Can collagen supplements improve your skin’s appearance?

If only.

Skin mostly consists of the protein collagen, which over time becomes fragmented, like a fraying rope. We also produce less of it as we age. The result: wrinkled and less-firm skin.

“Research has shown that if you improve your collagen, your skin will look better,” says Gary Fisher, professor of molecular dermatology at the University of Michigan.

But taking collagen or its building blocks (amino acids) is unlikely to help. Collagen, like any protein, Collagengets broken down during digestion into amino acids, which are used to make new proteins. Those new proteins could be collagen or anything else, depending on what your body needs.

“But our body’s machinery that makes collagen doesn’t work as well as we age,” says Fisher. “So unless your diet is deficient, loading up on more amino acids by taking collagen supplements is not likely to do anything.”

Supplements like Doctor’s Best contain peptides: short chains of two or three amino acids. “But enzymes in the intestinal cells break peptides down into single amino acids,” says protein researcher Paul Moughan, of Massey University in New Zealand. “And that’s primarily what you will absorb.”

Bottom Line: Want to protect your skin? Invest in a broad-spectrum sunscreen, not collagen supplements.

27 Replies to “Can collagen supplements improve your skin’s appearance?”

    1. There isn’t right now. But we are collecting ideas for our next booklet, so I’ll add that to the list of possibilities. Thanks!

      1. Hi Joyce,

        That’s great that you’ve found something that works for you. We did review that study for a recent article on arthritis. While the results are interesting, it was a small study funded by the makers of the supplement. Future large, independently-funded studies will hopefully shed more light on the issue.

      2. Well it sure helped me and I will never again be without it. After taking for around a month my arthritis is my hands is all but non existent, and the only thing different I did was take Collagen. Works for me.

    1. No. Despite many claims that collagen and bone broth will “heal” the gut, there isn’t any evidence to support that. Once the collagen makes its way to the intestine, it has already been broken down into basic amino acids and will function just like any other amino acids from any other protein.

    1. There’s no good evidence that they can. Collagen is a large protein and can’t pass through the skin barrier. Even if it could, there’s no known biological mechanism that would explain how it could be incorporated into the skin’s collagen network.

  1. Is there a possibility that “sea collagen” be better assimilate than usual collagene ? I use it for months now and it looks to me that it is working..

  2. I am an 80-year-old guy basically in good health, been taking collagen supplements intermittently for years, along with “women’s” hyaluronic acid.
    I have found my hair feels thicker, my nails stronger and my skin gets complicated by others once they know my age. Also, my joints pain has improved over time compared to when I was not taking collagen supplements. Just my experiences.

  3. What about biotin? Do you know if it is effective? I’ve been taking Biosil for a few years and my nails are healthier and stronger. I recently heard that adding collagen works even better. Glad I didn’t buy it right away.

  4. Thank you for debunking the myth, supported by false media , that you can improve your skin by taking collagen supplements. Women are inundated with advertising for these products making claims that are not supported by science or evidence base.

  5. So are there any topical products that really improve skins texture & makes wrinkles & dark spots less visible? How would you put vitamin A on your face?

    1. Yes, there is research that shows that topical vitamin A improves skin texture. I believe the best research is on prescription-grade retinols (a form of Vitamin A). There are a number of products that add retinols, but I think they are fairly low doses. If you’re interested, you can talk to your doctor about getting a prescription of a topical vitamin A product (often referred to as Retin A or tretinoin).

      1. Thank you! Is there any advantage to using Retin A on your face as a preventative for skin cancer? Does it help to rid your skin of any small patches that may already exist?

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