Can Collagen Supplements Make Your Skin Younger?

Powdered collagen in a spoon
Photo: marekuliasz/iStock/Thinkstock

There’s a lot of buzz about collagen peptide supplements these days. Collagen is a structural protein present in the skin, joints, hair and nails. The gradual loss of collagen as we age can make the skin look less plump. The idea is that collagen supplements can replace some of that lost collagen and improve the look of the skin.

Assessing the effectiveness of skin care products or supplements is notoriously difficult. For one thing, it’s difficult to isolate the effects of any particular cream or pill. The condition of our skin surface can be affected by diet, hydration, sun exposure, temperature and humidity. It’s also really hard to be objective about what we’re seeing in the mirror. So how do we know whether these supplements are actually working?

There have been a couple of small studies attempting to objectively assess the effectiveness of these supplements by measuring the skin’s moisture levels and elasticity after several weeks of use. In some (but not all) cases, the differences reached statistical significance. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into something that you’d be able to see in the mirror.

(It’s much the same story for claims that collagen supplements will relieve joint pain.)

Collagen supplements are generally safe and well-tolerated. If nothing else, they provide a small amount of protein — although not the highest quality. You could try them to see whether you perceive a positive difference in your skin, and whether the improvement is enough to justify the expense. Both of those judgments are entirely subjective, of course.

But based on the published research so far, I suspect that money would be better spent on healthy foods and a decent moisturizer. 

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Monica Reinagel
Monica Reinagel MS, LDN, is a writer, speaker, culinary nutritionist and creator of the Nutrition Diva podcast. She blogs at NutritionOverEasy.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.