It started with a sneeze. A sneeze that led to another and another, until I had a full-fledged cold I couldn't shake, even as the weeks wore on and my co-workers became less sympathetic about the dirty tissues that littered my desk. It was in this state, red-nosed, foggy-headed and desperate, that I made my first bone broth five years ago. Instantly, I was hooked—the warm, savory comfort of the broth sliding down my aching throat, the internet-confirmed promise of the powers of the broth healing people for hundreds of years. I became a bone broth convert and spent several years making my own broth, buying my friends slow cookers for their birthdays so they, too, could experience its healing powers.
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.
A year passed, and then two, and then I started to hear about collagen.
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 and, eventually, at my desk here at mbg. The purported benefits were much the same as bone broth: Collagen is 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 creating plump, youthful skin and long, strong hair. When we tell you to eat vitamin C or apply it topically, it's because it stimulates your body's production of collagen, so theoretically, going directly to the source would be even more efficient and effective.
I started with mbg class instructor Dr. Sara Gottfried'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 the Bulletproof 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? Not so much. The drink was creamy, thick, and delicious, but I was ravenous only an hour later and had to gulp down an emergency green smoothie at 10 a.m. to feel satiated.
Over the next few weeks, I experimented with my only one rule—I had to consume at least a serving of collagen powder every single day.
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 Vital Proteins Vanilla Coconut collagen powder to my morning smoothie. The vanilla, which is just real vanilla beans, not any weird flavoring, makes whatever flavor smoothie I'm making (this is my current favorite) taste that much more delicious. Beyond that, there's maybe a slightly thicker texture, but the smoothie is unchanged.
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.
Around the same time, I noticed how fast my nails were growing.
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. I also found myself getting less anxiety-induced stomachaches and generally enjoying better digestion. After a month, I was a convert.
As an editor at a wellness website, I try 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.
Want more tricks to make your skin glow? Have you tried giving up caffeine, alcohol, and sugar? This woman did and says it worked wonders. And if you're healing your gut, you might want to avoid these foods.