of these types of supplements take about 7 to 10 days for effects to be seen. One 24-week study of college athletes found an improvement in exercise related joint pain over the course of the study.
Oral collagen supplements have been shown to provide many benefits to the skin, including improvements in elasticity, hydration, and collagen density.
If you’re taking a collagen supplement to experience skin benefits, it’s important to understand that there are many variables involved. Collagen comes in a variety of concentrations with different frequency suggestions. Based on most studies, you can expect to see benefits in around 4 to 12 weeks with consistent use.
One study reported a significant increase in skin hydration after eight weeks, with initial results showing up in four weeks.
Another study found that participants with photoaged skin who took 1 g of collagen peptides for 6 to 12 weeks saw significant improvement in skin hydration and the appearance of wrinkles.
When other researchers studied the benefits of collagen peptide supplements on the appearance of eye wrinkles, they found that female participants who took 2.5 g of collagen peptide supplementation had a 7% reduction in eye wrinkle volume at four weeks, and a 50% reduction at eight weeks of use. Another study found similar results with female participants taking a 10 g collagen peptide supplement and experiencing a 28% uptick in skin moisture and an 8% increase in collagen density over ten weeks. In both of these studies, no similar changes were noticed in participants who were given placebo pills.
It’s important to note that results don’t just stop there though. For instance, one study found improvements in skin elasticity over a longer, 90 day period. Consistency is key and long-term benefits require continuously supplementing with the right dose of collagen peptide.
But it’s not just aesthetics that motivates people to take collagen supplements. These peptides provide amino acids – such as glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline – that our bodies need for muscle health, recovery, and the regulation of protein synthesis.
The potential timeline for seeing effects spans a wide range. There is evidence that collagen levels in muscles increase in just a few hours after consuming a collagen supplement. Still, for long-term benefits, you’ll want to consistently supplement with collagen and not expect results overnight. One study showed muscle improvements by 24 weeks. Exercise can also help improve the benefits of collagen, so it’s good to pair supplementation with a workout.
Hair is built with keratin, a protein that collagen’s amino acids can help to build. Since proline is the main amino acid building block of keratin, it’s important to consume a proline-rich supplement. Since the structure of people’s hair varies quite a bit from one person to the next, with factors that include hair health to genetics, there’s no clear guidelines on when collagen supplement users can expect benefits to hair health.
Timing of positive effects can vary greatly from person to person. Most people can expect to notice some results by the 2 to 3 month time span. It’s important to remain consistent for the maximum benefits to occur. There are other steps you can take to support your overall health. For instance, joint health can be supported through a number of lifestyle changes, such as:
For skin and hair health, a number of lifestyle changes can be beneficial, including:
Collagen is a collection of essential amino acid proteins that provide the structure and elasticity in many parts of our body – from our skin and hair to our joints and muscles. The body’s production of collagen significantly decreases as we age, starting around age 25. Collagen peptide supplements have been shown in clinical studies to significantly improve skin moisture and wrinkles while supporting joint health.
These scientific studies support effects being seen between one and three months in general, but results can vary from person to person. It’s important to note that consistency is key when taking collagen supplements. While results may be shown at around 12 weeks’ time, these results could take longer if the collagen product is not taken on a regular, daily basis.