Collagen Powder vs. Pills: Which Is More Effective?
"Collagen" is a buzzy word in both the skin care and supplement worlds. Some people swear by it, while others falsely claim collagen supplement benefits are next to none. At mbg, we know there's a long list of skin and full-body benefits when it comes to collagen, but we also note that not all collagen supplements are made the same.*
Some collagen supplements come in a powder form, whereas others are packaged up into a capsule. Is one better than the other? Here's what you need to know.
What are collagen supplements?
Collagen supplements are broken down collagen protein that can be ingested, absorbed, and used by the body. They come in the form of hydrolyzed collagen peptides (i.e., delivering amino acids). Many people look to collagen supplements to help maintain adequate levels of collagen production, which decreases with age beginning around the mid-20s at about 1% each year1.*
In the body, collagen helps make up the structure of our skin, bone, cartilage, and muscle, with the purpose of helping tissues be more elastic and withstand stretching (So, for example, it keeps skin looking young and supple).* So while skin support may be the most popular benefit, this protein plays a role in more than a few functions in the body.
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Collagen powder vs. pills: Are they different?
Collagen supplements can come in many forms—from gummies and drinks to powders and pills. This may lead you to question which format is the most optimal for you. We've covered liquid or water collagen previously, but what about collagen pills, and how do they stack up to the most standard format, powder?
Collagen capsules (or pills)
Many people look to capsule supplements out of convenience. On a functional level, collagen powders and pills are one and the same, if they contain the same type of collagen, dosage, source, and added ingredients. So what sets capsules and powders apart? Due to size restrictions, capsules simply can't hold as much collagen as a serving of powder.
In fact, if a capsule delivers 500 milligrams of collagen, that's 20 capsules to get to just 10 grams. (A side note: Based on the available research, we recommend 15 to 20 grams of collagen a day to get the most benefits.)
In addition, many collagen capsules contain only collagen given the size of the pill, meaning there's minimal room for additional beneficial ingredients—vitamin C included. "Vitamin C is an essential cofactor in the biosynthesis of collagen. Therefore if a supplement or powder is sold with vitamin C, this can be a superior form,"* naturopathic physician and nutrition consultant Kellyann Petrucci, M.S., N.D. tells mbg. You can learn more about vitamin C and collagen here if you're curious. And since many people are looking for collagen supplements to help with skin and full-body benefits, there's an argument to be made that you should look for options that contain bonus ingredients like vitamin C, E, hyaluronic acid, and more.*
Due to the nature of the delivery format, powders are able to offer more collagen (like several grams more) in each serving—making it the ideal choice if you're looking for a meaningful dose of collagen in each serving. This is why when you find collagen supplements with north of 5 grams of collagen per serving, they're almost always in powder form. Whereas other formats (including capsules) contain significantly smaller dosages, even in the milligram range. In fact, the dosage is the reason the most popular format for collagen is powder.
In addition, collagen powders are highly versatile—meaning they can be added to various drinks (hello, creamy coffee), smoothies, or recipes.
However, as Petrucci notes, some powders come with additives, like artificial flavors, which you want to be mindful of. Ideally, your supplement's formula will be free of unnecessary ingredients like artificial sweeteners, flavors, synthetic dyes, GMOs, gluten, and known major food allergens like eggs and dairy. If it does have flavors or sweeteners, look for natural varieties (preferably plant-sourced organic ones).
How and when to take each.
Here are some things to keep in mind when adding a collagen supplement to your routine.
When to take it
To be frank, it doesn't matter when you take your collagen supplement. Some say that collagen is most beneficial in the morning, and others say it's best consumed at night. Fact check: Neither claim is backed by scientific evidence.
Further, you don't need to take collagen with a meal, or without—again, it doesn't matter beyond personal preference. "The bulk of the breaking down of peptides actually happens in the small intestine, so full stomach, half-full stomach, or empty stomach—there will be little difference," registered dietitian Scott Keatley, R.D., once told mbg.
How much to take
A growing number of clinical studies point to specific, effective collagen supplement dosages based on outcomes—like skin health, joint comfort, etc.—and can help us understand how much collagen we should be taking every day: For example, studies show that a range of 2.5 to 10 grams per day can be beneficial for skin support2.* And for muscles, studies show that 15 to 20 grams per day can help muscle mass3, muscle strength4, and soreness after exercise5.*
In addition to benefit-oriented dosage, collagen supplements can also contribute to your daily protein intake. While collagen is not technically a complete protein (it does not contain all nine essential amino acids; it has eight of them), you can pair it with other protein sources to get your adequate intake of the essential amino acids. A 2019 study found that as much as 36% of daily protein could come from collagen peptides6 as a helpful strategy in achieving overall essential and nonessential daily amino acid (i.e., protein) requirements).
We do a very thorough explainer on collagen dosage, which further elaborates on the above, if you'd like to learn more about how much collagen you should be taking daily.
How to take pills or powders
The capsule form of collagen is self-explanatory in regard to the whole how-to.
Collagen powder can be as well: You can mix it into water (and make your own DIY collagen water), your morning coffee, or nightly wind-down drink (like this hot chocolate). You don't have to make a fancy concoction to mix your collagen into.
However, if you're looking for some A+ recipes that will encourage you to take your collagen powder once daily, we have a few winners. Some include:
All in all, the vehicle in which you consume collagen supplements (pills or powder) is totally up to you. However, if you're looking for a format that will provide an effective and meaningful dose, powder will likely be your best bet. If you're eager to start shopping, here's a list of our go-to collagen supplements—capsules and powders included.
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.