Collagen, a protein abundant in skin, muscles, bones, and connective tissues, is the latest trendy powder to hit smoothies, soups, and sauces all over the wellness sphere. There’s pure collagen, collagen boosters, and everything in between (check out our guide to the best collagen powders and supplements for more on that). We’ll dig deep into different sources of collagen here, but for even more on specific types, read our guide to marine collagen peptides and then move on to our guide to vegan collagen supplements.
So, where do these collagen powders come from, really, and which is best? There’s marine collagen, bovine (cow), porcine (pig), and even chicken and eggshell sourced collagen. Further your collagen knowledge and find out, Does collagen work on wrinkles and sagging skin? Next up, learn how to add it deliciously to your routine. We love this milkshake-like (except it’s actually healthy) mint chocolate smoothie with collagen powder (with a video!) and enjoy collagen in your coffee.
If you had any experiences with collagen powder supplements, we’d love to hear from you in the comments!
As a supplement, collagen powder is credited with helping your body produce even more collagen, which helps uphold the structural integrity of your body inside and out. This, in turn, according to collagen aficionados and celebrities that seem to age backward, helps decrease wrinkles, minimize cellulite, soothe joint pain, improve your gut, support immunity, and even brighten your mood.
Plus, research has demonstrated that consuming collagen may help your skin boost its elasticity, hydration, and youthful resiliency—and that’s definitely sparked some interest among those of us who seek that “otherworldly glow” (i.e., all of us).1
As always, a hip health trend comes with a deluge of products to choose from. How do you decide which collagen powder to begin sprinkling into your morning latte?
Obviously, step one when it comes to choosing a new supplement or powder is to find out what they even are.
What Is Collagen?
Okay, so we’ve already covered that collagen is a protein. But proteins act in seemingly a million different ways. So, what else do you need to know?
What makes collagen so popular is that it’s naturally rigid and resistant to stretching.2 That, in theory, means more elasticity and fewer wrinkles (we’ll get into the science behind this later).
Like other proteins, collagen is made up of amino acids. More specifically, collagen is mostly made of glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, with a few other amino acids sprinkled in here and there. Glycine is the smallest but mightiest of these amino acids, as it helps collagen form in a way that is very tight and resistant to stress (do you think we could get some glycine to de-stress our lives, too?).2
Now, as with many systems constantly functioning inside the amazement that is the human body, there is more than one type of collagen (28 to be exact). But don’t worry, we only think three types are worth talking about.
The 3 Types of Collagen You Should Eat
If you’re starting the process of choosing collagen supplements, you need to know about three specific types.
Luckily, these collagen types are numbered in sequential order (types I, II, and III). Doubly luckily, your body already makes all three for you. But it can’t hurt to get more through your food and supplements, right?
We asked Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, CNS, DC, founder of DrAxe.com, best-selling author of “Dirt,” and co-founder of Ancient Nutrition, to tell us what he thinks about these three types of collagen: “The most important type of collagen is Type II collagen. This is the type of collagen that makes up your cartilage, ligaments, and gut lining. People that suffer from joint issues, digestive issues, and autoimmune disease would benefit the most from Type II collagen.” He went on to say, “In addition, Type I and III are also very important, as these are the types that make up your skin and bones.”
With that in mind, here’s a snapshot of the three types of collagen commonly found in collagen powders:
Type 1 collagen is the most copious in the human body.3 It plays a major role in bone structure and contributes to healing wounds and keeping skin elastic and strong.
Type II collagen is the main structural component of cartilage, which makes it vital for joint health.4
Type III collagen is typically found along with type I and is best known for keeping skin firm, taut, and elastic. It may even be good for your digestive system.5
Knowing about these three types of collagen is nice and all, but as a savvy consumer, what you really want to know is how collagen powder is made and where your collagen supplements come from. It’s 2023, after all, which means it’s beyond time to know exactly what goes into your food, drinks, supplements, and beauty products.
So, where does your collagen powder really come from?
Now that you know more about some of the types of collagen, you should be aware of the different sources of collagen powder supplements. You’ll especially want to pay attention to the source if you have any aversions to animal products, religious constraints, or are vegetarian or vegan.
Animal Collagen Powder
Animal collagen powders are a popular option and tend to come from the skin and bones of cows, chickens, and pigs.
Bovine (cow) collagen is found in a cow’s skin, muscles, and bones and contains type I and type III collagen.6 You’ll also get collagen types I and III if you opt for pig (porcine) collagen. On the other hand, chicken collagen (from bones, cartilage, and tissues) is rich in type II.7
Marine Collagen Powder
Marine collagen comes from (you guessed it) fish and other sea life. It’s a great option for all you pescatarians out there. Most marine sources are rich in type I collagen, but a few contain type II.8
It’s worth noting that marine collagen has a lower molecular weight, making it smaller in size and, thus, more easily absorbed by your body.
We sell in the Organic Authority Shop, Dr. Nigma Talib, ND’s Beauty Cocktail Collagen Powder + Natural Berry Hydration Powder, sourced from marine collagen. Dr. Nigma’s powerful recipe of vital nutrients including electrolytes, branched-chain amino acids, and supports immunity with its content of polyphenols, carotenoids, and vitamin C. Dr. Nigma prioritizes bioavailability with her formulations.
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Eggshell Collagen Powder
If you’re an ovo-vegetarian (meaning you eat eggs but no other animal products), then you may consider eggshell collagen.
Eggshells provide type I collagen and type V collagen. Type V collagen doesn’t pop up much, but just in case you’re wondering, it’s found mostly in connective tissues.9
Vegan Collagen Powder
There is no natural source of collagen for vegans. But, fear not, vegans. There are still options for you!
Thanks to advances in technology (not from Elon Musk), some brands are making vegan collagen from genetically modified yeast and bacteria.10
But if that doesn’t sound like your jam, there’s still a way to help collagen levels flourish: by eating collagen-supporting foods that stimulate the body’s production of this vital protein.
“Vegans and vegetarians who want to incorporate more collagen into their diet should look to consume more vitamin C, silica, vitamin A, certain antioxidants such as ellagic acid, and foods rich in zinc including spinach and pumpkin seeds,” suggests Dr. Axe, who adds that broccoli, red bell peppers, oranges, and medicinal mushrooms are great collagen-boosting options. “Beets are also high in nitric oxide, which supports circulation and may support collagen production.”
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How is collagen made?
Your body naturally and continuously makes collagen, as long as there are enough amino acids around to do so. Unfortunately, collagen production slows down as we age, yet another exciting part of aging (do you sense the sarcasm?). When that starts to happen, you may want to turn to collagen powder for various reasons.
Collagen powder is made in various ways, depending on which source you choose. For example, bovine collagen comes from cow hides that are cleaned and soaked until collagen can be extracted. In other animals, like chickens, bones are boiled until collagen floats to the surface.
Once collagen is extracted from the source, it can then be formed into a powder for supplements.
Typically, collagen powders are hydrolyzed. In this process, collagen is broken down further into peptides (or short chains) that contain the amino acids once used to build it. What you’re left with is a form of collagen that is thought to be easier to absorb.11
What do collagen supplements do for you?
Collagen fanatics would have you believe that the protein is a sort of wonder drug. But it’s important to make your own decisions and review the research before you dive into any new supplement, and consult your primary care physician for advice.
According to ConsumerLab, collagen may reduce wrinkles, improve cellulite, and help joints become more flexible.12 As with many supplements, though, the research on collagen and collagen peptides is still emerging and there is still much to learn.
One of the benefits of collagen becoming more and more popular is that we’re getting more and more research on the subject. (Although, it might not all be of the best quality.)
A lengthy review from 2021 looked at collagen’s potential role in clinical applications. The review found that collagen supplementation may be beneficial for wound healing, bone defects, bone wasting, periodontitis, arthritis, and even some digestive disorders.13
It should be noted that collagen alone was not found to be a suitable treatment for these health issues. Instead, it was used as a complementary treatment, meaning it was used alongside conventional therapies.
Does collagen cause any side effects?
For the most part, collagen supplements don’t usually cause side effects. Minor side effects, like bloating and heartburn, have been reported, but most studies have reported no adverse events as a result of using collagen peptides.13 Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider if you experience side effects from collagen.
What are the benefits of collagen for hair, skin, and nails?
Many people take collagen for its perceived benefits for skin, hair, and nails.
Much of the evidence surrounding collagen focuses on skin and joints. And while human trials are minimal, a few have found promising results. It’s important to know who is bank-rolling the research, though, as some studies are funded by industries that would benefit from a glowing review on collagen supplements.14
Before diving in head-first, be sure to discuss collagen peptide supplements (or any supplements, for that matter) with your doctor, dietitian, or another qualified healthcare provider.
Let’s look at what some of the recent research has to say about collagen peptides for skin, hair, nails, and more….
Collagen peptides for skin
A systematic review from 2019 found oral collagen supplements successful in increasing skin elasticity and hydration, two important factors for healthy skin.15 A small human trial from the same year seemed to confirm these findings. In the study, women who consumed a supplemental beverage that contained collagen peptides (plus some other beneficial nutrients) had improvements in the overall health and appearance of their skin.16
Collagen peptides for aging
Collagen peptides have been linked to benefits for aging. A 2022 review of several studies found that collagen peptides may reduce skin wrinkles and skin roughness. The authors concluded that collagen peptides may delay skin aging (this seems like a high-five moment).17
Collagen peptides for joints
Collagen peptides don’t just work on your exterior, as they may improve joint health too. According to one systematic review on the subject, collagen peptides have been shown to reduce joint pain and improve joint function, especially in those recovering from a sports-related injury. Combined with a supervised exercise rehab program, collagen peptides may even help reduce the need for additional therapy.18
Collagen peptides for hair
There isn’t a lot of great research on the potential benefits of collagen peptides for hair. In fact, it’s downright difficult to find any quality studies looking directly at the relationship between collagen and your hair. However, because collagen may improve skin elasticity and hydration, some believe that these benefits may also work on the scalp, leaving you with healthier hair.
Collagen peptides for nails
Similar to hair, there are few studies on the benefits of collagen for nails. In one very small human trial on the subject, 25 participants took collagen peptides for 24 weeks. By the end of the study, participants were found to have increased nail growth, improvements in nail brittleness, and a reduction in broken nails.19
Is there a best type of collagen powder? Here’s what the science says…
So, with all that we’ve covered so far (which has been a lot!), how do you know which collagen powder is best? Well, the answer may be less clear than you think, but we’ll walk you through it.
You can Google “which collagen powder is best?” all day and never find a direct answer. That’s because there is no scientific evidence to support one source of collagen over all the others. Disappointing, we know!
We do know that marine collagen has the lowest molecular weight, which makes it great for absorption.8 But bovine, porcine, and other collagen sources may also have plenty of benefits, so don’t write them off.
Instead of focusing on finding the “best collagen supplement of all time,” focus on finding the supplement that is best for you. At this time, we have no reason to believe that any of the collagen peptide options are bad for you.
You may also consider the collagen type found in each source. For example, marine collagen is a great source of type I collagen, which is great for skin and bones. On the other hand, collagen from chickens is rich in type II collagen, which is great for joints.
So, if you want to try bovine collagen, then go for it! Or, if eggshell or vegan collagen is more up your alley, then we support that too. Just be sure that your choice contains collagen peptides that are more readily absorbed.
What about powder vs. pills?
When it comes to collagen powder vs. pills, it’s all about personal preference.
Some people have no problem swallowing capsules and pills, while others won’t even consider it. If you’re the latter, then collagen powder may be your best bet.
There’s no research on whether one is better than the other, so you don’t have to worry about that.
If you’re fine with using animal-derived collagen powder, Dr. Axe recommends adding it to your food and beverages on top of consuming vegetables that help stimulate its production. “What we’ve noticed in the thousands of patients we’ve worked with is that even though they’re consuming foods high in vitamin C and silica, the results they’re getting from adding collagen supplements into their diets are far more tremendous,” he says.
High-protein foods (like fish, meat, eggs, legumes, and soy) are also thought to increase natural collagen production.14
The Bottom Line
Unlike organic vegetables, health trends are often, well, trends. Sometimes they work, other times they don’t. Sometimes there’s ample scientific data, other times all the evidence comes from your wellness-fanatic friends or that one celebrity who seems to age backward (they don’t).
Collagen supplements seem to hold a lot of promise, but really, there’s only one way for you to find out. Try it for yourself, like Salma Hayek does to avoid Botox, and see what happens.
P.S. Did you know? Organic Authority has its own nutrition and wellness shop to meet your needs and help you take control of your health. Shop supplements for energy, sleep, inner beauty for skin support, clean protein, pantry items and more.
Shop The Organic Authority Shop now.
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Always consult a medical professional before using supplements to address a health condition. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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