Everyone’s talking about collagen these days, and for good reason. Collagen is a protein found in your body that is a building block of skin, muscle, and bone, explains Caren Campbell, MD, dermatologist in San Francisco—and it’s often referred to as a “fountain of youth.”
The thing is, collagen production slows as you get older, and it’s broken down as part of the normal aging process. This is expedited by sun exposure, smoking, and other oxidative stressors in the environment, says Campbell.
With this slowing and breaking down of collagen comes wrinkles, dry skin, loss of elasticity, and potentially even joint pain.
That’s where supplementing comes in. But you really need to take a collagen supplement, and if so, how much collagen do you need to take to see results? Keep reading to find out.
How does collagen work?
“Collagen is used to provide structure and stretch to your skin, bones, ligaments, cartilage, and muscles,” says Flora Waples, MD, medical director and founder of RESTOR Medical Spa in Denver.
There are 16 types of collagen, but the majority—almost 90%—of the types in your body are I, II, and III. Types I and III are the ones found in your skin specifically.
“Some forms of collagen are very rigid—similar to the studs of the walls in your house or the rebar that is threaded through concrete structures,” says Waples. “Other forms of collagen are very elastic and flexible—like the bands of elastic in the waistbands in your pants.”
Are there any benefits to taking a collagen supplement?
While your body produces collagen naturally, this does slow as you age— hence why there are many collagen supplements on the market these days.
“Supplementing with collagen may boost skin firmness and elasticity, increase thickness and strength of hair, support joint and tendon health, and provide a complete range of amino acids for muscle and lean tissue growth and repair,” says Lauren Minchen, RDN, nutrition consultant for Freshbit, the AI-driven visual diet diary app. “Collagen may also support a healthy gut, particularly Type 1, by supporting the integrity of the gut lining.”
The types of collagen supplements that have been studied are collagen hydrolysate (also known as hydrolyzed collagen), collagen tripeptide, and collagen dipeptide, says Campbell.
One study published in the journal Nutrients found that people who took one gram of collagen peptides for 12 weeks had significantly less wrinkles as well as improved skin hydration at the end of the trial compared to the placebo group.
Another study found that hydrolyzed collagen could help strengthen joints and lessen pain caused by osteoarthritis.
How do you choose the right collagen supplement for you?
The most important thing is to take the right type of collagen for the condition you’re looking to address, says Minchen. For example, if you’re interested in improving your skin health, you should look for a supplement made with Type I or III collagen. She suggests looking for a collagen supplement that has at least three types (I, II, and III) in it, with very little added sugar.
“Your collagen supplement should contain primarily collagen,” says Minchen. “Additional nutrients to look for include some vitamin C as a collagen booster and other antioxidants that support healthy body tissues, like vitamin A, E, resveratrol, and green tea extract.”
Most collagen supplements come in pill or powder form. Powder collagen supplements are virtually tasteless and can easily be added to water or coffee.
Do note that collagen supplements are animal-derived, so they may not be suitable for vegetarians or vegans, says Minchen. While some plant-based collagen powders exist, they haven’t been well-studied, notes Campbell, so experts don’t know if you’ll see any benefits from them.
How much collagen do you need?
If you decide to supplement, Minchen recommends starting with two to 10 grams per day, then working up to about 15 grams per day from most, if not all, of the major collagen types for the best and most thorough results.
“Give your collagen supplement routine two to three months to really see skin-firming, joint-strengthening, hair-thickening results,” she adds.
What’s the best collagen supplement to try?
Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides is a good option, says Minchen. It contains 20 grams of collagen peptides per serving and doesn’t have any sugar in it. Minchen also likes Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen Protein, which contains five types of collagen and 20 grams of collagen peptides per serving.
With either one, simply scoop the powder into your preferred beverage (Minchen advises staying away from sugary drinks) and mix until it dissolves.