Is it just placebo?
"Before we get into understanding what collagen really is and if it really works, we need to look at what could be considered the ‘placebo’ effect of collagen. Many people start taking collagen in conjunction with wanting to overhaul their entire skincare routine (or even life)! So, they might purchase collagen supplements when they are about to start a health kick, by focusing on getting back to the gym, eating a more nutritious diet and generally living a healthier lifestyle.
"With all this happening in conjunction with ingesting ‘collagen’, there’s certainly going to be positive results in their skin. While this isn’t always the case, we do need to consider what else is happening in tandem with taking these ingestibles."
"On the same topic as above, brands selling collagen supplements often cite ‘studies’ done so far on collagen, but these are often funded by the industry and not backed by science. There’s also usually a conflict of interest involved – the studies are done on small groups where again there is an element of a placebo effect.
"The subjects of the studies are wanting it to work, so in tandem are working on improving other areas of their lives like their diet and thus their skin does get better. This is where things can become very murky when it comes to collagen products. This is because there are so many other factors that can affect your skin and often people introduce collagen products in tandem with other things."
So what actually is collagen?
"To understand whether collagen supplements really work, let’s now look at what collagen actually is. Collagen is a living tissue within humans made up of multiple nutrients, along with amino acids joined to make proteins.
"There is no such thing as marine collagen, plant collagen or animal collagen produced from the cartilage of dead animals. What the manufacturers of these products are selling you is amino acids (from different sources) which are the building blocks the body uses as energy to stay alive (and create complex structures such as collagen).
"It is important to note that most amino acids are produced synthetically these days as it is far cheaper this way. So, collagen supplements are essentially being marketed as a miracle pill when in actual fact what you’re really getting is a synthetic ingredient."
Where's it from?
"We also need to question how we determine that collagen powder is actually from collagen or is actually from other parts of the animal that could just be other protein. Proteins are really good nutrients that benefit your whole body however if we are talking collagen, we are generally talking about collagen sourced from ground up cartilage of animals or fish etc.
"The myth is that collagen from animals is the same as collagen in us, but this is not the case, so collagen supplements will never replace collagen for collagen. Eating collagen powder may give you a benefit like a protein would in a diet. However, most people would prefer to eat protein from a vegetable rather than from crushed bone. If you look at it this way – if your nails are breaking and need some nutrients, you wouldn’t go eat nails, you’d find other nutrients to strengthen them. Another thing to consider is how viruses from animals could be going into the things you ingest – things like Bovine Virus (Mad Cow disease) are real threats from animals that we do need to be mindful of, especially being mindful of knowing exactly where ingredients come from."
"Some people do swear by collagen supplements however I don’t think they’re an imperative part of the skincare routine. Whilst working on your skin from the inside out is a great way to approach skincare, we can do this by improving other things in our lives like our diets and water consumption.
"It is important to look at things holistically if you want to improve your skin. That means, that yes, what is happening internally is incredibly important and you need to ensure that is working efficiently to get the best results, but no, taking collagen isn’t going to be the miracle cure-all.