Due to the media and celebrity propagation, we have seen collagen rise in popularity, from to the potential benefits that it claims to bring. We have been told that collagen supplements may brighten up your skin as well as improve skin elasticity, giving you that dewy, youthful fresh ‘forever young look’ that is often desired as we age, of course. Manufacturers actually claim that collagen supplements work toward strengthening your nails, bones; and can even relieve joints from any lingering joint pain that many of us notice as the years pass by.
When we read all these claims, it is not actually surprising anymore as to how collagen got so popular, is it?
Within this guide, I will give you the complete low-down on what collagen actually is, answer the question of if collagen supplements work, the different types of collagen, the benefits of collagen supplementation and finally how to go about choosing the best supplements that are out there on the market right now.
Best collagen supplements powders to buy – At a glance
- Best Overall: Bulk Collagen & Vitamin C – Amazon
- Best for Vegans: Vegan Vitality Vegan Collagen Complex – Amazon
- Best Boosted Collagen: Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Powder Supplement – Amazon
- Best for Keto: Liquid Body Collagen Protein – Amazon
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What is collagen?
Collagen is a highly abundant protein within the body, that is responsible for the structure and strengthening of the skin, bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments.  Many people actually do not know that collagen makes up to 80% of our skin naturally, and due to its binding compatibility with the protein elastin, this is what gives our skin great skin elasticity.
The reason why people actively seek to increase their collagen within their body, is due to the fact that collagen production slows down massively as we age. There is less interaction of the amino acids within our bodies, to create the protein collagen peptides, meaning we have less to go around to support joint health, skin and bone function.
Our human bodies are unable to keep up with the required levels to boost collagen and replace the breakdown collagen process as we age, meaning we have to see wrinkles as we get older unfortunately. From your 20th birthday onwards, 1 percent of your collagen production will decline every year.
While everything we do can make us lessen the natural collagen production that our body strives to achieve, there are things that can rapidly accelerate collagen break down in our own bodies, that we should be aware of. Sun exposure, smoking and general pollution work negatively against your body’s collagen amino acid capacity.
Yet, research and studies have shown, the earlier we take our collagen supplements, could massively improve our body from a dermatological and biological stance.
Do collagen supplements really work?
Studies vary from one another, yet overall collagen supplementation has shown to support collagen production within our bodies overall; when supplements within research have been used alongside nutritional intake and protein substitution.  Alongside an effective daily foods/macronutrients intake, collagen absorption is enhanced and will offer the benefits to support collagen building. However, before collagen is created when consumed, it is first broken down into amino acids and rebuilt within protein synthesis.
Collagen supplements are also popular with people looking for supplements on the keto diet.
Below is a brief overview as to how collagen operates for different factors within the body.
Collagen is a peptide (protein), which contains amino acids (lots of them). Of course, we all know how protein is key for muscle building, right? Well, collagen supplements may actually support muscle growth and maintenance when combined within exercise. In studies for both older men aged 50+ and post-menopausal women, collagen peptides taken over a controlled 3 months saw an actual gain in muscle in comparison to placebo workout supplements. 
Collagen supports bone health massively, and it is thought to work against osteoporosis. Often women who go through menopause are the most vulnerable to this disease, due to key hormone depletion within the body. Studies have shown however, women who took Hydrolyzed collagen over a one year period, saw an increase in bone density by 3% with less joint pain.  This is a huge difference, especially when bones, skin and muscle collagen decline rapidly when hitting the age of 50. Yet, there needs to be more in-depth studies to observe how the rate of collagen may improve if women take supplements during perimenopause.
The joints and marrow within bones, is where collagen peptides are contained. Joint health and pain in evidence and research, did reduce when combined with supplement intake. In a study, individuals took raw collagen supplements of 40 micrograms for 6 months. The result? Joint pain, and stiffness was actually less noticeable and reported in participants.
It is very obvious here that a controlled application of collagen supplements daily within diet, will reduce the effects and symptoms of depleting collagen within our bodies. Of course, further studies with greater embrace of test subjects, will boost the research and credibility of collagen in the eyes of the food and supplement industry, no doubt. Yet, studies are now on the peak of elaborating further in their understanding of collagen.
Now, there are claims that collagen supplements may contribute to our hair, nails, weight loss and gut health!
Can drinking or eating collagen improve skin health?
Studies have highlighted that collagen supplements can boost your skin health massively. In fact, the collagen type I known as hydrolysate was given to 114 test study subjects, who were middle aged women. After 8 weeks of taking it daily, it was analysed to showcase a 20% reduced wrinkles, fine lines and creasing volume of the skin. 
Other studies additionally used the same type of supplement containing collagen, yet this type and the length of the dosage taken, was expanded by four weeks more and had a 27% increased skin volume (less wrinkles), smoothness and hydration.  It is very obvious that the evidence of the potential benefits in skin health when combining collagen ingredients as a supplement, make a great difference and are therefore very important to be considered. Your skin should appear glowing and radiant in no time!
There still is a gap however in research, to address how the different types of collagen supplements affect skin health as a comparative study.
Can the body absorb collagen supplements?
Collagen will absorb differently, depending on the type and composition that is integrated within your supplements.
These are the following types of collagen that can be found within supplements:
- Hydrolyzed collagen or collagen hydrolysate
- Gelatine (sourced from bone broth and fish)
The Hydrolyzed Collagen has proven to absorb the most efficiently when consumed. Studies with Hydrolysate and placebos administered within ten male test subjects, indicated higher amino acid blood plasma levels after a 240-minute period, specifically for the Hydrolysate.  The concentration of this particular collagen was far greater than the types specified above.
Studies and research will of course be heightened by bias slightly as most of the time, manufacturers form their own research regimes to get the figures and statistics to support collagen supplement efficacy for their business regimes.
What is collagen powder?
Collagen powder is another type of supplement and peptide. Most collagen powders contain Hydrolysed type I collagen, which integrates bone broth and fish scales within it usually. The collagen powder has a greater surface area, due to it being a smaller unit. Powders are easily dissolved and therefore absorb faster within the body. There is great hype over these, due to them being so easily integrated within our daily food and recipe ingredients. Nowadays most people add collagen powder into smoothies and shakes, sometimes as a replacement for protein powder shakes. Each serving is reported to contain around 18 grams of peptides and is therefore super healthy.
What are the benefits of collagen powder?
There are many benefits to this super versatile powder supplement. However, studies have indicated that they can benefit us, through the following:
- Reduce and alleviate joint pain and inflammation like arthritis by 26% from 40 mg dose daily of collagen supplement powders. 
- Bones have shown to increase in density after a year of daily collagen supplement intake.
- If collagen peptides are combined with Vitamin C and Vitamin D, bone skeleton is strengthened as calcium absorption efficacy is heightened.
- Skin elasticity, wrinkles and fine lines reduce, alongside hair and nail strength.
- Digestion is improved, as the collagen supplement powders actually reduce inflammation and the chemical structure is maintained and not broken down while in your gut. 
How to choose a collagen supplement
It may be difficult to lead with one option of collagen, due to there being so many options on the market currently. However, by following the tips we have listed below, it should help you ensure that you pick the most effective and healthy option for your body’s improved function. Forget what the marketing campaigns have said, it is important to pick a choice based on what the evidence and study examples have proven.
1. Select one with the least ingredients
A collagen supplement should be as isolated as possible. This is what makes it effective, safe and does your body the world full of good that you need! Check for supplements that have collagen hydrolysate in them, as they are the most concentrated and easily absorbed into the body.
2. Forget flavoured collagen supplements
Flavours mean sugar, which can do more harm than good to your body really, as they are extra calories that you can avoid easily. Plain versions may have an odd taste to them, but if you add them in food, you will not even think or notice anything. Trust us on this.
3. Look for clinical and certified approval
Last but not least, when you pick any collagen supplements, please make sure to pick one up that has approval and has been regulated by the SF, USP or the UL. The FDA hardly regulates supplements by the way, so you will never see them giving collagen a tick, it’s rare. But those three parties are safe and more than enough.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for collagen supplements to work?
You should feel a noticeable difference after 4-6 weeks, but make sure to keep taking them consistently!
Is it safe to take collagen supplements?
If they are regulated and tested by the SF, USP or the UL, they are safe and good enough for you to take. Vigorous strict testing by these bodies are taken, to ensure they work well with our human bodies.
What are the side effects of taking collagen?
Collagen can have mild side effects to your body, such as bad after tastes, digestive issues, bloating and heartburn. Yet that is usually at the beginning. If it is prolonged however, you should not continue taking them and consult your doctor.
- Ulloa, G., 2021. Are There Benefits to Collagen Supplements? (Published 2019). [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/09/style/self-care/collagen-benefits.html#:~:text=Does%20collagen%20work%3F,joint%2C%20back%20and%20knee%20pain. [Accessed 14 March 2021].
- Paul, C., Leser, S. and Oesser, S., 2019. Significant Amounts of Functional Collagen Peptides Can Be Incorporated in the Diet While Maintaining Indispensable Amino Acid Balance. Nutrients, [online] 11(5), p.1079. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31096622/ [Accessed 14 March 2021].
- Skov, K., Oxfeldt, M., Thøgersen, R., Hansen, M. and Bertram, H., 2019. Enzymatic Hydrolysis of a Collagen Hydrolysate Enhances Postprandial Absorption Rate—A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients, [online] 11(5), p.1064. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31086034/ [Accessed 14 March 2021].
- Meixner, M., 2021. Do Collagen Supplements Work?. [online] Healthline. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/do-collagen-supplements-work#skin-joints [Accessed 14 March 2021].
- König, D., Oesser, S., Scharla, S., Zdzieblik, D. and Gollhofer, A., 2018. Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women—A Randomized Controlled Study. Nutrients, [online] 10(1), p.97. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29337906/ [Accessed 14 March 2021].
- Heid, M., 2020. The Truth About Collagen Supplements and Their Potential Health Benefits. [online] Good Housekeeping. Available at: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/a20707028/collagen-supplement-explainer/#:~:text=Most%20collagen%20peptides%20powder%20on,both%20hot%20and%20cold%20liquids. [Accessed 14 March 2021].