3 Steps You're Overlooking When It Comes To Your Collagen Supplement Routine
Collagen supplements have long left their "niche wellness" status. Collagen peptides are full-blown mainstream—and touted by health experts, beauty enthusiasts, and everyday people alike. Now, using a collagen supplement can be as simple as adding a scoop of it to your smoothie or grabbing a buzzy new "collagen water" at the store. (For what it's worth, we recommend the former, and—ahem—using mindbodygreen's beauty & gut collagen+). But if you want to optimize your results, there are a few steps you may be missing in your routine. Here, three hacks that are commonly overlooked.
You're not taking it with vitamin C.
Collagen peptide supplements work by supporting your fibroblasts, or the things that make collagen and elastin in the first place.* By doing so, they're shown to enhance your natural collagen levels.* (And thus do all of the pretty skin care benefits that we love, like smooth fine lines, improve hydration, and so on.*) And while your body needs the amino acids to do this process, it also needs another important nutrient: vitamin C.*
Vitamin C plays a critical role in the collagen synthesis process. "Vitamin C is a key cofactor in the synthesis of collagen and elastin, [which help] give your skin that plump and youthful appearance,"* says Keira Barr, M.D., dual board-certified dermatologist and mindbodygreen Collective member. The nutrient also protects the collagen you already have by working against collagen-degrading enzymes1.*
Here's the problem: Many aren't getting enough of it. Vitamin C is a common gap in the American diet—in fact, 46% of U.S. adults2 aren't consuming adequate amounts of vitamin C. If you suspect your diet is lacking in the vitamin, add some colorful vitamin-C-rich foods, and for more targeted support, find a collagen supplement with this vitamin formulated in the powder or add a vitamin C supplement to your routine as well, such as mindbodygreen's vitamin c potency+.
You're not protecting it.
Unless you're protecting your body's collagen with topicals and smart sun care, all this internal work you're doing may be wasted. That's because UV exposure is one of the primary causes of collagen decline. One study observed collagen under UV light and found that there was a "significant decrease" in collagen structure afterward3. This is because UV rays contribute oxidative stress in the skin4, which affects skin at the cellular level and leads to photoaging.
Smart sun care, of course, involves using a high-quality mineral sunscreen. But it's also lifestyle habits: Be smart about using protective clothing (hats! sunglasses!), being mindful of the hours spent in the rays—and please, don't sunbathe for sport.
You're not getting enough of it.
Browse any supplement or beauty aisle and you'll find collagen peppered in gummies, tonics, the aforementioned bottled water, pills, and powders. Depending on said format, you'll get a wide variance on dosage—so if you're using an option that only contains a sprinkle of collagen, you may not see the desired results. (And perhaps even write off collagen as a supplement not worth using.) If you're curious, here's our deep dive into proper collagen dosage, as there's a bit of nuance involved. But as a recap we recommend the following depending on why you're taking it:
- Skin: Studies show that a range of 2.5 to 10 grams per day can be beneficial for skin support5.*
- Muscle: Studies show that 15 to 20 grams per day can help muscle mass6, muscle strength7, and soreness after exercise8.*
- Joint: 2.5 to 5 grams per day has been shown to help joint support9—however, if you are taking UC-II specifically, you only need 40 milligrams per day10.*
- Bone: The available research suggests that 5 grams per day provides bone support11.*
If you're looking for optimal results from your collagen supplements, there are additional steps you can take to provide full-body collagen support. And the good news is that none of these are hard.
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.