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If you're starting up a wedding beauty regimen, chances are you've heard about collagen supplements and the buzz around them. But what exactly is collagen and what does it do? To put it simply, collagen is the main structural protein of connective tissues such as bone, skin, cartilage, and tendons, and its explosion in the market is due to the hypothesis that if humans ingest it from outside sources, it can support and optimize our health and address physiological needs posed by aging and exercise.
Since collagen makes up 80 percent of our skin, collagen supplements have been regarded as a tool to improve and maintain skin health as well as joint, gastrointestinal, and bone health. This means that in addition to glowing skin, a collagen supplement also can help you feel your best in time for the big day.
Read on for the best collagen supplements.
Best Overall: Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen Protein Powder
Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Protein offers a diverse blend of collagen types from multiple food sources. Using collagen from beef, chicken, fish, and eggshell membrane, this product is designed to benefit skin, gut, and joint health. Stick to the original Multi Collagen Protein if you're looking for a product with minimal ingredients (there are only four!) and no flavorings or sweeteners. The odorless, tasteless formula can be added to your drink of choice.
Best Budget: Besha Natural Collagen Peptides
Collagen supports the elasticity and structure of skin and overtime, as collagen levels naturally decrease, the skin’s propensity to wrinkle increases. Type I and III collagen are the main forms of collagen in the skin and studies show that taking collagen can have a modest positive effect on skin's hydration, elasticity, and volume.
Besha, a German-made product, is a top pick for skin by Consumer Labs Research. The collagen used in Besha is VERISOL, a form of bioactive collagen peptides that have been used in research studies examining collagen’s effect on skin elasticity. Of note, VERISOL is derived from pigs, so if you have dietary restrictions, you may want to pick collagen derived from fish or cows.
Best for Hair Growth:Nutrafol Women Hair Growth Supplement
Research investigating collagen's role in hair growth and repair is minimal, however, one study found that taking collagen supplements for 3 months modestly increased hair thickness. (For full transparency, it is important to note that this study was funded by the supplement company.)
Nutrafol contains a potent blend of hair nourishing ingredients called Synergen Complex—a proprietary blend of clinically effective ingredients formulated with unique ratios shown to improve hair growth and quality. Some of these nutrients include marine collagen, biotin, keratin, zinc, and vitamin A, among many others. The supplement is a fan-favorite and consumers can opt for a one-time 120-capsule supply or monthly subscription, which will save you a bit of cash.
Best Grass-Fed: Vital Proteins Collagen Whey Protein Dark Chocolate & Coconut Water
Vital Proteins puts extra care into the sourcing of their bovine collagen peptides. The cows used for the production of their collagen peptides were raised in alignment with the Global Animal Partnership 5-step Animal Welfare Rating Standards, an important quality to look for when purchasing protein powders sourced from animal ingredients.
In addition to grass-fed bovine collagen, Vital Proteins adds vitamin C to their powder to increase collagen absorption. Add a dose to your daily smoothie or even your water or coffee—who knew vitamin C consumption could be so easy?
Thrive Market Grass-Fed Chocolate Collagen Peptides
Thrive Market prides itself on using quality ingredients and their chocolate-flavored Collagen Peptides is no exception. This supplement offers collagen from grass-fed and pasture-raised cows and uses organic cacao powder, organic vanilla flavor, and monk fruit extract to provide a rich, satisfying flavor. Add it to your smoothies, coffee, and overnight oats; in addition to providing a dose of collagen, this powder is a great way to boost meals with 10 grams of protein.
Best Marine-Based Further Food Premium Marine Collagen Peptides
Further Food Marine Collagen is made from the skin of wild-caught North Atlantic cod. Further Food does not use harsh enzymes or heat to extract the collagen, keeping all of the beneficial properties intact. The company's marine collagen peptides are made in facilities that are NSF cGMP certified and their product is paleo and keto-friendly.
As a bonus, shoppers can feel good about packaging as the collagen is packaged in 100 percent post-consumer recycled jars. And for those wondering if it tastes like fish? The answer is a definitive no!
Best Plant-Based: Sprout Living Epic Protein Pro Collagen, Organic Plant Protein
Buyers beware of products marketed as vegan collagen! As we've covered, collagen is the main structural protein of different connective tissues—ones that are located in the bodies of most animals and humans. Tissues such as muscle, skin, tendons, and ligaments are the main sites of collagen and plants do not contain these tissues effectively making vegan collagen impossible. What is possible, though, is to supplement the body’s innate ability to produce collagen by taking a plant-based product high in minerals, vitamins, and protein.
Sprout Living’s Pro Collagen protein powder does exactly that—it provides the body with 15 grams of protein as well as powerful collagen-boosting nutrients from organic ingredients such as rose hips, goji berry, pomegranate, coconut milk, and sea buckthorn.
Best for Joint Pain: Healthy Origins UC-II with Undenatured Type II Collagen
Consumer Labs Research, an independent nutrition product testing company, ranks Healthy Origins UC-II Collagen the best for joint pain—and we have to agree. UC-II contains a patented form of intact type II collagen which has been examined in multiple research studies for its efficacy in relieving joint pain.
A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study—otherwise known as the gold standard in research—published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition tested the use of UC-II in individuals who experienced knee discomfort during exercise. Researchers examined the efficacy of the supplement based on participants’ ability to extend their knees. After 120 days of supplementation, subjects in the UC-II group exhibited a statistically significant improvement in average knee extension compared to placebo. If you struggle with mobility or flexibility, this is a great dietary supplement.
If you want to address your looks and your health from the inside, out, you may want to consider adding a collagen supplement to your routine. The Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen Protein Powder is our top pick, relying on collagen from multiple food sources in a tasteless formula that mixes well with the drink of your choice. The Further Food Premium Marine Collagen Peptides earn our vote for best marine-based, great for pescatrians (and no, it doesn’t taste like fish). And if you’re looking for a flavored pick, check out the Vital Proteins Collagen Whey Protein Dark Chocolate & Coconut Water, which has the added benefit of containing vitamin C to help with collagen absorption.
What to Look For In a Collagen Supplement
The type of collagen
Most products use collagen that’s either bovine-derived (from cows) or marine (from fish). Some use collagen from other animal sources, but collagen by definition is a protein found in humans and animals. There are vegan options out there, though they’re simply great protein powders and don’t contain collagen itself.
This comes down to a matter of personal preference. Unflavored options are easy to mix into your daily beverages and even foods, while if you want to make your daily collagen a special treat, you may want to opt for something that has added flavor.
Little to no added sugar
The last thing you want is for your collagen supplement to contain tons of added sugar, so scan the ingredient label to see how much any product contains (especially if it is flavored).
What are collagen supplement benefits?
Collagen can not only help with your looks—helping to promote glowing skin and strong hair and nails—but also help with joint and bone health, too.
Do collagen supplements work?
There have been some scientific studies conducted about the benefits of oral collagen, but, most if not all, of these are brand-backed so it’s important to take those findings with a grain of salt. That being said, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that speaks to their benefits. Experts generally agree that there’s really no harm in trying one, since, at the end of the day, they are a great source of protein.
Are there side effects to collagen supplements?
Generally speaking, none that are well-known (though of course people with allergies and certain dietary restrictions need to be cautious with the product they choose.) Still, always check with your doctor before starting a new supplement, collagen included.
How long does it take for collagen supplements to work?
This isn’t necessarily a quick fix. As with anything you’re doing to affect your skin, hair, or nails, patience is a virtue. It depends on how much collagen you’re taking and if you’re taking it daily, as well as how your body processes it, but, generally speaking, give it anywhere from four to 12 weeks to start to see results.
Why trust Brides
Sydney Greene, MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist focusing on integrative, customized nutrition counseling and coaching. She also works with individuals who are looking to change their relationship to food and body image.