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Do Collagen Supplements Even Work? A Holistic Plastic Surgeon Weighs In

Jamie Schneider
July 1, 2022
Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor
By Jamie Schneider
Beauty & Health Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Woman Checking Her Skin in the Bathroom Mirror
Image by mapodile / iStock
July 1, 2022
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Collagen supplementation is a burgeoning area of research, which means it comes with a truckload of clashing opinions. Some say collagen is simply not worth the hype; others swear it's the only thing that helped their skin appear smooth and plump.* Both camps remain loyal to their position, but Anthony Youn, M.D., is here to put the debate to bed. 

"They definitely work, and so I do recommend [collagen] as a supplement," he shares on the mindbodygreen podcast. Here, he dives into the research behind collagen supplements, specifically with skin health in mind.

Does collagen work?

"Traditional doctors will tell you that when you ingest collagen, your stomach acids will break it down, and it doesn't do anything. People say that many, many times and comment on some of my videos," Youn says regarding his popular TikTok page. "But there are studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals that do show that people who do take collagen supplements have an increase in the collagen content of their skin. And this is a direct correlation of ingesting collagen supplements."* 

Hydrolyzed collagen peptides, in particular, have been shown to help promote the body's natural production of collagen1 and other molecules that make up the skin, like elastin and fibrillin.* That hydrolyzed distinction is important since research shows that hydrolyzed collagen peptides are absorbed more easily2 by your bloodstream and body than normal-sized collagen molecules.*

"There are also studies that do show that people who take collagen supplements do appear to have skin that is more hydrated, has less wrinkles, and looks more youthful,"* notes Youn. Again, we have research to back up the claim: In 2019, the J Drugs Dermatol published a review of oral collagen's effects on the skin, showing that collagen peptides3 will support skin elasticity and hydration levels and promote youthful texture4.*

And as mbg's vice president of scientific affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, once told us regarding collagen's efficacy: "When there are enough clinicals to compile them in a systematic review or meta-analysis5, that's definitely a sign that a certain bioactive or nutritional component has a noteworthy breadth of clinical evidence." Ferira goes on to say that, "the pervasive myth that collagen 'doesn't work' or has no science behind it is utter nonsense. The people saying that must not spend much time in PubMed like us scientists and health care practitioners do."

But not all supplements yield the same results. 

The science-backed benefits of collagen of course assume you choose a collagen supplement with a high-quality formula and a clinically backed dose. Not all collagen supplements are created equal, and a less-than-stellar formula can absolutely affect the efficacy. That said, make sure you do find a supplement that features hydrolyzed collagen peptides since those are broken down first and are easier for our bodies to absorb. 

In terms of sourcing, it will likely depend on your dietary needs and lifestyle (i.e., those who follow a pescatarian diet might want to select a supplement with marine collagen), but generally, we prefer a grass-fed bovine collagen supplement. These typically contain collagen types I and III6, two types of collagen that are widespread in the human collagen network and, thus, vital in promoting overall health.*

As for the dose, well, that's where the conversation becomes a bit nuanced. There is no Recommended Daily Allowance (or RDA) for collagen. RDAs are for essential macro- and micronutrients, so there is one for protein—and ingesting collagen can help you reach your intake needs. In fact, a 2019 study found that as much as 36% of daily protein could come from collagen peptides7 while simultaneously achieving essential amino acid requirements. 

But back to how much collagen you should be taking to arrive at the desired results: The research conveys different breakdowns based on the health outcome you're hoping to achieve. For example, studies show that a range of 2.5 to 10 grams per day can be beneficial for skin support8 and 15 to 20 grams per day can help muscle mass9, muscle strength10, and soreness after exercise11.* Generally, we recommend looking for a supplement that delivers 10 to 20 grams per serving, especially if you want to cover all your bases.

And mbg's beauty & gut collagen+ ticks all of these boxes. With 17.7 grams of grass-fed collagen peptides (so types I & III); vitamins C and E for stimulating collagen synthesis and extra antioxidant support; hyaluronic acid to support skin hydration; biotin for your beauty needs; and curcumin from turmeric extract and sulforaphane from broccoli seed extract to support detoxification and combat oxidative stress and photoaging, it's truly the one-stop shop for addressing skin health from multiple angles.* Talk about holistic, inside-out support.

The takeaway.

Do collagen supplements work? Yes they do, and they have some robust research to back up their benefits. Just make sure you select a clean, high-quality formula with clinically backed ingredients and dosage—and if you need help whittling down your cart, check out our list of stellar collagen powders.