Is a Collagen Supplement Worth the Cash?

4 min read
Klerely 360 Team
9 May, 2020

Are collagen products hyped-up beauty impostors invented by industry marketers?

That depends on which type of product you’re talking about. Some collagen products are "all talk and no action" but some can do what they promise if you use them consistently.

Before we jump in, let's do a quick review on what collagen is and what it does for your body. 

Collagen is a naturally occurring structural protein that makes up about 30 percent of your body and about 80 percent of your skin. It provides the structure for skin that prevents wrinkles and sagging. It also supports the structure of your muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons.

And as we age (starting at about 25), our body’s ability to produce collagen starts to slow down. This is why you may begin to notice fine lines and wrinkles in your skin, recover slower from intense workouts, and begin to feel joint pain in your hands and feet. Your body can’t produce collagen as fast as you and your environment are breaking it down.

That’s the bad news. But here’s the good news—there are things you can do to protect and increase your collagen production. In addition to avoiding the sun and eating nutrient-dense foods (both are important for collagen production), you can supplement your body's efforts as you age.

But how? With what? Let’s unravel that mystery.

So. Many. Choices.

The beauty industry has no dearth of products claiming to be the perfect solution to your waning collagen production. Collagen you can drink, eat, and slather on your skin is on every shelf in every health food store and beauty counter in America.  Ads follow you around the internet touting the benefits of drinking collagen, applying collagen boosters, eating collagen snacks, and adding collagen to smoothies.

With all that collagen supplementation can do for your body, it's no wonder it's in high demand. But what's worth your money (and time and effort), and what's not?

First, let’s talk about how your body absorbs supplemental collagen. If you were to take collagen in its natural form, your body wouldn't be able to absorb it—the molecules are too big. You’ll need to take collagen peptides—collagen that’s been hydrolyzed. This process breaks down the amino acid chains that make up the collagen protein into smaller, more easily absorbed molecules.

Hydrolyzed collagen is just as effective as your body’s natural collagen, but it can be absorbed by your body. These bioavailable amino acids can then deliver what your body needs to produce more collagen.

Powders, liquids, boosters, and more have arrived on store shelves and Instagram feeds promising to firm your skin, strengthen your bones, and heal tender joints. But what should you invest your hard-earned cash in? Here’s a breakdown of the most common products on the market.

Bone broth

The claim: Drinking bone broth offers the same benefits as collagen peptides.

The actual benefits:

  • Bone broth is a source of protein, along with other vitamins and minerals
  • Anywhere from 3 -17 grams of protein are in an 8 oz. serving.
  • Bone broth contains collagen peptides, including Type II, which is found in joint cartilage.

Where it falls short:

  • Collagen nutritional information (as in amounts) is not listed, and studies have shown that the amino acid (collagen peptide) content in bone broth can be very variable depending on how it is made. As a result, you can never be sure how much or how little you are getting.
  •  Bone broth can be high in sodium, concerning for those watching salt intake.
  • The benefits of supplementing with collagen are based on the results of studies using specific concentrated, measurable collagen supplement forms like peptides, not bone broth.

Topical creams

The Claim: Applied to your skin, collagen creams and lotions can increase collagen production in skin producing almost immediate results.

The actual benefits:

  • Collagen creams are able to work on the surface to moisturize and temporarily plump skin.
  • They can temporarily reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Where they fall short:

  • The marketing is duplicitous – most of them are labeled as ‘collagen creams’ or ‘collagen moisturizers’ but may not contain collagen.
  • Creams that do contain collagen are unable to actually stimulate collagen production because the collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed into the skin.
  • They can be very expensive for temporary results.

Flavored Collagen water

The Claim: Collagen infused drinks will provide the same benefits as using collagen peptides.

The actual benefits:

  • These drinks contain collagen peptides (hydrolyzed collagen) easily absorbed by your body.
  • They come in lots of flavors, including berry and lemonade.
  • They are easily consumed on-the-go
  • They require no mixing or measuring.

Where they fall short:

  • Because of additional ingredients, collagen beverages have added calories (60+).
  • One serving is not a full recommended daily serving of collagen (it’s usually around 12 grams).
  • For you to see the effects of supplementing with collagen, you must take it on a consistent basis, which makes these single servings more expensive for daily use.

Collagen snacks

The Claim: Collagen snacks will provide the same benefits as using collagen peptides.

The actual benefits:

  • If these snacks contain hydrolyzed collagen, then your body is able to easily absorb it.
  • They come in lots of dessert flavors like chocolate chip cookie dough or vanilla bean shortbread.
  • They are easily consumed on-the-go.
  • They require no mixing or measuring.

Where they fall short:

  • Collagen snacks have added calories (200+).
  • One serving is not a full recommended daily serving of collagen (it’s usually around 12 grams).
  • They are more expensive for daily, consistent use.

Collagen Peptide Powder

The Claim: A daily serving of collagen peptides will increase skin firmness and elasticity and support bone, joint, and muscle health.

The actual benefits

  • 1 serving is a complete daily dose (20 grams).
  • Collagen peptides are hydrolyzed collagen, so they are highly bioavailable.
  • Because they are soluble in both cold and hot water, you can easily add to recipes, coffee, smoothies
  • Pure collagen peptides have been shown to support all benefits listed above when taken consistently on a daily basis.
  • Always look for pure collagen peptides with no added sugar.
  • Bulk packaging makes it affordable for daily use.
Where they fall short: 
  • Because most collagen peptides are derived from cows and other animals, they are not vegan. 

Plant-Based Collagen Boosters

The Claim: Collagen boosters will increase collagen production in your body by providing the nutrients collagen production requires.

The actual benefits

  • Vegan-approved
  • Contain vitamin supplements (vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, etc.) meant to assist collagen production.

Where they fall short:

  • They don’t contain collagen.
  • They are generally made from supplements you likely get from your diet or already take.
  • Few, if any, studies have been done regarding their efficacy.

Help your body do its job.

For real results, you'll need to take a daily dose of ingestible collagen that's been hydrolyzed like collagen peptides. The form most often recommended by dermatologists is a powder-based formula easily added to your coffee, smoothies, or soups.

And if you really want the best results go all-in—take your peptides daily, wear sunscreen, and eat nutrient dense foods. You’ll be getting carded at your neighborhood cocktail lounge in no time.