Do Collagen Supplements Really Work?

Our patients are often asking us at Tareen Dermatology what supplements are best for the skin. What things are really worth spending money on? Collagen is a common topic of discussion. There are many products on the market promising healthier younger looking skin. Let’s take a deeper look at the science on collagen.

Collagen is what makes up the connective tissue of the skin, cartilage, tendons and bones of the body. It is a protein made by fibroblasts that serves as a framework to many important tissue types in the body. The creation of collagen requires many enzymes that put together amino acids or the building blocks of proteins and modifies them to actually create the collagen fibrils.

When it comes to the skin specifically, collagen provides support, strength, and stability for many types of cells that make up our skin, these include hyaluronic acid, elastin, fibroblasts, keratinocytes, and melanocytes.

As we age it is natural for the amount of collagen we make and the clearing of damaged collagen to decrease. This partnered with sun damage, chronic inflammation and other outside stresses resulting in loss of elasticity of the skin, wrinkle formation, volume loss and dry skin.

Oral collagen supplements are by enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract and the smaller molecules (di and tripeptides) are then transported to the bloodstream and appropriate tissues.

When we look at the studies investigating oral collagen and its impact on skin the data is limited. There are a small set of studies. But what the results showed only hydrolyzed collagen meaning it contains di and tripeptides showed actual benefit. These studies looked at 2-5g daily and results were shown at around the 90 day mark. Now there may be other reasons to explain why study participants saw improvement of the skin particularly increased hydration in those taking oral collagen.

Are collagen supplements worth it? Ultimately at this time the little data we have shows it may be helpful but the evidence is early and needs more research. The ongoing cost at this point may not be worth it at this point.

What is actually worth your time? Consistent skin care, water intake, proper sun protection, eating a well balanced diet, reducing sugar, exercise and sleep. When looking at what is worth investing in to stimulate collagen, cosmetic procedures like microneedling and lasers are what are going to be worth your time and money.