It seems like everywhere you look, someone is talking about collagen. As the body ages, it produces less and less collagen, and thus the hunt begins to try and find it from external sources, like supplements. The reported benefits of these pills and powders range from stronger hair and nails, to firmer, younger looking skin, to helping soothe and heal your gut lining. We asked some of our medical experts to weigh in on collagen and answer the question: does it really work?
Fact or fiction: Does consuming collagen make your skin look younger?
“Mostly fiction,” says Dr. Brooke Bair, a dermatologist at Tru Whole Care in midtown Manhattan. Dr. Bair explains that consuming collagen has no proven benefit for hair, skin, or nails. “Despite claims of positive/drastic results, it’s unlikely that collagen powders and supplements have any major or direct effects on your skin” says Bair. “The fact that the collagen which is ingested is being broken down in your digestive track means that very little if any of it is actually reaching your skin.”
Dr. Bair also points out that a lot of the research touting the benefits of ingesting collagen are measured from patient feedback versus a consistent, reproducible metric assessed by blinded examiners in things like pore size, fine lines, etc. “So the placebo effect, where the patient thinks they are seeing results can be quite strong.”
She goes on to say that if you are looking for the best results for facial rejuvenation and diminishing the appearance of fine lines, there are many aesthetic services offered by dermatologists such as PRP (Platelet Rich Plasma) Injections with Microneedling, laser treatments, Botox, Scultra or Juvederm. “Of course using high quality skin care products for your specific skin type and getting regular facials with an aesthetician will also help to prevent premature aging and improve and maintain your skin’s appearance.”
Fact or fiction: Can collagen help improve gut health and digestion?
Collagen is a protein that is naturally occurring in the connective tissues within the body, including the lining of your gut. This barrier is critical to good digestive health and in protecting against conditions such as leaky gut syndrome. While there’s not a ton of scientific support currently available for specific collagen supplements, Tru Whole Care Nutritionist Willow Jarosh suggests trying them in your daily routine to see if you feel the difference. “Like any nutritional supplement, or any food for that matter, you need to find the ones that work for YOUR body,” says Jarosh. “I am always a fan of first trying to find foods that naturally contain nutrients and provide essential nourishment.” Willow suggests trying bone broth which is an excellent, and delicious, source of collagen. But like anything you ingest, just because a food or supplement contains something, like collagen, it doesn’t automatically mean that your body will absorb it and/or be prompted to produce more of it.
So the jury is still out on collagen. Further research is certainly needed to determine what, if any, definitive benefits it holds. In the interim, protect the collagen you already have by trying some preventative measures like avoiding prolonged sun exposure and always wearing protective sunscreen; eating a healthy, balanced diet to prevent inflammation; and leading an active lifestyle.