7 Expert Tips About Taking Or Starting A Collagen Supplement
Ready to start a collagen supplement routine? Welcome; we've got glowing skin here. But it's not always easy to discern how to incorporate it into your routine. First, there are so many options on the market, how do you know what to look for? And once you make your purchase, how and when do you take it?
You're in luck. We pulled the best advice we've ever been given about starting a collagen supplement routine—from when you should start to what to look for and so much more:
1. Always find one with vitamin C.
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The one-step beauty routine for youthful skin, healthy hair & strong nails, featuring vitamin C.*
Vitamin C, the beloved skin care ingredient. Your body cannot effectively produce collagen without the antioxidant.* Vitamin C is actually able to promote fibroblast production, tend to damaged collagen DNA, and regulate collagen synthesis, or the pathway in which collagen is made.* "Vitamin C is a key cofactor in the synthesis of collagen and elastin, [which helps] give your skin that plump and youthful appearance," says Keira Barr, M.D., dual board-certified dermatologist.*
But it goes a step further, too, as vitamin C can also take on a protective role. (As if it hasn't done enough already!) Vitamin C stabilizes the collagen you already have thanks to its antioxidant properties, which can help neutralize free radical damage, a main source of collagen degradation and DNA damage.*
But your body cannot make vitamin C on its own; it must be ingested, which is why it's so important that your collagen supplement be formulated with the active as well. This way you know they are working together.
2. Take it day, morning, night—it doesn't matter.
There are plenty of claims out there about the best time to take collagen, be it morning, as an afternoon snack, or right before bed. And these claims do have sound reasons in theory: If you take it in the morning, it'll be digested on an empty stomach and thus absorbed better, some say. Others claim that if you use it as a snack, it can help keep you full. Finally, still others think that using it at night is the most optimal as it can aid in your body's recovery process while in REM.
Here's the deal: There is no scientific consensus on the "best time" to take collagen or even that the time of day matters at all. "Think of collagen as more of a general in-your-system-type supplement," says Albert Matheny, M.S., R.D., CSCS. The "empty stomach" argument doesn't hold up because collagen is mostly broken down in the small intestine. The midday snack really only holds true if blended with a snack that can satiate you—as the collagen itself can't really. And there is simply no research to support the nighttime argument.
Ultimately, you should take your collagen supplements whenever it's easy and convenient for you. The key is to find the time of day that you can make it part of your routine—because any supplement works best when you actually take it.
3. Stick to collagen type I and III for skin benefits.
Collagen is not a monolith: In fact, there are at least 16 types of the protein, each specializing and located in different areas of the body. With respect to your skin, the ones you should focus on are type I and III, which are both found in collagen made from bovine. (For reference, type II is the other most common type found in supplements, which is found in marine collagen.)
Type I is the most abundant in the body, not just in skin: You will find it in joints, bones, tendons, you name it. However, it seems to do a number on the skin when ingested via supplementation. One small study showed that when people took an oral supplement containing mainly hydrolyzed type I collagen, after 60 days their facial lines and wrinkles appeared smoother, and the skin maintained healthy moisture levels.*
Type III is a less understood collagen but no less interesting. This type of collagen "promotes skin health and elasticity—or what gives you that bounce-back in the skin," says Fran E. Cook-Bolden, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist.* Few studies, though, have looked at taking type III exclusively—or at least in the same way that there's been research done on type I and II—but some overall research points to the benefits of type III collagen. Most notably, research has found that type III collagen content in skin decreases with age; type I also decreased, but to a lesser degree, perhaps implying that type III might be more of a key factor in skin aging. While we don't know for sure if this is the case, we do know that type III collagen is very important for fibroblast function.*
4. If you're in your 20s, start now.
For those questioning when to start a collagen routine, here's an unfortunate, yet true fact: Your collagen levels naturally decline with age. Generally, this begins in your 20s and continues to decrease by about 1% each year. When, exactly, this happens in your 20s varies greatly depending on your genetics, but most people will start to see this decline by the time they hit 30.
"Our bodies always balance collagen production and degradation," says board-certified dermatologist Gary Goldenberg, M.D. "When we are young, our bodies produce more collagen than we break down. That balance tips the wrong way with age since tissue regeneration decreases."
And another thing to note: Collagen supplements won't reverse deep, pronounced lines—nor can they lift very loose skin. Basically, they won't magically vanish existing, severe signs of aging. "You can use collagen to reverse minor things, like crow's feet around the eyes but not once the skin's gotten too leathery and damaged," explains functional medicine doctor Robert Rountree, M.D., in mbg's podcast. Therefore, it's best to use them as a preventive method to avoid signs of aging—and to make sure they don't worsen over time.
5. And definitely use it if you're in menopause.
But just because you didn't start one in your 20s, that doesn't mean it's too late to start. This is especially true when entering menopause. "Studies show that women's skin loses about 30% of its collagen during the first five years of menopause and about 2% of their collagen every year after for the next 20 years," says Barr, who notes that this drop accounts for many of the things we classically define as "maturing skin" like sagging, enlarged pores, and deeper lines. "The bottom line is that there are changes in skin tone, texture, and pigmentation showing up as a dull complexion, skin sagging, wrinkles, thinning hair, and more prominent 'age spots.'"
Taking a collagen supplement during this time can help your body produce collagen naturally, by supporting your skin cells' fibroblasts, or the parts of the cell that make collagen and elastin.*
6. Use chocolate or sweetened versions as a healthier coffee swap.
If your go-to cup of coffee involves adding a scoop of sugar, a splash of syrupy flavoring, or a packet of artificial sweetener, consider switching to a healthier alternative: a chocolate-flavored and coconut-sugar sweetened collagen supplement, like mindbodygreen's grass-fed collagen+ in chocolate.
The reason is twofold: First is that the chocolate collagen is made with the highest-quality Peruvian cocoa powder and coconut sugar. Organic cocoa powder provides a rich, indulgent, and soothing taste; coconut sugar adds subtle sweetness, with no tacky aftertaste that's so common with sugar substitutes. The other reason being that collagen adds good-for-your-body benefits as well, so not only does your morning cup help you feel awake, but it can make your skin glow overtime.*
7. Always make sure your collagen is organic and grass-fed.
Here's the deal: Most collagen supplements come from animals. This includes bovine or marine. Because it's coming from an animal, it's best to choose organic. "You are consuming a part of the animal," Amy Shapiro, M.S., R.D., CDN, previously told us. "Therefore, making sure that the animal was raised humanely and fed a grass-fed, organic, wild diet is important." That's because the animal may contain substances that are easily digested by your body. This might include pesticides and heavy metals, which are less likely to be present in animals that are raised organically. Tejas Patel, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, adds that they'll be free of antibiotics and synthetic hormones too.
And then there are the environmental benefits. Organic farming is more sustainable than traditional agriculture, as it supports soil fertility and ecological balance. Furthermore, organic farmers and animals aren't continuously exposed to pesticides.
But the problem is many equate "organic" with "grass-fed," or vice versa. "Grass-fed means the animal ate only grass and was allowed to feed as close to their natural state as possible," says Shapiro. And according to the USDA, grass-fed doesn't prohibit the use of synthetic pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Organic animals, on the other hand, eat organic feed, and organic bans the use of synthetic pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics, along with genetic engineering. However, that can include all sorts of organic feed, like corn, barley, and so on. Always look for a collagen supplement that's both grass-fed and organic, like mindbodygreen's.