If the sheer number of powders, drinks, and supplements are any indication, the wellness world is fixated on collagen. Charmed with the promise of glowing skin and strong hair, wellness influencers, celebrities, and even regular people are increasing their intake of the vital protein in an effort to achieve a more youthful experience. But do these supplements have an effect on the skin?
"[Collagen] is the most abundant protein in our body, and [it's] the main building block for our skin," explains New York City–based dermatologist Anne Chapas to Women's Health. "It gives our skin its youthful suppleness and is one of the key components in repairing wounded skin." But when it comes to oral collagen, the scientific proof is lacking.
"Most studies of oral collagen are not rigorous enough to draw conclusions about its effect on skin health, appearance, or aging," adds Chapas. Tina Alster, MD, dermatologist and director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, adds that "the collagen molecule is enzymatically digested in the stomach and thus couldn't be distributed to the skin intact to produce the kind of changes touted in the plethora of marketing claims." In other words, you could be wasting your money on drinkable collagen or supplements—many of which can cost $50 or more.
Rather than opting for expensive supplements, they point out that there are other, more proven ways to support skin collagen. "If you're eating a balanced diet that includes protein-rich foods, your body converts those nutrients into essential amino acids that are needed to keep your skin and bones healthy," explains New York City dermatologist Craig Austin, MD. "These nutrients are then sent to the bloodstream and will supply the dermis—the deepest part of your skin—with naturally produced collagen." Think bone broth, quinoa, fish like salmon, eggs, lean meat like turkey, lentils, nuts, seeds, and beans.
Head over to Women's Health for more, and share your own experience with collagen supplementation below.