Back to school

You. You are collagen. It’s the most plentiful protein in our muscle mass and connective tissue, bones, and skin. Within our bodies, it is, quite simply, the glue that helps hold us together. Outside, it gives skin its tensile, elastic quality. Good stuff, right?

But there’s some bad news. The way our body produces collagen naturally slows as we age. Got wrinkles and joint pain? You can thank collagen, or the lack thereof, for that. And that’s where supplements have taken center stage.

Sure, it’s natural. But is it safe?

If you aren’t a vegetarian, you probably consume collagen on a daily basis. Fish, poultry, and red meat are high in naturally occurring collagen. But you might be surprised to learn that leafy greens, garlic, and beans contain some types of collagen in them too. (Yes, garlic!)

But sometimes food alone isn’t enough.

You’ll find collagen in powder mixes and capsules. It comes down to personal preference. Most modern processes hydrolyze the proteins in collagen to make them easier to absorb. Hydrolyzation means that the amino acid chains are broken down enough to allow for the product to dissolve in hot and cold liquids — and our guts.

In terms of supplementation, the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate supplements unless a manufacturer makes specific claims about it curing disease. You can always do some research to see if a third-party group like the NSF, UL, or USP has tested it for safety. Checking for recalls and speaking to your healthcare professional is best practice before beginning a supplementation routine.

However, if you’re squeamish, you might want to take a look at the source because some companies use animal byproducts. And it’s important to note that if you’re allergic to seafood and certain shellfish, you should avoid “marine collagen” supplements for obvious reasons.

What’s in it for me?

Anecdotally, you’ll hear people report firmer skin, glowing skin, reduced pore size, and plumper skin with regular collagen supplementation. Longer and stronger hair and nails are often touted as benefits of increased collagen intake. While others report a reduction in joint aches and pains.

Is it a cure-all? Probably not. As with everything, avoiding smoking and alcohol, drinking plenty of water, and eating well play a big part.

There is data that show a supplement regime is effective. Proksch, Segger, and Degwert performed a double-blind controlled study investigating the anti-aging properties of collagen supplementation in 2013. Just 2-2.5 grams of collagen hydrolysate, taken once daily by women between 35-55 for 8 weeks, showed statistically significant improvement in skin elasticity, moisture, and texture.

Medical studies are great, but did you know collagen is Jen Aniston’s supplement of choice?

Sure, she’s probably got an incredible facialist and does yoga every day. But celebrity Jennifer Aniston credits her glow to working from the inside out, starting with collagen supplements. Though she’s taken Vital Proteins for years, she’s recently become a brand ambassador with an official title.

According to their website, Jen’s “go-to collagen routine is adding Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides ($25; shop now on vitalproteins.com) in my morning cup of coffee or smoothie – so easy to use.” She also uses their creamer as a dairy-free alternative in her morning cup of joe.

You’ll find tons of flavored options, but Vital Proteins makes an NSF certified unflavored collagen peptide product. We think it’s a great place to start to make sure it works well with your system.

Get your glow on!

  • Make or consume real bone broth.
  • Eat the rainbow. A well-balanced, nutrient rich diet will aid absorption of any collagen peptide you consume.
  • Include protein powder into your sweet and savory recipes — even baked goods. Take a quality collagen supplement.
  • Treat yourself to nightly facial massage to stimulate collagen production and glowing skin.
  • Research aestheticians and dermatologists in your area who offer peels, red light therapy, and laser treatments.

Here’s a hot tip: don’t worry too much about having collagen as a primary topical ingredient in your skincare routine. The molecule is simply too large to permeate the skin, so save your money for quality supplements.