Collagen supplements are having a moment—and for good reason, too. The protein, after all, is naturally found throughout the body, including the skin, joints, muscles, gut, and blood vessels.
It's no surprise collagen is beneficial for most people, considering we all have these body parts.* Still, like other supplements, collagen's effect on your body depends on several factors. This includes sex and hormones, which dictate the benefits you'll reap from said supplements.
So, if you're a woman, what can you expect to get from collagen, exactly? Here's what the science says.
Should women take collagen supplements?
Most people can benefit from taking a collagen supplement: It's required in myriad areas of health, from joint function to beauty, so it can be valuable for many types of lifestyles.* It also doesn't hurt that high-quality collagen is safe and well tolerated.
Any differences in collagen needs typically come down to dosage. That's because collagen is a protein, and protein dosage is determined by factors like body mass and activity level.
Specifically, if you're a healthy adult, you need at least 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight a day. If you're highly active, that requirement increases to 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight a day.
And though collagen is an incomplete protein (meaning, it doesn't provide all nine of the essential amino acids the body needs), it can absolutely contribute to your daily protein intake.
And then there's age, too. "In our 20s, our body's natural production of collagen slowly declines," explains Amy Gonzalez, R.D., FNTP, CLT, of The Holistic Dietitian. "Part of this is due to [a] reduction in our body's ability to absorb proper nutrients and synthesize collagen."
Lifestyle factors, like exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays and too much sugar consumption, can also decrease collagen, she adds. These factors have a cumulative effect, further changing your collagen needs at any given time.
Translation: Your individual collagen requirements are less about gender—and more about factors like weight, activity level, and age.
Granted, women statistically generally weigh less and have less lean (muscle) mass than men, so they may need less collagen to achieve certain benefits.
But even this isn't set in stone, as hormonal changes associated with aging also play a role: People who experience menopause see a dramatic drop (about 30%) in collagen production during that time, so they might be more interested in taking collagen to support their natural levels.*
5 collagen benefits for women.
Since collagen is required in multiple areas of health, taking supplements can help you in several ways.* Here are the benefits of collagen supplements for women:*
Our joints naturally lose laxity as we age, says functional medicine practitioner Bindiya Gandhi, M.D., influencing our natural joint comfort.
Supplements can help support collagen levels, thus improving mobility and comfort in the joints, she says.*
Bone health is important for everyone, at every stage of life. However, women are especially prone to concerns around bones, as the first few years of menopause are marked by changes in bone density.
"Since estrogen is a key regulator of bone metabolism, the declining estrogen during menopause can predispose women to this," explains Gonzalez. "Therefore, [taking] collagen is an important step in supporting your bones."*
As mentioned earlier, as estrogen levels decrease during menopause, so does collagen production. "This loss of collagen leads to thinner and drier skin, [as well as] wrinkles," says Gonzalez. Luckily, she adds, "it's possible to improve aged and mature skin," thanks to supplements like collagen.*
For example, in one clinical trial, middle-aged women who took collagen supplements for three months experienced improved skin elasticity and hydration.
Want more specific recommendations for skin? Check out our anti-aging supplement roundup.
"As women age and hit menopause, their female hormone levels of progesterone and estrogen start declining," explains Gandhi.
When this happens, their androgen hormones also decline, sometimes leading to changes in hair texture and growth—or even hair shedding. However, "hair is made of keratin5, a protein found in collagen," Gandhi says.
Collagen supplements provide essential amino acids to help rebuild hair while fighting free radicals that negatively affect hair or scalp health, she adds.*
Collagen supplements may help, as they offer two noteworthy amino acids: glutamine and glycine. "Glutamine6 has been shown to reduce inflammatory processes in the intestinal wall and improve intestinal permeability," thus supporting digestion, says Gonzalez.*
Are there any side effects women should be worried about?
In general, collagen supplements are well tolerated, but some people might need to use caution.
For starters, if you follow a vegan diet, you'll want to avoid collagen supplements. That's because they come from animals, like fish, cows, and chickens. (There's also no such thing as vegan collagen, BTW.)
Additionally, if you have allergies or sensitivities, a collagen supplement may trigger a reaction depending on its source, says Gonzalez.
If side effects do occur, they're typically mild. "Some women experience an unpleasant taste in their mouth or an upset stomach after consuming collagen," adds Gonzalez.
This is uncommon and is usually due to the brand formula and additives rather than the collagen itself, says Gonzalez. You can learn more about the other possible collagen side effects here.
Finally, as with any supplement, it's best to chat with your doctor before taking collagen for the first time.
Anyone can benefit from adding a collagen supplement to their routine. In women, it can be especially useful for targeting changes related to menopause.* Women may need a smaller dose than men, but it also depends on factors like activity level and body mass.
Kirsten Nunez is a health and lifestyle journalist based in Beacon, New York. She has a Master of Science in Nutrition from Texas Woman's University and Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from SUNY Oneonta. Kirsten specializes in nutrition, fitness, food, and DIY; her work has been featured in a variety of publications, including eHow, SparkPeople, and international editions of Cosmopolitan. She also creates recipes for food product packaging.