The Two Nutrients That Really Matter For Beautiful, Glowing Skin

Contributing writer By Rebecca Dancer
Contributing writer
Rebecca Dancer is a beauty and lifestyle writer who obtained a print and digital journalism degree from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. She’s worked at and contributed to various print and digital publications, including Byrdie, Allure, Brides, Teen Vogue, Beauty Independent, Shape, SELF, and Women's Wear Daily.
Medical review by Keira Barr, M.D.
Board-certified dermatologist
Keira Barr is a dual board-certified dermatologist and founder of the Resilient Health Institute.
Woman with Glowing Skin

Image by Marija Savic / Stocksy

Collagen isn't just the name of another buzzy beauty supplement—it's actually the most abundant protein in the body. To get more specific, there are technically 16 types of collagen found throughout the body (that we know of so far), and this family of proteins comprises the structural tissue in our skin, bone, muscle, and cartilage. 

"Collagen is part of an extracellular matrix that holds skin cells together," explains board-certified dermatologist Ritu Saini, M.D. "[It] provides elasticity in the skin, [and] it helps to restore dead skin cells." Maintaining adequate collagen levels is vital for overall health and especially that of the skin. And to do that, there are two nutrients you need: hydrolyzed collagen peptides (or what is found in most collagen supplements) and vitamin C. 

1. Collagen

In order for our skin to stay healthy and also appear youthful, the structure of the dermal (inner) layer must remain intact—which requires adequate collagen levels. As our natural supplies of collagen deplete with age, visible signs of aging can take shape via fine lines and wrinkles and sagging skin. 

Don't just take our word for it; research has consistently shown that taking collagen supplements can help increase skin elasticity, boost hydration and replenish collagen levels. Studies have also found that taking oral collagen supplements can promote skin and wound healing (and accelerate hair growth, to boot). All of these benefits translate into healthier, more supple, and youthful-appearing skin. 

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"Specific forms of oral collagen may reach the skin after ingestion, leading to improvements in the appearance of wrinkles and overall appearance of the skin," explains board-certified dermatologist Amanda Doyle, M.D. Even if the collagen you ingest doesn't make it all the way to your skin, studies have shown that it does support the body's ability to naturally produce collagen

But back to the collagen types mentioned earlier. The two most important for skin health are type I & III, as those are the the two types that make up most of the dermal layers (up to 90% of it, in fact). Bovine collagen (preferably from grass-fed cows) is the only collagen on the market in which you can get those two types of collagen, as marine collagen only has type I & II and plant-derived collagens are only amino acids. If you consume animal products, bovine collagen has more of what you need.

They're also made stronger when taken in combination with another popular antioxidant: vitamin C. Hint: Both are beneficial on their own, but the latter aids the body in metabolizing the former. 

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2. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant in its own right, and "when taken in oral form, significant improvements in the appearance of facial photodamage can be seen, giving the skin a more radiant appearance," Doyle says. 

But here's the real kicker: Our bodies need vitamin C in order to properly synthesize collagen on a cellular level, which is precisely why taking both supplements together increases potency. More simply put, "Vitamin C is needed to build collagen" in the body, Saini explains. 

The benefits of topical vitamin C in relation to collagen are also well established; studies have shown that applying vitamin C topically can directly increase collagen production in the skin. It also works on all skin types to fight off free radical damage from the environmental stressors we face on a daily basis, like UV exposure and air pollution. 

The bottom line:

All the talk about collagen supplementation for skin health isn't just hype—it's backed by an ever-growing and impressive body of research. Moreover, in order to fully reap the benefits of taking collagen orally, you'd be wise to pair it with vitamin C, which is essential in helping the body to properly synthesize (re: break down and utilize) collagen. When paired together, collagen and vitamin C supplements are like a one-two punch of skin-boosting and brightening benefits. 

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