Collagen supplements are often marketed as anti-aging products that help improve skin. A protein found in connective tissues throughout your body, collagen is a major component of your skin. As you age, your skin's inner layer loses collagen and—as a result—becomes less supple and firm and more vulnerable to damage. However, despite claims that collagen supplements can restore collagen and reverse the aging process, there is a lack of evidence that collagen supplements can benefit your skin.
Uses for Collagen Supplements
Some proponents claim that collagen supplements offer a range of benefits, including:
- improvement in skin, hair and nails
- better eye health
- protection against heart disease
- enhanced athletic performance
- stronger bones
What Is Hydrolyzed Collagen?
Hydrolyzed collagen is a substance produced by breaking down collagen derived from animal bone and/or connective tissues. The collagen is broken down by means of a process called hydrolysis, which involves the decomposition of compounds by reaction with water molecules. Many products marketed as collagen supplements or collagen-based beauty products contain hydrolyzed collagen.
Benefits of Collagen Supplements
To date, very few studies have tested the health effects of collagen supplements. Here are some findings from the available research:
1) Collagen Supplements and Bone Health
In a 2010 study published in the journal Maturitas, researchers found that collagen supplements failed to improve bone health in postmenopausal women. For the study, 71 women with osteopenia were assigned to take either hydrolyzed collagen supplements or a placebo every day for 24 weeks. Results revealed that the collagen supplements did not produce any effects on bone metabolism.
2) Collagen Supplements and Body Composition
Taking hydrolyzed collagen supplements may help preserve lean body mass in older women, according to a 2009 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. The study involved nine healthy elderly women, all of whom were given hydrolyzed collagen supplements for 15 days.
Referred to as a "filler," one type of cosmetic procedure involves injecting certain substances in order to reduce signs of aging in the skin (such as fine lines). Poly-L-lactic acid fillers, for instance, help fight the effects of aging by stimulating collagen production in the skin. Although fillers are generally considered safe, they sometimes lead to side effects like skin discoloration and allergic reactions. What's more, the anti-aging effects of these procedures are temporary and require repeat treatments to maintain results.
There is currently a lack of scientific evidence for the anti-aging effects of creams, lotions or other beauty products containing collagen. However, preliminary research suggests that applying DHEA to the skin may help promote the production of collagen and help reduce signs of aging. Since this finding has yet to be tested in large clinical trials, it's important to consult a dermatologist prior to using DHEA-based skin-care products.
Should You Use Collagen Supplements?
Due to a lack of supporting research, collagen supplements cannot currently be recommended for skin care. If you're considering the use of collagen supplements for anti-aging purposes or in treatment of a chronic condition, talk to your doctor before starting your supplement regimen.
The American Academy of Dermatology's AgingSkinNet. "Cosmetic Procedures: Fillers". August 2010.
Cúneo F, Costa-Paiva L, Pinto-Neto AM, Morais SS, Amaya-Farfan J. "Effect of dietary supplementation with collagen hydrolysates on bone metabolism of postmenopausal women with low mineral density." Maturitas. 2010 Mar;65(3):253-7.
Dioguardi FS. "Nutrition and skin. Collagen integrity: a dominant role for amino acids." Clin Dermatol. 2008 Nov-Dec;26(6):636-40.
Frey J. "Collagen, ageing and nutrition." Clin Chem Lab Med. 2004 Jan;42(1):9-12.
Hays NP, Kim H, Wells AM, Kajkenova O, Evans WJ. "Effects of whey and fortified collagen hydrolysate protein supplements on nitrogen balance and body composition in older women." J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jun;109(6):1082-7.
Shin MH, Rhie GE, Park CH, Kim KH, Cho KH, Eun HC, Chung JH. "Modulation of collagen metabolism by the topical application of dehydroepiandrosterone to human skin." J Invest Dermatol. 2005 Feb;124(2):315-23.