I Took Collagen For 4 Weeks: Here's What It Did For My Skin
I made my first bone broth five years ago in the throes of a full-fledged cold. Instantly, I was hooked—the warm, savory comfort of the broth sliding down my aching throat and the promise of the healing powers that have helped people for hundreds of years. I became a bone broth convert and spent several years making my own broth and buying my friends slow cookers for their birthdays so they, too, could experience its benefits.
And then I moved from London back to New York, and the weather became a whole lot less broth-friendly, especially in the summer, where the soupy humidity felt distressingly similar to the liquid in my cup. My batches of broth became once-a-month affairs, and then even less frequent. It's hard to say whether my health suffered—my anxiety is the main reason I'm interested in gut healing, and it's tangled up in so many different factors. I felt less vibrant and healthy, just not quite enough to go through the effort of making more broth.
I started learning about collagen supplements.
It began showing up in my Instagram feed, with Outdoor Voices–clad women talking about its benefits as they chucked it into their potion-filled lattes. World-class functional medicine doctors mentioned it in their mbg classes, and it showed up in conversations with other wellness-minded folk at events.
The purported benefits were much the same as bone broth: Collagen supplements are meant to help seal and heal the gut lining, so less waste matter gets leaked into your system. On a far more attractive-to-envision level, collagen is also one of the key factors in supporting plump, youthful skin and long, strong hair. It's thought to support your natural production of collagen. It's similar to why we tell you to eat vitamin C or apply it topically, as it stimulates your body's production of collagen.
Then I began experimenting with collagen powder recipes.
I started with mbg class instructor Sara Gottfried, M.D.'s technique of adding collagen to her lattes. Because I don't drink caffeine, I made a rooibos/coconut milk/coconut oil blend, adding a heaping teaspoonful of collagen powder before using my milk frother to bring it all together.
Many of the collagen devotees I know would have some variation on this for breakfast, claiming the healthy fat and protein (collagen has a whopping 18 grams per serving) keeps them full through lunch. For me? I stuck with having at least a little breakfast. The drink was creamy, thick, and delicious, but I still had a green smoothie at 10 a.m.
I tried it in my bars, in drinks, in hot chocolate as an afternoon pick-me-up, before settling into an easy routine of adding a heaping scoop of collagen powder to my morning smoothie. Beyond that, there's maybe a slightly thicker texture, but the smoothie is unchanged.
The skin benefits: Why I decided to stick with collagen supplements.
After a few weeks, I began to get compliments on my skin. While it was never bad, I struggle with large pores ("What are those dots all over your face?" my husband's 8-year-old niece once asked), uneven texture, and ruddiness. After three weeks, my skin looked smoother than it has since elementary school. I started wearing less foundation and began smiling at myself in mirrors more. Also, my nails grew fast. This side effect was less than welcome for me (I love my nails super short and find clipping them an annoying waste of time) but could be a boon for some people. And I found myself getting fewer anxiety-induced stomachaches and generally enjoying better digestion. After a month, I was a convert.
As an editor at a wellness website, I have tried a lot of different trends, and very few stick. Collagen has, and I think it's for two reasons: 1) I found a way to incorporate it into my existing routine, and 2) it ticks a lot of boxes. It serves the function of a protein powder, flavor enhancer, gut-healer, and skin-booster all in one. And if the only downside is having to cut my nails a bit more often? I can live with that.
Liz Moody is an author, blogger and recipe developer living in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated with a creative writing and psychology degree from The University of California, Berkeley. Moody has written two cookbooks: Healthier Together: Recipes for Two—Nourish Your Body, Nourish Your Relationships and Glow Pops: Super-Easy Superfood Recipes to Help You Look and Feel Your Best. She also hosts the Healthier Together Podcast, where she chats with notable chefs, nutritionists, and best-selling authors about their paths to success. Her work has been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Food & Wine & Women’s Health.