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. Sharon Avatar

    I am considering making Gold Paste (Tumeric with coconut oil and pepper) and wondered about adding gelatin for a gummy. How do you know how much gelatin to add?

  2. Jane Avatar

    Hi Katie – I am on my second tub of Vital Proteins (blue lid) and wanted to share this with you & your readers.
    I am 60 years old & post menopausal. People are surprised when I tell t hem my age and tell me I look like I am in my forties.
    However, one of the side effects I have experienced due of this state in life is a drying, thinning of my vaginal walls – which can make intercourse painful.

    However – 6-8 weeks of taking this product I am happy to say that the painful issues for me are gone! It has to be this stuff! I love it and it is easy to take. I put 1 scoop in my morning coffee, it dissolves completely and doesn’t have any taste or change the texture of my beloved morning brew!

    Thank you for all the work you do. I appreciate all the research you perform for all the products you recommend. I have tried several of your homemade lotion and soap recipes and have had great success!!

    1. Kathie Avatar
      Kathie

      Wow, Jane. I’m so glad you posted this. I started taking collagen hydrolysate about 7 weeks ago and am just now reaping the benefits of less painful joints and back. I usually have a wee nagging pain in my back and today is the first day in years that I don’t have it. I am over-the-moon thrilled. As I am 65, I also have the problem of painful intercourse so I am buoyed by your experience. Thank you for your honesty and your experience with the collagen. I shall keep my fingers crossed

  3. tammy Avatar

    being a person that respects life and will not have anything to do with gelatin or bone broth (which also may contain chemicals the animal ingested through it’s short life) – I find that the best thing for skin and overall health is plenty of fresh foods and water. Most people don’t drink enough water (sipping on a glass a day isn’t enough). I am almost 60 and look at least ten years younger but I have been on a healthy vegetarian diet as well as staying away from putting chemicals on my skin in the form of cosmetics etc.

    1. Carolyn Avatar

      Hahaha! Karen, this question has only been ignored like 30 times in the comments! Love the ALL CAPS!

  4. Laura Avatar

    I apologize, my question above was for Wellness Mama, too, if you have time. I was wondering what you thought about marine collagen vs bovine collagen?

  5. Rena Avatar

    Question for Wellness Mama, have you ever read “The China Study” book? If you did, what did you think of it?

    I recently heard about it and just started reading it. I know you like to live a healthy lifestyle and I STRONGLY recommend you read it. It will make you think twice before consuming animal based proteins as well as other animal and animal based products in general.

  6. Eileen Jackson Avatar
    Eileen Jackson

    My adult son is severely autistic and we are using a collagen supplement to treat the HS (Hidrandenitis Suppurativa) he is also suffering from, as if autism isn’t enough. Anyway. I am seeing great results so far , his skin does seem to be healing, will know more in a few more months. He is also taking CLA and neem in addition to collagen. He is on a gluten free and only grass fed meat or dairy diet as well. After during extensive research on collagen I was surprised to learn that it can not be absorbed through the skin…making those expensive collagen wrinkle creams null and void. Have you found that to be true also? Love all you posts and have put many to good use!! ??

  7. Caroline Avatar
    Caroline

    Is there a suggested age when to start taking collagen? I’m 24 years old and I’m wondering if I should wait until I am a little older or if now would be a good time to start. Please let me know! Thank you for being a wonderful source of insight! 🙂

  8. Debbie Avatar

    I am a vegan, so animal products don’t work for me. Is there vegan collagen? Is that at all possible.

      1. Laura Avatar

        Hello. Thank you for the article. I am curious about marine collagen vs the cow collagen. Any articles or have you investigated both?

  9. Nadiya Gavrish Avatar
    Nadiya Gavrish

    Do you take the COLLAGEN on empty stomach?
    Isn’t it a “must”?

  10. Marci Avatar

    Hi! I’ve been a casual reader of Wellness Mama for awhile now but I’m definitely starting to put more of your health tips into practice. You have a wonderful wealth of information here! Sorry to post this as a random blog comment but I couldn’t figure out any other way to send you a message . . .
    I was wondering if you’ve ever posted anything about your daily/weekly/monthly schedule and how you fit in ALL these things you do. I can’t seem to figure out how to have time for everything . . . like how often do you make bone broth and what time of the day do you do your oil pulling, and what days of the week do you fit in your castor oil hair treatments? LOL It sounds funny to ask those things but I’m a very concrete thinker and I love to have things laid out step-by-step. I only have one child so far (my amazing, gorgeous almost-3-yr-old daughter) but between her, my husband and working outside the home 32 hours a week (I’m the primary breadwinner in my house, out of necessity), I can barely fit in time to make homecooked meals a few times a week. I’d love to see how you organize your life! I aspire to be a natural, healthy mom too, despite not being able to be home with her all the time. We’re planning for the next munchkin next year and it’d be nice to get a better health/life routine in place before that happens!
    On a different subject, I’m curious if you have ever or would ever consider a homebirth with your next child. I was a midwife when I lived in Florida (I’m in CA now and not licensed here) and based on your blog and everything you write about, it seems like homebirth would be the next logical step! 🙂 I’m just curious!

    Anyway, thanks for reading this comment and I’d love it if you had an opportunity to respond!

    Marci

      1. Marci Avatar

        Thanks for the reply! I’ll definitely look at those posts.
        And best of wishes for a beautiful, safe pregnancy and birth! 🙂

  11. Joyce Avatar

    I use Reserveage products for collagen…
    Ultra Collagen Booster with Biocell Collagen and Dermaval (a natural blend of antioxidants) and Collagen Replenish Powder w/hyaluronic acid and vitamin C.
    Any comments in regards to these products?
    Thanks in advance!

  12. Kay Avatar

    What is the difference between gelatin and collagen? I have both. They seem similar.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      Gelatin gels and collagen powder does not. For this reason, gelatin is better for recipes in most cases and collagen is easier to mix into drinks to consume

  13. jj Avatar

    I was told that it’s better to take silica as a supplement for connective tissues than collagen product which gets digested as a protein like a food. What are your thoughts on that? Thx!

    1. Rena Avatar

      I completely agree with that statement. I read a lot about silica and all state that silica is one of the biggest components of collagen. Have you read about it yourself? If you haven’t, you really should because what silica does for our bodies is nothing short of miraculous.

      I get silica from diatomaceous earth, which is really good for you. I so rad that you can get high concentration of silica from bamboo extract.

  14. Toni Sicola Avatar
    Toni Sicola

    SO important for gut health. I do use the powdered stuff in smoothies and sometimes soups but my number one source of collagen/gelatin is bone broth. I make it myself and have also used the one from Bone Broths Co. Bone broth (and the collagen/gelatin it contains) literally changed my life. I had acne for years — like 20 — and after healing my gut with bone broth, my acne disappeared. It feels like a miracle, but the truth is that none of the doctors I ever worked with addressed my underlying problem — a leaky gut! It’s amazing.

  15. Beesan Avatar

    I wish taking hydrolyzed collagen worked for me! At 41 I could use a little wrinkle reduction. I tried pills from holland and Barrett, and got major constation. Now I am trying the powder form once a day and from day 1 is just gums up the pipes. I am taking flax seed, kefir, chia seeds, dried apricots to counter act the effects. But with little relief. Anyone has a suggestion? Organic bones are hard to come by where I live.

  16. elaine moman Avatar
    elaine moman

    Several people have asked how much of the gelatin should be taken daily but you didn’t say.

  17. Jerry Wolf Avatar
    Jerry Wolf

    Fantastic article with some informative comments from your readers. I’m a new follower and look forward to more of your suggestions.

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