If you've recently asked yourself, What's the deal with those trendy collagen drinks? you're not alone. Collagen has made a huge splash on the functional beverage scene, with more and more prepackaged, aesthetically pleasing bottles lining the shelves, each promising better hydration and a brighter glow.*
But what is liquid collagen, anyway? And how does it compare to the trusty powder we all know and love? Here, we tapped experts for their honest thoughts.
What is collagen?
Collagen is a family of proteins1 that is actually the most abundant group of proteins in the animal kingdom: There are at least 28 kinds of collagen2 that we know of that exist in vertebrates (yes, us included), but types I, II and III are the most common in the human body.
As a simplified overview of what collagen does for the body, it helps make up the structure of our skin, bone, cartilage, and muscle, with the purpose of helping tissues be more elastic and withstand stretching.
We get into more thoroughly in this guide to collagen in the body, so read more there if you're interested in getting into the details.
Liquid collagen vs. powder.
This probably goes without saying, but the biggest difference between the two is their form: Liquid collagen comes in a ready-made drink format, while collagen powder comes in a powder (duh). From there, liquid and powder versions do have their fair share of differences. Let's discuss all the pros and cons:
"Liquid forms of collagen typically have less collagen per serving than the powdered alternative," says Isa Kujawski, MPH, RDN, registered dietitian and founder of Mea Nutrition. While there's no recommended dosage for collagen at this time, research does support a range of 10 to 20 grams a day—and a lot of liquid products on the market will feature 10 grams of collagen or less. Of course, it depends on the specific brand, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a liquid format with more than 10 grams. Powders, on the other hand, can easily play in the 15 grams and up range, according to mbg's vice president of scientific affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN.
So if you're hoping to consume more than 10 grams of collagen per day, you might need to gulp down a couple of those liquid collagen drinks to meet the benchmark, which might not be as efficient or cost-friendly, gram for gram.
Again, it depends on the brand, but Kujawski notes that many liquid collagen products are formulated with marine collagen, which contains predominantly types I and II collagen. Quick review: Type I collagen is found all over the body (except for cartilage) and is most highly concentrated in bone, ligaments, tendons, skin, hair, nails, and the gut lining. Type II is mainly found in cartilage.
Grass-fed bovine collagen, on the other hand, is high in types I and III. Type III collagen is found in skin, muscle, and blood vessels. The combination of types I and III make grass-fed bovine collagen particularly well suited for overall health, but if you follow a pescatarian diet, marine collagen might be better suited to your lifestyle.* You can totally find liquid collagen products sourced from bovine origin (like this drink!), but it may take some searching to find the right brand for you—that's true for any supplement, liquids, and powders alike.
It's always important to check your supplement's excipients (aka the "other" ingredients), but liquids may have a longer list compared to powders. For example, they might include more flavors to enhance marketability and create a sweeter beverage experience. A strawberry-lemon collagen drink sounds way more enticing than unflavored collagen water, no?
But these added flavors aren't without their drawbacks: "That means empty sugar calories, whether natural or artificial or from juices," says Ferira. "Other liquid collagen brands will have zero sugar but then load up on the flavoring side, so again, longer additive profile." After all, you can have just as much fun (without the additives) by adding collagen powder to your own tasty strawberry smoothie.
If you're looking for a quick grab-and-go option, liquid collagen might be an attractive choice for you. Since the collagen comes premixed into a beverage, it takes all the legwork out of scooping the powder yourself and swirling it into the drink (a process that only takes a couple of minutes, but still…)
Of course, single-use products do have their environmental considerations: Individually packaged collagen beverages tend to be less eco-friendly than a recyclable jar or gusset bag of powder. "Much more green to scoop collagen yourself from a multi-serving container and put into your beverage or smoothie of choice," notes Ferira.
Which is more effective?
Ferira's verdict? "While I get the grab-and-go appeal, I would prefer my clients use a high-quality collagen powder formula," she says. "That way, you get a more meaningful dose of collagen, fewer additives, and save the environment from more plastic or packaging waste, regardless of the form." Plus, you can always create your own liquid collagen by incorporating the powder into your favorite beverage. "Give it a swirl or shake, and there you have it, collagen in water," she adds.
Another point for powder? "Multi-ingredient collagen powders can incorporate other effective nutrients and phytonutrients to support collagen's actions in the body and overall skin, nails, hair, gut, etc., from multiple angles (i.e., vitamins C and E, biotin, turmeric, sulforaphane, hyaluronic acid, etc.),"* Ferira tells us. "And these actives are not all able to be provided in a liquid/beverage in a homogenous or stable fashion."
That's not to say liquid collagen products are all bad. We'd recommend a drink with high-quality collagen peptides and a clean excipient profile over a powder with an iffy ingredient list. But if you're weighing two stellar options? We suggest you go with the powder form for the potency advantage, fewer additives, and eco-friendly edge.
"Many liquid collagen brands tout the bioavailability of their product, claiming that the collagen is more efficiently absorbed and usable by the body," adds Kujawski. "However, scientific studies in this arena are lacking to substantiate this claim." In fact, collagen as a protein (aka peptide) compound is actually quite large (whether it comes in a liquid or powder form), so to enhance its bioavailability and absorption, your body has to break down the protein into smaller peptides and amino acids to absorb them in your gut.
Benefits of collagen supplements.
Whether in a liquid or powder form, collagen peptides come with an array of benefits.* If you need a reason to start a regular collagen routine, check out these full-body perks:
- Skin: Hydrolyzed collagen peptides can support better hydration, smoother skin, and improved skin quality.* Specifically, research has shown that collagen can support skin elasticity3 and potentially make fine lines appear smaller.* A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial also found that participants' moisture levels in the skin were seven times higher4 than those who did not take collagen supplements.*
- Hair and nails: Collagen supplements provide many of the amino acids and nutrients needed for hair growth.* "Amino acids are the building blocks for keratin, the material that hair is made of," board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., tells mbg about the benefits. This same mechanism makes collagen supplements superb for nail growth as well: One study found that when patients took collagen daily for 24 weeks, it helped support their nail health5, including better growth rates, reduced breakage, and improved appearance.*
- Gut: According to the journal Gastroenterology, collagen supplements may help support the stomach lining6.*
- Joints: Collagen is a structural component of our joints, helping tissues be more firm, elastic, and withstand stretching.* When it comes to collagen supplements, research backs their ability to improve joint mobility and comfort; specifically, one study showed that when athletes regularly took collagen, their overall joint health was supported7.*
- Muscles: In addition to skin, bone, cartilage, and joints, collagen is also found in our muscles. A small clinical study8 also found that men who took daily supplemental collagen and followed a strength training program gained more muscle mass than those who followed the program without taking collagen.*
At its core, liquid collagen is simply just collagen powder pre-dissolved into water or another beverage. So you can certainly make "liquid collagen" yourself—and DIY versions will typically have a higher dose and fewer additives than market products–which is why, when going head-to-head, powdered collagen is preferred (at least by our standards). The main thing to look for is high-quality and clean (grass-fed, pasture-raised, non-GMO, etc.), collagen.
Does liquid collagen actually work?
Collagen efficacy comes down to dosage and desired result. For example, research shows that 2.5 to 10 grams per day can be beneficial for skin support and 15 to 20 grams per day can help muscle mass and muscle strength. So if the liquid collagen you’re using has the dosage range for your desired benefits, then yes it can work. However, if it only contains small amounts of collagen, then you may not experience significant results.
Is it OK to take liquid collagen everyday?
Collagen is considered safe to consume daily, and actually should be taken consistently for best results.
Is it safe to take liquid collagen?
Collagen is generally well tolerated (although every body is different, so please consult with your health practitioner if you have questions). As for liquid collagen, always check the ingredient list to ensure that you are not personally sensitive to any of the additional ingredients.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness 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. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.