If you’ve stepped foot in a beauty store within the last few months, you’ve seen it: the word “collagen” splashed across every other cream, serum, and on countless supplement pills and powders. Skincare enthusiasts have become obsessed with collagen for a solid reason: this protein found in our tissues and organs is the key to keeping our skin supple and firm.
But collagen isn’t always kind. It’s an ephemeral visitor that begins to bid farewell beginning as early as our 20s. If you’ve started noticing hollowness in your cheeks or tear troughs and fine lines on the delicate, thin skin under your eyes, those are all typical signs of a slow down in collagen production.
Of course, we don’t take any loss of youth lying down these days, which is why products as disparate as drugstore cleansers and $300 moisturizers are making similar promises: restoring collagen in your skin. If a moisturizer, procedure, or smoothie truly can reduce signs of aging, it’s worth its price tag—and if it’s a marketing gimmick or a far-fetched goal, we’re here to tell you so you can blow your money on something far more fabulous.
We asked experts to separate collagen fact from fiction. Here are all of the ways you can rebuild collage in your skin—and a few that aren’t going to do the trick.
A few studies have shown that oral intake of collagen peptides can reduce skin wrinklesand have other beneficial effects on the skin. The benefits of collagen taken as a supplement are numerous and can extend even beyond skincare.
“Several studies indicate the multiple benefits of collagen peptides in supporting connective tissues throughout the body,” says Dr. Shelena Lalji, founder and medical director of the Dr. Shel Wellness & Aesthetic Center in Texas, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, and the author of I Am Woman: Our Journeys to Health, Happiness and Harmony. “For example, aging adults with wear and tear on joints may experience discomfort and benefit from collagen supplementation. Athletes want to feel good and optimize their performance by supporting the musculoskeletal system. Adults that have lost moisture in their skin due to aging, environmental stressors, and sun exposure, and who would like to improve their overall appearance will also benefit from hydrolyzed collagen.”
But similar to creams and serums, just because a supplement makes a claim and was created in a lab, doesn’t mean it is effective enough to provide those results. Lalji, who is a medical advisor to Douglas Laboratories, says it’s crucial to buy supplementation from professional grade supplement companies that are GMP certified and go above and beyond with certifications and accreditation that test their products for potency and safety.
“One of the quickest and easiest ways to ensure the purity of a supplement is by simply looking at the ingredients,” Lalji says. “If it has very few added ingredients, it most likely is not manufactured with unnecessary fillers or additives. I am also a firm believer that price is a proxy for premium. The less you pay for a supplement, the less pure it most likely is. Not to say you should pay an exorbitant amount for a collagen supplement, but know that collagen is not an inexpensive ingredient and therefore, to have it at it’s purest, you can expect to pay a little more for it.”
Since collagen supplements are a relatively new category, some experts are retaining a healthy degree of skepticism about the results you can expect.
“Collagen is a large molecule and for the most part is broken down into its component amino acids in the gut,” Zeichner says. “It has been suggested that these amino acids enter the bloodstream and provide the building blocks for new healthy collagen production. However the jury is still out on collagen supplements.”
For now, collagen supplements made by a reputable company can’t hurt and might help (or might not). Who knows—supplements could end up becoming the vampire facial of 2023. And you’ll be the Kardashian-like skincare guru with radiant skin who can smile and say you’ve known about them all along.