Collagen. Our bodies produce it naturally, but suddenly it's populating the supermarket and health food store shelves. You can get collagen supplements, collagen tablets, you apply to your skin as a cream or lotion, you can drink it, eat it, you can even buy collagen powder to slip into your shakes and juices. But how is it supposed to work, and is it doing us any good? We threw ourselves into researching the science behind collagen's multiple applications and the best collagen drinks Australia has to offer. Will we all be looking better in no time? Or is this just another another crazy fad?
What is collagen?
In its most natural state, collagen is a protein. It can be found throughout the entire body, but especially in the skin, bones and connective tissue, and makes up for one third of the protein found in the human body. We often think of our skin as just waht we can see, but the reality is much more complex than that. Skin is made up of three layers: the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue (hypodermis). The upper-most layer, the epidermis, is responsible for the retaining and loss of water from cells and tissue. Without this protective barrier, the body would dehydrate. The second layer to our skin is the dermis, and this is primarily made up of the protein collagen. This collagen provides a support structure for the growth of cells and blood vessels. The hypodermis is the final layer of skin that contains larger blood vessels and nerves. It also hosts sweat glands, fat, and further collagen cells. The hypodermis is responsible for conserving your body's heat and protecting your vital inner organs.
The purpose of endogenous collagen, the collagen produced inside of us, is to give the skin structure and elasticity. With age, the body starts to produce less collagen, and this is when the elasticity of our skin declines and we start to see more wrinkles. This is because, during our youth, the collagen framework is intact and the skin remains moisturised and springy. It puts up with the stressors of everyday environmental exposure as well as our many facial expressions. But as we age, the collagen support wears down and the skin loses its bounce.The effect of your facial expressions and environmental factors is cumulative, and fine lines and wrinkles begin to appear. This drop in collagen production is especially notable in post-menopausal women, and by age 60 a significant decrease in collagen production is considered normal.
What do we associate collagen with?
We tend to associate the word 'collagen' with plump, youthful looking skin. This is because exogenous collagen (collagen created outside the body) has medical and cosmetic uses. Exogenous collagen can originate from other humans, cows, pigs or sheep.
Collagen: Cosmetic Uses
Collagen injections were in the beauty industry to improve your skin's contours and fill in depressions like superficial lines or wrinkles. Some liquid collagen injections were made from your body's own supply and then injected back into you. This was called 'autologen'. The popularity of these injections really took off during the 1980s and 1990s, but collagen injections have sort of faded into the background since dermal filler became all the rage. Many topical beauty products claim to take years off the skin by increasing collagen levels within the body. The effectiveness of creams and lotions like these is plausible at best, because as collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed through the skin, and any noticeable benefit is likely due to the basic moisturising effect of the cream or lotion itself. The current trend is all about collagen peptides, and how consuming collagen can benefit the visual appearance of your skin - but more on that later!
Collagen: Medical Uses
The medical profession uses collagen to promote healing and regeneration. Collagen dressings can help wounds heal faster by attracting new skin cells to the site of the wound. There is some research to suggest that collagen supplements have helped improve joint function and minimise the painful symptoms of osteoporosis sufferers, but at this stage further research is needed.
What You Need To Know About The Collagen Drink
The idea behind drinking collagen is that it will cause your own natural collagen production will be triggered to snap into action. Dr Paul Banwell, plastic surgeon and skin expert for Skinade, puts it like this -
"It is key to understand that collagen drinks, like Skinade, do not add the collagen peptides you drink directly to the dermis, but rather the collagen peptides act as a feedback mechanism to trigger your own natural collagen production"
Collagen molecules in their natural state are too large to be absorbed into the bloodstream, and this is why you'll find hydrolyzed collagen in drinks and in powdered form. The hydrolyzation process means that the collagen molecules have been broken into smaller pieces, called peptides. Peptides have a very low molecular weight, so your gut finds it easier to absorb them. Daisy Whitbread, nutritionist for collagen drinks company Beauty & Go, explains the theory behind these man-made drinks:
"It’s believed that the presence of the collagen fragments sends false signals to the body, indicating that collagen destruction has occurred. This stimulates the collagen-producing cells, called fibroblasts, to produce more of your own natural collagen...The formulation of elastin (which gives skin elasticity) and hyaluronic acid (for hydration) are also stimulated."
Is all this safe?
Pictured: Rejuvenated Collagen Shots
Collagen drinks aren't going to be suitable for everyone out there. Vegans and vegetarians may struggle with many products, because ingredients like marine collagen are derived from fish. There don't seem to be any serious dangers or side effects associated with collagens drinks, but as always, everything in moderation and consult your doctor if you aren't sure if it's right for you.
The opposing argument
The argument against drinking collagen hydrolysate isn't so much because it could cause any drastic side effects, it's more to do with the fact that many doctors and dermatologists remain sceptical. And rightly so, because the jury is still out. Many of studies alleging that consuming collagen works have been funded by a collagen brand themselves (a bit shady!) and there are probably more effective things we could be doing for our skin than heading out to buy supplements, like eating an vitamin C rich orange or wearing SPF 50 sunscreen. In an interview with Refinery29, New York based dermatologist Dr. Neal Schultz weighed in on the collagen drink debate:
“Collagen is a protein, and proteins are made up of amino acids. That collagen is going to be broken down into amino acids by the enzymes in the stomach, then will be absorbed into the body to be used where the body needs it. It is just the most absurd suggestion that you can push collagen through your bloodstream and have it pump out collagen in your skin."
10 Collagen Drinks and Supplements You Can Get In Australia
There are those that support the theory behind collagen drinks, and there are those that warn us not to waste our money. You don't need to instantly make up your mind, you can still try a man-made brand for yourself and see if it makes a visible difference to your skin. Here's 10 products a beginner can easily choose from.
10. Nature's Way Beauty Collagen Booster
Product: Nature's Way Beauty Collagen Booster
Overview: Adults can take 3 tablets daily or as advised by their healthcare professional.
Review: "I started with collagen powder daily and subsequently taking this tablets on alternate days as maintenance. I noticed some results on the second week. I am on my second month now. My skin is noticeably smoother. Will continue buying and highly recommend to others." via Chemist Warehouse.
9. Go Healthy Beautiful Skin Collagen Support
Product: Go Healthy Beauty Skin Collagen Support
Overview: Take 1 VegeCapsule daily. Best taken with food or as directed by your doctor.
Review: "Skin looks radiant and healthy.Consumed for a week and can see a difference on my skin, it is glowing and feeling good." via Chemist Warehouse
8. Vierra Everyday Marine Collagen
Product: Vierra Everyday Marine Collagen
Overview: For optimal results, take one shot per day using the dose indicator at the back of bottle equal to approximately 30ml.
7. Bioglan Marine Collagen Powder
Product: Bioglan Marine Collagen Powder
Overview: Simply add to water, juices, smoothies, cooking or your DIY beauty masks.
Review: "I tried this 2 months ago and I can immediately feel the difference. My skin is firmer and glowing. Have been using it since." via Chemist Warehouse
6. Bioglan Collagen Bone Broth Powder
Product: Bioglan Collagen Bone Broth
Overview: Each serve contains 1.3g of collagen along with other key nutrients and amino acids for vitality and wellbeing. Chew (do not swallow whole) 2 gummies per day, or as advised by your healthcare professional.
Review: "Have tried quite a few bone broth this is by far the most flavoursome and actually one of the cheapest, very happy." via Chemist Warehouse
5. Sports Research Marine Collagen Peptides
Product: Sports Research Marine Collagen Peptides
Overview: Add to your morning coffee/tea, orange juice or protein shakes & smoothies or mix ½-1 scoop into oatmeal, soup or yogurt for additional nutritional support.
Review: "I add this to my protein shake - dissolves very well, has no flavour or after taste and I think it does its job. Have been repurchasing for a year now. I compared this to all of the other vegan and pescatarian collagen powders on the market and this one is definitely the winner in terms of value for money, taste and nutrition." via iHerb
4. Neocell Super Collagen
Product: Neocell Super Collagen.
Overview: Take one scoop daily, dissolved into a glass of water or orange juice. For maximum absorption, Neocell recommends that you take it on an empty stomach.
Review: Overall, the product has received 2066/3571 5 star reviews on iHerb.
3. Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate
Product: Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hyrdolysate
Overview: Add two level tablespoons to hot or cold liquids and enjoy!
Review: "After reading reviews of others on this gelatin product, i gave it a try and hope to build more collagen. I put 1 TBsp in my fibre drink once a day on weekdays and twice a day on weekends. After 3 weeks of consumption, i went for haircut and my hairdresser told me i have thicker hair and asked me what am i eating!" via iHerb.
2. Vida Glow Marine Collagen Pineapple
Product: Vida Glow Marine Collagen Pineapple
Overview: Containing natural Marine Collagen , pineapple fruit juice powder and pineapple fruit juice flavour, one tub contains 30 servings. Simply enjoy 1-3 sachets a day.
Review: "I highly would recommend the Vida Glow Marine Collagen I noticed my skin and hair and nails have improved a lot and I feel so much more hydrated as well and I very much enjoying the taste and I loving it." via Adore Beauty
1. The Beauty Chef Collagen Inner Beauty Boost
Product: Collagen Inner Beauty Boost by The Beauty Chef
Overview: Containing goji berries, papaya extract, blueberry and acai powder as well as collagen, you simply mix one tablespoon with water and drink twice a day.
Review: "This product has transformed my skin and does exactly what it said it does. within 1 week I saw a difference. after 1 month I'm addicted!!! it completely cleared all of my pimples and I have smooth and soft skin. for the first time ever I started receiving compliments" via Sephora.