Benefits of Collagen for Skin and Hair

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Benefits of collagen for healthy skin
Wellness Mama » Blog » Beauty » Benefits of Collagen for Skin and Hair

Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the body and it makes up a large part of our skin, hair and nails. Technically a polypeptide, collagen contains a mixture of amino acids like proline and glycine, which are found in all connective tissue within the body (including vital organs!).

While beauty treatments and shampoos trumpet the benefits of collagen on their labels, the real benefits come internally, not from a topical treatment.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is a long-chain amino acid and the most abundant protein in the body. It is composed of the individual amino acids Glycine, Proline, Hydroxyproline and Arginine and in nature is found exclusively in animal tissue, especially bones and connective tissue.

It is what is responsible for giving skin elasticity, hair its strength, and connective tissue its ability to hold everything in place. In fact, the collagen protein makes up 30% of the total protein in the body, and 70% of the protein in the skin!

The body’s natural collagen production declines with age and many modern lifestyle factors (like stress, poor diet, gut health imbalances, etc.) can also decrease the body’s ability to make it.

Gelatin vs. Collagen

These terms are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference.

Collagen is the basic form of the protein found in the body, and gelatin is produced when collagen is boiled or otherwise heated. The two have very similar compositions and are almost interchangeable, but the difference gets confusing when it comes to supplements. In general:

  • Collagen Powder- (the Hydrolyzed form of Gelatin) contains these proteins broken down into individual peptide chains. This form is typically easier to digest and is often suggested for people with digestive problems. One advantage to this particular form of collagen is that it easily mixes into most hot and cold drinks and is tasteless, making it easy to add to foods and drinks for consumption, however, it will not gel and is not good in recipes that require gelatin. In the brand I take, this form has a blue lid)
  • Gelatin Powder – I use a grass-fed pastured gelatin powder. Gelatin is the pure form that is often recommended on diets like GAPS and SCD (though some people may not be able to digest it at first and must stick to meat stocks instead), for its ability to coat the digestive tract. From a cooking perspective, it is the form that “gels” and is great for making recipes like chewable vitamins, gummies, and marshmallows. This is the form naturally found in bone broth, as the heat breaks down the natural collagen found in the bones. This is the reason bone broth tends to thicken and gel in the fridge.

In past generations, people often consumed much larger amounts of collagen/gelatin from food, as our grandparents and great-grandparents prepared many meals at home and made things like broths, gravies, and bone-in meats that naturally contained these amino acids.

Benefits of Collagen for Skin

While collagen is beneficial to the entire body, it is most noticeably beneficial to the skin. This is because as a person ages, the epidermic (outer layer of skin) thins and loses elasticity in a process known as elastosis. As this happens, a person tends to show more signs of aging and acquire more wrinkles.

The good news is that these changes do not seem to be permanent or irreversible. In fact, a double-blind placebo study conducted last year found that women who took collagen hydrolysate (the peptide form) regularly for 8 weeks saw a 20% reduction in wrinkles!

Even more exciting:

Additionally, after 8 weeks of intake a statistically significantly higher content of procollagen type I (65%) and elastin (18%) in the BCP-treated volunteers compared to the placebo-treated patients was detected.

This means that supplemental collagen appears to help the body’s own production process improve, as procollagen is the precursor to collagen in the body.

This study also showed that collagen consumption can increase skin elasticity and moisture, which also declines during the aging process.

It is important to note that this study used the hydrolyzed (peptide) form, which is a more easily digestible form of collagen. I’m not aware of any studies that directly compare gelatin and collagen for their ability to improve skin, so for skin health, I use the peptide form.

Other Benefits

Though not as immediately noticeable, there are other benefits that might be even more important. For instance, collagen has been studied for its role in:

  • Bone and Joint Health– Collagen may be beneficial to bones and joints in the same way it benefits the skin. By helping the body’s natural production of collagen and providing a bioavailable source of these amino acids, collagen may improve bone and joint health over time. In fact, a double-blind, placebo study showed significant improvement in joint pain.
  • Hormone Balance- Emerging research shows that the specific amino acids in collagen may help improve the amino acid balance in the body and support the body’s natural hormone production.
  • Digestion– As mentioned, gelatin and collagen may help coat the digestive tract and improve digestion, and the consumption of gelatin is often recommended on gut-specific diets like GAPS and SCD.

Where To Find Collagen

There are several good sources of high-quality gelatin and collagen powders. When sourcing, it is important to make sure that it is obtained from grass-fed and pastured humanely raised sources from a reputable company. I purchase this grass fed gelatin and this collagen powder because I was able to verify that their gelatin and collagen are:

  • Sourced from pasture-raised animals
  • Packaged in BPA-free containers

I also enjoy these collagen bars from Bulletproof to snack on.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Do you use collagen or gelatin? How do you use it?

Sources
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24401291/
  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18416885/
  • http://tracking.vitalproteins.com/aff_c?offer_id=8&aff_id=2542
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

158 responses to “Benefits of Collagen for Skin and Hair”

  1. Sherry Avatar

    Thanks for the great info. I started using the vital proteins collagen as a protein source in my smoothie and notice a huge difference in my skin and nails. However now that it’s cooler I’m not drinking smoothies fo breakfast everyday- can you suggest other ways to take it?

  2. Christina Reeves Avatar
    Christina Reeves

    Great article Katie! One more benefit of collagen when it comes to the skin is that it can help with eczema and lessening scars (as the body needs collagen in the initial scar production as well as wound healing). I’ve been taking Great Lakes collagen daily to improve my eczema scars, and my skin, hair and nails have never looked better! I should look into making bone broth more regularly though — I’m never been one for relying on a supplement. 🙂

    1. Amanda Avatar

      Hi Christina,
      I am so happy to hear this helped with your eczema. I am trying endlessly to help my daughter cure her eczema. She is 4 years old and has suffered with it for over year. Any tips would be so appreciated. Thank you!! Amanda

    2. Terrie A Smith Avatar
      Terrie A Smith

      Thank you for such great information; with an awesomely thoughtful link to a fantastic company to purchase this and try it out.
      I have MS in the secondary progressive stage, and the disease is attacking my brain close to my pituitary gland. So my endocrine system is a mess. I’ve been looking for something natural to try for my joint pain along with something to help with my skin issues; I lost 85 pounds quickly so my skin is saggy and it has collapsed/folded in tiny stacks with very, very little indented skin space between each wrinkle. This has led to increased eczema issues, infections that “travel” a little bit deep under the skin. I can see the faint (sometimes swollen) travel lines, and trying to stop it is worse than “whavk-a-mole”; rashes and fungal infections. I’m very hopeful I’ll be one of the people who can tolerate this without the unpleasant to bad side effects, not including taste. I’ve had so many surgeries and extensive testing; I can drink or take anything without worry about how bad it may taste.
      I’m also curious about how it may help all of my hormone levels. Thanks again. I get your weekly newsletter, buy from Plant Therapy for around 70% of my products, and love learning from you and your followers who post comments. Take Care

  3. Sandy Avatar

    Hello! Is it necessary to take both Collagen Peptides and Collagen Protein?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I use interchangeably but don’t typically worry about consuming both all the time. Usually, I just add the peptides to drinks each day and only use the gelatin protein for recipes that require thickening or gelling.

      1. liz Avatar

        I only have the green lid and put it in tea daily.. what is the difference from the blue lid and green lid in terms of wrinkle reduction?!

  4. Lea Garrison Avatar
    Lea Garrison

    For me, it messed with my hormones in a negative way. Bone broth doesn’t, but the water soluble substitutes from Vital Proteins and Great Lakes did. I would get massive headaches around the time for my period and my skin would breakout horribly….almost cystic-like acne which I had never suffered from before. Eventually my periods started coming closer and closer together…. from ever 28 days, then 27, 26, and when they started coming every 25 days I started to do some investigation!!!!! I pulled dairy out of my diet, quit any form of sugar, only one cup of coffee a day and no other forms of caffeine……low and behold, everything corrected itself when I finally suspected the gelatin supplement. I happened to read a review on Amazon – a negative review, from a woman complaining of the exact same things that were happening to me. The light bulb went on, and I pulled the gelatin out. Everything corrected itself immediately. Period went back to 28 days, no headaches, no breakouts, and I dropped 3lbs as well. I chalked up the weight gain to “putting on muscle” at the gym, but I now think it was due to the gelatin. I think it messed with my estrogen levels. So now, I just stick to the real thing….bone broth, and I have no issues. Just some food for thought. It’s not a panacea for everyone.

    1. Beesan Avatar

      Thanks for sharing that. I also suffer negative side effects from the collagen peptides, or the hydrolyzed collagen in the form of constipation. (I’ve posted below). However, I have no problem drinking homemade bone broth. Unfortunately, there is only one source of organic bones for broth making where I live, and they are often sold out.

      I once read online (forgot the site) that after having a roasted chicken, strip down all the bones, put them in a slow cooker with plenty of water and leave it on overnight. You will wake up in the morning to fresh bone broth. I have not tried it yet, but it seems like a good idea. Perhaps better than nothing in my case.

      1. Carol Avatar

        Add some Braggs AC vinegar to the water, to help leach out all the goodness from the bones.
        Braggs has the mother, and it is not pasteurized, but organic, raw and good.

    2. Caitlin Avatar

      I am literally on my last tablespoon of VP collagen. I haven’t had a period since I started. I can’t possibly know if it’s a connection to the collagen. I am perimenapausal anyhow (I’m 45) But I had had a “relatively” regular cycle going on prior to taking. And have been battling acne daily on chin and neck (signs of hormonal balance as well.) I don’t really notice any hair/skin/nail difference. I have young children and fairly busy life…I am not the type to make my own bone broth, but I really do want to. Any pointers or direction on the internet you could give for making? I don’t think I should continue with the Vital Proteins.

    3. Shelly Avatar

      I was taking a collagen supplement and I actually think I gained weight as well! I had just started running that week so I thought maybe I was putting on muscle, but when I stopped taking the supplement I instantly lost 3 lbs. I had been taking it for nearly 3 weeks.

      1. Susan Avatar

        Shelly, I was just about to post a question about this. I think it is fluid retention. I did the collagen peptides for 8 days and I could not button my pants. I was so bloated. I did a bit more research and read something about people who are on thyroid meds having problems taking products made from bovine hide. So, that made me wonder if that is part of my problem. I sent my product back to the company. I feel like I have lost a bit of the bloat and hope it will all be gone in another few days. I was very disappointed that I can’t take it. I was hoping it might help with osteoporosis.

        1. Susan Avatar

          Does anyone know if there is a collagen product I can take that won’t cause bloating?

      2. Susan Avatar

        The same happened to me with the bloating, so I just stopped taking it and lost the weight. I am sure it was mostly water weight.

  5. suzi Avatar

    i feel this is missing big time from my diet and that being said, i have been vegan for over 2o years. is there an option for us? a plant based collagen?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      There is not a vegetable source of gelatin or collagen… The specific amino acids in these polypeptides are found exclusively in animal connective tissue. There are plant based foods that are good for the skin, but none that perform exactly like collagen…

  6. Samantha Avatar

    Hi! This question isn’t actually about gelatin/collagen but I didn’t know where else to ask. I’ve been a loyal reader of you blog for a few months now I really trust your opponion. My question is about vitamin D and seasonal affect disorder. I’m from a part of the country thy sees very little sun in the winter, and I start to really feel down. Usually from now-April I just go to a tanning booth 2-3 times a week and I feel a lot better. However, this year my husband And I *may* start trying to have a baby, and I don’t think I feel comfortable tanning if there is the possiblility I have conceived (especially before a test would be able to confirm.) I was wondering what your suggestions would be to help with my mood. Also, I do really enjoy the look of being tan! 🙁

    Please share your insite. I would really appreciate it!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I don’t have seasonal affective disorder, but I do have genetic mutations on my VDR genes (vitamin d receptors) that make it difficult for me to uptake vitamin d correctly through diet or supplements. I was actually prescribed UV light (tanning) from a doctor before when my levels got really low. I test my levels of Vitamin D often, especially when pregnant, and make sure that I am getting enough and follow the advice of my doc on this. I’ve also found that separate of Vitamin D, having a really high (10,000 lux) light to use in the morning can help and many people with SAD use this as well… Hope that helps some and best wishes for a healthy conception and pregnancy!

  7. Jacqui Avatar

    Dear Kinjal:

    A friend of mine suggested flax seed as a vegetarian substitute for gelatine. The seeds gel up if you soak them in water. Also, makes a tasty tea ( Pour boiling water over 1T of flax seeds in a mug) that helps relieve gallstone pain and other digestive issues!

    Enjoy.

  8. Jacqui Avatar

    I’m wondering how much collagen is taken a day in the studies? I’ve been taking 2T a day of the Great Lakes brand for a couple of years and haven’t noticed any significant differences in joint aches or reduction of wrinkles. Perhaps I need to take more?

    1. Sandra Avatar

      Hi, the GL container says 2T morning and night. Husband and I noticed lots more energy and better sleep almost immediately. I don’t know yet about skin, hair etc. Too early to tell. We aim to make our own broth as well.

  9. kinjal Avatar

    Can you throw some light on vegetarian and vegan sources of glycerin and collagen? Please…

  10. Jp Avatar

    How much do you take each day? And have you personally noticed any change in your skin?

    I have read that hydrolyzed protein can be toxic (” When whey protein undergoes denaturation or hydrolyzation, it loses the proper dimensions intended by nature. Effectiveness is lost and the renewing process of cellular turnover wanes. Adding to the negative outcome, these processing methods give rise to toxic levels of free aspartic acid and glutamic acid (MSG). Both have toxicity profiles that make party drugs look like health foods.”). Have you done any research on this?

  11. Ankita Avatar

    Currently collagen is in trend a lot. You have written this article on a very sensitive issue for women. Good one!

    1. Renvia Avatar

      Kitsa’s kitchen to buy Vital Proteins. Iherb ships the Great Lakes brand

    2. Cee Avatar

      Hi Debbie,

      I get my Great Lakes grlatin off iherb.com. They post to australia. Or I think vital proteins has a website and I think they post to Australia too but I’m not sure. I haven’t bought any of that brand yet

    3. Sandra Avatar

      Hi Debbie, hope you don’t mind me stepping in. I’m in Sydney and i order the Great Lakes through iHerb. The product information states it is grass fed but the label on the container doesn’t. It is less expensive than Vital Proteins, which i could not source even on eBay. Someone in Tasmania is also a distributor for GL and selling on eBay but the price is more and also postage is higher. iHerb have super fast postage from the US and the prices are so much better for this and bentonite clay etc. If you find VP in AU with reasonable postage let me know. Hope that helps. Sandra

      1. Kathie Avatar
        Kathie

        Iherb also sells ZINT collagen hydrolysate, ethically sourced

  12. Kimberly Avatar

    I like the idea of using this as part of a skin care regime without having to spend a lot of money on facial products. If you were to use this as part of a skin care regime, what else would you add to it to make it a complete antiaging regime? I would really like to know your thoughts!
    Thanks Kate!

  13. Alex Avatar

    Hey Katie,

    What do you think about the WHO’s verdict on red meat being a carcinogen?

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      Working on a whole post on that, but in general I agree that processed feedlot meats are unhealthy and probably do cause cancer but don’t like that they didn’t differentiate between this and humanely raised organic meats before declaring all red meat dangerous. Also, all of the media comparing meat to smoking is completely overblown as smoking causes a 2500% increase in lung cancer and even processed red meat only caused an 18% increased risk of colorectal cancer.

      1. Cherie Avatar

        Thank you! I was thinking the same thing and appreciate your input. I look forward to your post on this.

  14. Suzanne Avatar

    Hi Wellness mommy. Love your site can I ask how much peptide collagen you take per day? And how.

  15. Lisa Avatar

    What would be a recommended amount for daily intake? I didn’t see that specified on your post. Thanks!

  16. Lisa Avatar

    do you use these in pregnancy – later stages? I would think they’d be ok since they are natural… Thanks! 🙂

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I consider collagen a food rather than a supplement since it is naturally found in many foods, so I do consume in pregnancy but I also checked with my midwife to be sure…

      1. Lisa Avatar

        Thank you – that’s what I figured too! I’ve been taking the Great Lakes but actually had just ordered the other a few days ago to try out! Great post! 🙂

  17. Suzanne Avatar

    It looks like you switched brands? Didn’t you use the Great Lakes gelatin? Great article btw!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I switched about a year ago. Vital Proteins provides more detail regarding their sourcing and where able to verify for me that their collagen and gelatin are actually grass-fed and pastured.

      1. Robin Avatar

        Did you come across the article regarding the exposure of ractpamine to many cattle in Brazil. Russia has band the export of cattle from Brazil. It is not banned to the U.S. And apparently the laws are very loose down there. I do not know this first hand but read some of the reviews through Amazon. Did you see if they tested for ractpamine with this product? I’d like to try it but now I’m Leary. Thoughts??

        1. Wellness Mama Avatar

          Response on ractopamine-

          https://www.vitalproteins.com/pages/faq

          Is there a risk for Ractopamine in your pasture-raised products?

          Ractopamine is a beta agonist added to feed to promote leanness in animals raised for their meat. Ractopamine is prohibited for use in cattle and cattle feed in Brazil (since 2012) and New Zealand and is actively monitored and tested for illegal use. Since our cattle are pasture-raised and grass fed, this further eliminates the risk of this substance in the cattle’s diet. Vital Proteins conducts independent third-party laboratory testing of its collagen products and test results have shown our products to be free of ractopamine. Please find the following link for the analysis report: Ractopamine Certificate of Analysis

          1. Alisa Avatar

            This is awesome how proactive and responsive the company is.

      2. Sandra Avatar

        Thanks Katie, I had just sent this question to you yesterday, prior to receiving this post. I can’t get VP only GL through Australian eBay and through iHerb. So taking that every morning and night. Husband and I felt the difference almost immediately, lots more energy and able to sleep better. Hope it helps my hair soon as I have lost so much during this pregnancy. I am constantly vacuuming, falls in hand full after every wash and in between whilst brushing. I know its normal but it still alarms me. I did take biotin in the past.

      3. Michelle Meerbach Avatar
        Michelle Meerbach

        As much as I love these collagen products, (really saved my health!) I am a bit worried about Brazil’s grass fed pastures. I hope it is not rainforest-turned-grassland pastures? Is there a plant-based sustainable source of collagen?? 🙂

      4. Abby Barringer Avatar
        Abby Barringer

        So which is better for over health- the collagen or the gelatin? I am slightly lactose intolerant and definitely like the sounds of it coating mg intestines for better digestion, my husband also has some digestion issues. But I am pregnant and like that is helps with akin elasticity. Of course other bonuses such as hair skin and nails is great too! Any recommendations between the two? Thank you!

          1. Diane Huckett Avatar
            Diane Huckett

            I am 66 and started taking gelatin powder a couple years ago when my skin began getting REALLY flabby! I’ve been taking 1 T per day in whatever liquid drink I was consuming any given day. The improvement was amazing. The volume and firmness of the skin on my thighs increased a lot! In fact, my thighs began looking “chubby” again in my pants! LOL! – In case you’re wondering, I’m about 10-15 lbs over weight. I’m 5’4″ at 135-140 lbs. I DO HAVE A QUESTION – I am not taking collagen. I would love to increase the ageing skin issue. The “age” wrinkles are still showing up on my arms, etc. I am upping my gelatin to 2-3 T per day, but I’m wondering if I need to also add colagen?

      1. Wellness Mama Avatar

        Great Lakes is good and I used them for years, but wasn’t able to fully verify that their product came from grass fed sources, and I was able to do so with Vital Proteins…

  18. Rande Avatar

    I’m obsessed with taking gelatin and bone broth! The gelatin is really nice in a morning latte with some raw milk and maple syrup 🙂 And admittedly bone broth is something I just have to get in me, some times I just drink it straight. It’s been an absolute lifesaver for my joints!

    1. Janet Sellers Avatar
      Janet Sellers

      You might enjoy the way I’ve started to love my grass-fed chickies’ bone broth (can’t do beef); I pour it hot over shredded raw kale. In a couple of minutes, the kale is steamed and I add some Braggs aminos or pink salt… very tasty. I also take Black Seed oil with honey for joints and overall health as regards any inflamation.

    2. Diane Avatar

      I just got the Vital Proteins collagen peptides after reading many encouraging blogs/reviews.

      So far I’ve: added it to a drink
      applied it to my hair
      used it as a face mask.

      These are my honest first impressions:
      I don’t know how anyone can like the taste, bovine hide tastes like…bovine hide. It ain’t nice. Hopefully it did my insides good. I almost gagged and had to think of pretty things to stop.

      The face mask didn’t seem to do a thing. The only thing I noticed was that some pores on my cheek and nose looked enlarged when I initially washed it off. I’ve made better face masks with honey and egg.

      The hair mask was a bit of a hassle to get off, it really hardens the hair. But it was worth it. I felt a noticable difference after washing it out and drying.

      I’ll only be using this occasionally on my hair and adding to drinks, but it will be like taking my cod liver oil: downing the collagen mixed drink and then swiftly taking a swig of juice to drown out the memory lol.

      I think this clearly works for some-not so much for others so I guess all you can do is try it and see which group you fall into.

      1. Eileen Jackson Avatar
        Eileen Jackson

        you can get the Vital Proteins collagen in unflavored , my son is severely autistic, highly sensitive to everything including taste and has no problem taking it. Don’t bother using in the collagen in hair or skin preparations because it will not be absorbed through skin according to the research I have seen. If that is true , alot of commercial companies have been blowing smoke at us for awhile……

      2. Susan Avatar

        I am having the same experience with this. It is hard to get past the taste and the smell. I wish I could find some way to eat this.

        1. Brandi Avatar

          If you drink coffee, add it to the coffee. You shouldn’t be able to taste a thing!

          1. Elle Avatar

            That is what I do is add it to my coffee. I don’t taste a thing.

        2. valerie Avatar
          valerie

          I mix it with Santa Cruz organic lemonade masks the taste nicely. I buy it at Kroger in health food section.hope this helps.

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