The Truth About Collagen Supplements And Creams For Your Skin

Collagen, a protein naturally produced by the body, is responsible for the health of your bones, skin, hair, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, according to WebMD. As you advance in years, your collagen reserve diminishes over time. Saggy skin, wrinkles, stiffer tendons, shrinking muscles, and joint pains are some telltale signs of collagen loss, the Cleveland Clinic points out. 

To continue producing collagen, your body requires a decent supply of amino acids including lysine, proline, and glycine. These acids can be found in a variety of foods such as cabbage, seaweed, sweet potatoes, and bone broth. 

While a collagen-rich diet can help enhance collagen formation in your body, Healthline notes that hydrolyzed collagen in supplements is absorbed more efficiently than collagen from meals. Topical creams loaded with collagen peptides are another convenient option to nourish your skin cells. For this reason, many people are turning to oral and topical collagen to replenish what's lost. 

So, are collagen supplements and creams the closest we can get to the fountain of youth?

Health benefits of collagen supplements

Most collagen supplements are produced using the bones and protein of animals such as pigs and fish. According to PETA Australia, plant-based collagen supplements and creams rich in antioxidants are also available on the market. You may take collagen in a variety of forms, from peptide powder to tablets to bars, depending on your preferences. Fundamentally, collagen supplements are food and work well with other foods for collagen-packed recipes. For instance, collagen powder can be mixed with yogurt, coffee, and oatmeal.

2012 study in the scientific journal Dermato-Endocrinology found that hydrolyzed collagen peptides in supplements can stimulate your body to produce collagen on its own as well as other proteins that make up the skin such as elastin and fibrillin. Collagen supplements, as stated in a 2019 study in the scientific journal Nutrients, have positive effects on your skin. In particular, 72 female participants aged 35 years and above saw visible improvements in their skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density, as well as a decrease in skin roughness after taking Elasten collagen peptides for 12 weeks. 

Aside from improving your skin conditions, collagen supplements can help reduce joint paints and strengthen your bones. While collagen supplements have been proven to boost your natural collagen levels and restore to you healthy skin over time, topical alternatives might not give you similar benefits.

Collagen creams might not be worth the hype

If you're looking for topical alternatives to aid your collagen production aside from oral intake, collagen creams might not be your best bet. While collagen creams do hydrate and moisturize your skin, that's about it. Scientifically, it's not possible for collagen to be absorbed into your skin from the outside, according to dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman, M.D. (via MindBodyGreen).

Using collagen externally, per the Art of Dermatology, has never been proven to promote collagen production or growth. This is due to the fact that collagens have molecular weights that are too large to infiltrate the top layer of skin. Typically, only molecules with a size of 500 daltons or less can cross the skin barrier.

In case you're still keen to find topical options to reduce collagen loss, you might want to start with sunscreen and retinoid, dermatologist Dr. John Zampella told Self. These two creams have been scientifically proven to help prevent ultraviolet light from hurting your skin and breaking down your existing collagen. While collagen supplements are generally safe to use, a safer and more sustainable way to boost collagen levels is to stick with a collagen-rich diet.