Collagen Pills: Do They Work? What To Know About The Pros & Cons
Collagen might very well be the buzziest supplement right now. And truthfully, it makes a lot of sense, considering it's known to provide whole-body support—including skin, bones, and joints.*
Fortunately, collagen is available in various forms, making it easy to choose a product that suits your lifestyle. The most common form is powder, but sometimes, it's found as capsules too. Curious about these elusive collagen pills? Let's explore the pros and cons of collagen capsules, below.
What is collagen & its benefits?
If you're privy to trendy skin care ingredients, you've likely heard of collagen. It's a family of proteins1 that gives structure to all your connective tissues, including your muscle, cartilage, tendons, and skin.*
The human body can make its own collagen protein, which is pretty impressive. And while collagen production naturally drops over time, there are things you can do to support your levels. This includes eating plenty of antioxidants (read: fruits and veggies), protecting your skin from UV exposure, and taking collagen supplements.*
Luckily, collagen supplements are everywhere these days—and for good reason, too. Collagen offers a plethora of benefits across multiple areas of well-being.
- Skin care. As a major structural protein, collagen is responsible for the firmness and elasticity of the skin. One scientific review found that collagen peptides2 can improve skin texture and hydration, resulting in a more supple complexion.*
- Joint health. Collagen is a building block of cartilage, the connective tissue that supports and cushions joints. As one randomized clinical trial found, people who took a type II collagen supplement for 180 days experienced enhanced joint mobility and physical function.*
- Protein intake. Although collagen is not a complete protein, it offers eight of the nine essential amino acids the human body needs. So, it can absolutely help you meet your daily amino acid requirements. In fact, according to one study, if 36% of your protein3 intake consisted of collagen peptides, you'd be able to meet the mark.
- Gut well-being. In addition to healthy lifestyle habits like staying active, consuming collagen is a key component of gut care. Gut tissue and muscle literally contains collagen. Additionally, the collagen protein delivers the amino acid glutamine4, which is the preferred source of fuel for intestinal cells4. It also consists of glycine5, an amino acid that exerts anti-inflammatory properties and helps protect the gut.*
- Bone health. Collagen is a major component of bone tissue. One long-term study found that collagen peptides can improve bone density6 in postmenopausal women.*
Collagen capsules: pros and cons.
Before picking up a bottle of collagen capsules, consider these pros and cons.
- Convenience. One of the top benefits of collagen capsules is their convenience. Some folks might prefer the ease of swallowing a pill vs. mixing powders into drinks and smoothies.
- Less space. Similarly, capsules are easier to take on the go. "They can be kept in your pocket or bag to be taken any time of day," notes Erika T. Schwartz, M.D., founder of Evolved Science.
- Easy to add to routine. Collagen capsules can seamlessly fit into your lineup of supplements (i.e., in your pill case or cabinet). This can make it easier to incorporate it into your routine, potentially supporting more regular intake, says Andrea Memon, R.D., L.D., C.D., registered dietitian and founder of Nutrition Chopped.
- No mess. Even the most graceful person will spill powder sometimes. But as Memon points out, there's no chance of powder spillage with collagen capsules.
- Way smaller collagen dosage. Due to size restrictions, capsules simply can't hold as much collagen as a serving of powder. As Schwartz points out, "one to two scoops of collagen powder is equivalent to several capsules, so you'd need to take a handful of capsules to ingest [enough] that would provide any health benefits."* In fact it may be more than a few: If a capsule delivers 500 milligrams of collagen, that's still 20 capsules to get to just 10 grams. This raises the question: If you're taking a handful of pills daily to achieve the same amount as a powder, is it really all that convenient? There are specific kinds of collagen, UC-II specifically, that don't require as high of dose (and have the scientific data to support it). But in general, dosage is a concern.
- Less versatile. Whereas powder can be mixed into various foods and drinks, the only way to take collagen capsules is to swallow them as is. This can significantly limit the creativity of your collagen routine.
- Requires healthy swallowing reflex. If you have swallowing fatigue or issues, collagen capsules might be a no-go.
- Less control. Although you can control how many capsules you take, you can't necessarily control the amount of collagen in each capsule. But with powder, it's easier to control the exact amount you're taking.
What to know about taking collagen supplements:
Before taking collagen supplements, here are a few things to keep in mind.
The available research has found benefits at different doses for different areas of health. Hence, the ideal dose depends on your desired results. To learn more about how much collagen you should take each day, check out our article about collagen dosage. But generally, you'll want to look for a supplement in the 10- to 20-gram range for optimal support.
Ideally, your supplement's formula will be free of unnecessary ingredients like artificial sweeteners, flavors, synthetic dyes, GMOs, gluten, and known allergens like soy and dairy. If it does have flavors or sweeteners, look for natural varieties like organic cocoa or organic monk fruit sugar, respectively.
The brand should indicate where their collagen comes from (i.e., bovine, poultry, marine life). Hopefully, they'll also list what types of collagen are included in the formula. And remember, vegan collagen does not exist, so steer clear of any brand that claims it contains vegan collagen.
When choosing a supplement of any kind, consider the honesty and openness of the brand. The nutrient facts, ingredient list, and collagen source should be easy to find. Look for products from brands that prioritize quality and safety, which may include third-party testing but is not required. Similarly, consider the values of the company, including ethical sourcing, animal testing, and sustainability practices.
Compared to collagen powder, collagen capsules are significantly more convenient. You can easily toss them on the go. However, you'd need to take a lot of collagen capsules to get the amount you would in a scoop of powder. The capsules are also less versatile than powder, which can be mixed into food and drinks.
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.