Spoiler alert – eating fat does not make you fat. Just like eating chocolate cake is not going to turn you into one.
I know, I know, this is sad news eh 😉
These facts cast doubt on claims about collagen effects on skin i.e. that taking a collagen supplement can help you fight off fine lines and wrinkles.
Imagine you ate a hat.
You bet your BFF to go recite Taylor Swift – I knew you were trouble when you walked in – to a complete stranger, in speaking voice.
And she did it. That girl has grit. She is a Boss.
So now you have to eat your hat.
So you do.
It tastes… salty.
Like chicken 😉
You my friend know you will never see this hat again.
This hat is not sprouting from your head just because you’re eating all the pieces of your hat.
Your body doesn’t re-make puzzles. It breaks them down.
Science fact – collagen is an incredibly large molecule.
Extra science fact – super-sized molecules often have to get broken down by your body before your body can use them.
Makes sense eh.
Which is why you are oh so savvy to be cautious about collagen supplement benefits.
You are a brain box my friend and the questions you’re having about collagen i.e.;
Do collagen supplements really work?
Can collagen supplements reduce wrinkles?
Is collagen worth taking?
Are the exact right ones to be asking.
There’s no point taking an anti-ageing supplement if it has zero benefit eh. I’ve got your back my friend. By the end of this article you’re going to;
- Understand collagen effects on skin
- Know if science says collagen can make you look younger (we’re using published trial data to tell this)
- Be able to answer this question for yourself; is collagen worth taking?
Exciting, exciting, exciting eh.
Ready? Steady? Let’s go…
What Is Collagen?
The first pit stop my friend – what is collagen?
Collagen is a protein. Aka what meat’s made up of. And when it comes to your body, Miss. Collagen is insanely popular. There’s pretty much no part of your body Miss. Collagen does not have an open invitation to visit.
She’s everywhere. In your skin. In your bones. In your tendons. In your cartilage.
Miss Collagen acts like your body’s scaffolding – especially inside of your skin.
Have you got a favourite pair of jeans my friend? Can you remember what they looked like when you first brought them?
Fresh? Could stand up by themselves? Stretchy but sprung back as soon as you took them off?
This is exactly like healthy skin collagen.
As your favourite cannot-go-a-weekend-without-wearing-them jeans get enjoyed and travel the world (hopefully with your beautiful butt in them) – they change.
They lose their spring. They get threadbare in the area no-one wants to get threadbare in 😉 they sag, they bag and they shout – I need help (!) or retirement. Give me a sunny beach now please.
My friends, this jean sag is exactly what happens to your skin’s collagen ‘with experience’.
Over time collagen can become hard and brittle. Collagen breaks down, gets damaged and is not getting replaced. Your collagen levels fall. Existing collagen doesn’t work as well.
This change in skin is a major cause of skin wrinkles.
Do Collagen Supplements Really Work?
If lower collagen levels and poor collagen health are causing you wrinkles, can you take a collagen pill to help stop it?
Do collagen pills work? And how do you tell? Will collagen supplements have a beneficial effect on your skin?
Pow. Questions asked. Let’s get you answers.
The first place I always look at for supplement claims is the EU register of approved health and nutrition claims. It looks like this;
You type in a supplement name (like collagen) and it brings you back a list of approved and non-approved health claims.
It’s a fantastic starting point because if a company wants to make a health claim for a collagen supplement – they are required by law to do testing which proves it. Aka they need to prove collagen has an effect on skin.
Next step – a company can’t then legally make this claim (in the EU) unless it’s independently validated by a team of scientists. These scientists look at all the data this collagen supplements company have carried out.
And they decide if it’s scientifically valid i.e. they fed their collagen supplement to real, live humans. Or they tested their collagen for skin supplement against a placebo pill aka a sugar pill.
Here’s the thing – the EU approve zero health claims for collagen benefits on skin.
Does this mean none have ever been submitted?
Great question my friend.
Answer; Claims about collagen effects on skin have been submitted – but they aren’t approved.
So does this mean collagen supplements for skin don’t work?
For example in Canada collagen supplements DO have approved health claims for collagen effects on skin. Here’s their list of 12;
- Helps increase skin elasticity
- Helps augment skin elasticity
- Helps promote healthy collagen production
- Helps promote healthy elastin production
- Helps reduce wrinkles and fine lines
- Helps reduce eye wrinkles
- Helps reduce eye wrinkles within 4 weeks
- Helps reduce fine facial lines
- Helps increase skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles
- Helps increase skin density
- Helps with the appearance of smooth skin
- Helps to enhance skin surface profile
Is your excitement level back up my friend? Can this be true? Can collagen really help make you look younger for longer?
Collagen Effects On Skin, What the Science Says
Here’s the deal. You need money to make a science test. Just like you need money to replace that hate you ate 😉
The result – most scientific testing of collagen pills and supplements is being kicked-off by people who are making collagen supplements.
Psst – this can bring bias with it and is something to keep in mind.
The company putting all this money behind getting health claims approved for collagen supplements is a company called Gelita and they’re doing it for a collagen powder they make called Verisol.
Gelita’s baby Verisol was put into school, was tested and in Canada passed (!) In the EU it didn’t. #MultitaskingFail
There are 2 key studies which have been completed on Verisol collagen supplements, I’m giving you a quick VIP summary below;
- In 2014, 69 women aged 35-55 were either given 2.5g of Verisol collagen supplements or 5g of Verisol collagen supplements or a sugar pill aka placebo. They took either of these 3 for 8 weeks. In both treatment groups aka the women taking Verisol – their skin elasticity went up – and the most important bit – it went up significantly. Aka this is a valid science finding (ref).
- In 2014, 114 women aged 45-65 were either given a 2.5g collagen supplement or a sugar pill. The women taking Verisol showed a 20% reduction in eye wrinkle volume after 8 weeks of taking the collagen supplement. Extra finding – women taking the collagen supplement also had an increase in procollagen 1 and in elastin. Both are super helpful for anti-ageing benefits (ref).
Psst – there are lots more science studies looking at collagen effects on skin – they show more of the above. It’s one of the reasons that for some of my 1-to-1 SkinCoachees, I recommend they take very specific forms of collagen supplement.
Is Collagen Worth Taking?
So what’s up doc? How can the EU see this data and not approve collagen effects on skin? Whereas Canada has?
There’s a doubt here eh. Let me blow that doubt away for you my friend.
This is the extra information you need to make your mind up on whether collagen is worth taking?
The EU published a scientific opinion on collagen benefits on skin – my friend – it tells all and it tells how these claims are caught in regulatory jumbo loopholes.
See this direct quote (don’t worry if this all sounds crazy techy – I’m translating into human after);
“Following an application from Gelita AG,… the EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) was asked to deliver an opinion on the scientific substantiation of a health claim related to VeriSol®P and a change in skin elasticity leading to an improvement in skin function… The claimed effect proposed by the applicant is “maintenance of skin health, as indicated by an increased skin elasticity and a reduction of wrinkles volume”… The Panel considers that a change in skin elasticity leading to an improvement in skin function is a beneficial physiological effect. The Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of VeriSol®P and a change in skin elasticity leading to an improvement in skin function.”EFSA Journal 2013;11(6):3257
Phew – how wordy eh.
Here’s the human version;
Gelita asked the EU to look at their data which shows their collagen supplements can help make skin look younger.
Psst – the EU can only approve claims which fit by their regulations.
A reg called (EC) No 1924/2006.
And it sets out this must;
Health claims must refer to a particular physiological function of your skin.
Reducing wrinkles and making your skin look younger is not a physiological function.
Something like improving your skin barrier would be.
Therefore as the EU data is telling us, Gelita submit their collagen supplement data for review, they wait in nervous excitement… they are then getting told this;
“That a change in skin structure contributing to the maintenance (i.e. reduced loss) of skin function might be considered a beneficial physiological effect provided that there is evidence that such changes in skin structure lead to changes in skin function… In reply, the applicant indicated that the health claim refers to the mechanical and immune skin barrier function. However, the outcome measures proposed by the applicant focused solely on skin elasticity rather than immune barrier function.”EFSA Journal 2013;11(6):3257
All of this chat means Gelita had to prove their collagen supplement helps to improve your skin’s barrier function (this can be measured by things like water loss – technically called transepidermal water loss)… in order to be able to claim anti-ageing collagen effects on skin.
And you guessed it my friend. As the data doesn’t show a statistically significant improvement in skin’s barrier function aka how good your skin is at being a locked vault – anti-ageing health claims for collagen supplements currently cannot be approved in the EU.
Important note – can you see that this doesn’t necessarily mean collagen supplements aren’t worth taking? Just that the claims process for the EU requires a health function benefit and anti-ageing isn’t a ‘physiological’ health function.
You are so savvy my friend. Psst – for extra savvy you may want to download a free copy of my 5 best anti-ageing skincare actives which actually work cheatsheet. Any worth it anti-ageing skincare routine needs inside-out and outside-in care.
How Long Does it Take for Collagen to Start Working?
Aka how long do you have to wait for collagen supplements to start making you look younger? Not that you need it my friend. I know you are beautiful just the way you are. Truly. I also know sometimes you need a little reminder of this. And so here it is – you are beautiful just the way you are. You really are.
I also know you might want to take a little extra care of yourself and that is also a-ok.
So if you do decide to take a collagen supplement for wrinkles, how long does it take for the collagen to start working?
Imagine right now you’re taking a collagen supplement. You’re drinking Kombucha, popping a collagen pill into your mouth and swigging it down. How much of the collagen pill you’re popping (/the broken down bits of collagen), is getting into your skin? Or before we even get here – your bloodstream?
I know it sounds scary eh. Collagen fragments ending up in your bloodstream. Your bloodstream my friend is like a canal system. It’s your body’s motorway. Your highway. Your racing track. Your body’s feeding trough. Everything which is impacting your skin from the inside – is first getting transported to skin in your bloodstream.
Studies show fragments from the collagen you eat have fan potential to show up in your skin in a teeny-tiny 12 hours. From here effects build and can be noticeable from the 4-week mark.
If only we could get the same answer to how long after doing 100 ab crunches will you get a 6-pack 😉
Psst – quick reminder – you look at your skin every day, so sometimes seeing these changes can be a tough one. Photos are your friend (!)
Double psst – need a collagen supplement recommendation? First I need to know more about your skin and your diet (and your age and your skin type/skincare/other supplements you take – basically your complete online dating profile ;))- check out my SkinCoaching plans here to get your routine sorted.
Over to you beautiful. Is collagen worth taking? After chatting with me here are you a yes to collagen supplements for skin or a no-thankyou-moving-on-now? Come tell me in the comments below…
p.s. have a beautiful friend who’s considering taking a collagen supplement? Use that green button below and share this collagen expose with them. It’s a knowledge bomb gift they’re going to love you for.
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.