For years, collagen has been a sought-after ingredient for maintaining youthful skin. However, questions have lingered regarding the effectiveness of oral collagen supplements. Can these supplements truly deliver on their promise to enhance skin health and reduce wrinkles? In this article, we explore the science behind oral collagen and its impact on the skin.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen, the body’s most abundant protein, is composed of numerous amino acids that combine to form lengthy chains, constituting the collagen structure. Initially, it was widely held that ingested collagen did not reach the skin. This belief stemmed from the understanding that when collagen is taken orally, it undergoes digestion in the stomach and gut, where acids and digestive enzymes break it down into its fundamental components: amino acids. Since amino acids are utilized throughout the body, it was assumed that they wouldn’t specifically target the skin. However, scientific research has since revealed that oral collagen can indeed enhance skin health and diminish wrinkles (R,R,R,R,R). The question arises: how does this happen when oral collagen is subject to digestion?
Oral Collagen and Digestion
Contrary to popular belief, when the collagen is taken, not all the collagen is broken down into its smallest components, the individual amino acids. In fact, some collagen is broken down into “collagen fragments”, also called collagen peptides. A peptide is a small fragment of a protein, often made of a chain of a few amino acids to dozens of amino acids.
These collagen peptides can pass the gut wall intact and end up in the blood. There, they can travel to the skin to help it build more collagen. Studies in which the collagen is labeled, have shown that collagen, when taken orally, end up in the blood (R,R,R,R) and can reach the skin (R,R). However, collagen can enhance skin health through an another mechanism, and surprisingly, it doesn’t even require direct integration into the skin!
Indirect Effects of Oral Collagen Supplements
The collagen peptides that circulate in the bloodstream indirectly affect the skin: they signal to the skin that collagen is being broken down. Sensing these collagen fragments (peptides), the body thinks collagen is being broken down and will induce cells to produce more collagen, especially in the skin. To enhance these effects of collagen on the skin, producers of oral collagen products have further fragmented, or “cut up” the collagen into smaller peptides. This is called “hydrolyzed collagen”. So when buying a collagen supplement, opt for hydrolyzed collagen.
Smaller collagen parts are taken up by the gut better and can also better signal to the body to produce more collagen. Some collagen supplements even further cut up their collagen into very small peptides, which are only two or three amino acids in length. These are called collagen dipeptides (consisting of two amino acids) or collagen tripeptides (consisting of 3 amino acids). Some scientists speculate that the shorter the collagen peptides, the better the effect on the skin, but this is still being debated and more studies are necessary.
Fish, Pig, or Cow-Derived Collagen Peptides?
Collagen peptides can be derived from sources like bovine, porcine, or fish collagen. Some manufacturers assert that fish collagen surpasses bovine collagen in effectiveness. The argument often hinges on fish collagen containing a higher proportion of type I collagen, the most prevalent form in the human body, while bovine collagen is primarily composed of type I and III collagen. However, this claim may not hold significant weight, as all collagen ultimately breaks down into smaller collagen peptides.
On the other hand, there are assertions that, for instance, pig collagen boasts a greater concentration of a specific collagen amino acid called hydroxyproline compared to fish collagen. These claims suggest that hydroxyproline plays a pivotal role in stimulating collagen production. Nevertheless, while these claims seem promising in theory, the hard evidence is yet to surface. There remains insufficient scientific data to conclusively favor one type of collagen over another.
Which Kind of Collagen Supplements Are The Best?
What matters most isn’t the source of collagen—whether it’s fish, bovine, or pig collagen hydrolysates—but rather ensuring that you choose collagen with a proven track record supported by scientific research. Not all collagen products are created equal, especially when it comes to different brands. To make a wise choice, opt for collagen peptides from a brand that sources its collagen peptides from manufacturers renowned for their extensive scientific studies and for delivering exceptionally high-quality collagen peptides, devoid of potential contaminants.
Two notable examples of such manufacturers are Verisol and Peptan. These companies specialize in producing top-tier collagen hydrolysate and have conducted comprehensive scientific research to demonstrate the effectiveness of their specific collagen peptides.
Why Taking Collagen Supplements is Not Enough To Reduce Wrinkles and Skin Aging
However, we believe there are even better ways to improve your skin from the inside out. This is by not using just one substance, but by combining multiple substances that have scientifically shown to improve skin health and reduce wrinkles.
Examples are hyaluronic acid (a component of the material that surrounds the skin cells), glycine (a component of collagen), calcium alpha-ketoglutarate (a substance that can improve collagen synthesis and stem cells in the skin), vitamin C (needed for proper collagen synthesis), and glucosamine (a component of the glue that sticks together our skin cells). Aside from being able to reduce wrinkles, there’s another very important benefit: all of these substances have also shown to slow down aging and extend lifespan (learn more here). We combined all of these elements in NOVOS Core, the first science-based supplement targeting the 12 hallmarks of aging.