Do Collagen Supplements Make It All The Way To The Skin? What The Research Says
Ever since collagen supplements splashed onto the wellness scene, they've created quite the commotion. Some swear by collagen peptides; others swear they're nothing more than hype. (For what it's worth, we've debunked several of the collagen misconceptions previously—it's worth checking out to get a full rundown on the research.)
In the beauty space, they're particularly a hot-button issue—largely due to the fact that the exact mechanism of function isn't as well understood. And one complaint I'll often hear is that collagen peptides don't make it all the way to the skin—and instead are used up by other parts of the body.
However, as the body of research grows, we're getting a clearer picture of how collagen supplements help the skin.*
How collagen peptides help the skin.
Oftentimes in beauty, we know a specific ingredient or nutrient does help the skin—even if we don't fully understand how or why. This happens in both ingestible and topical formulations. And for a time, this was the case with collagen supplementation and skin care benefits.*
See, we have robust research showing that the peptides do, in fact, improve the quality of the skin.* One study found that collagen peptides are able to support skin elasticity and dermal collagen density1.* Clinical studies on collagen supplementation and skin hydration show that with regular use, it supports your skin's moisture levels.* For example, a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial found that participants' moisture levels in the skin were seven times higher2 than those who did not take collagen supplements.*
And other research has shown that collagen can support skin elasticity3 and potentially make fine lines appear smaller.* Another double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial found that when a small group of women took a collagen supplement that was also formulated with hyaluronic acid and a few other actives, they experienced a significantly smoother appearance of wrinkles.*
Pretty great, no? And more research is showing us just how this process works for the body. Hydrolyzed collagen peptides are broken-down collagen molecules, so they are more easily absorbed. Once they're absorbed into the body, they can travel around and provide their benefits, improving your natural collagen levels all over.* This is done by supporting your cells' fibroblasts, the parts of the body that actually make your collagen in the first place: In research they have been shown to help promote and encourage your body's natural production of collagen4 and other molecules that make up the skin, like elastin and fibrillin.*
And yet for a long time, experts argued that these peptides couldn't truly be making their way to the skin. See, the skin—being the outermost organ—is often the last to get nutrients. But thanks to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistr5y5, we know that they can, in fact, detect the amino acid peptides in the skin—leading the authors to propose that targeted collagen peptides could indeed be transferred to the skin.* Of course, we look forward to more research confirming these findings, but it's a good start.
We're always hungry for more research to help us understand "the how" of any ingredient, and this is a pretty good indication of the link between collagen peptides and skin.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.