Most Collagen Supplements Don't Work: Here's Why
Are your favourite supplements the real deal or just a lot of hype?
In 2021, Olympian and trainer Sarah Lindsay shared on Instagram that she adds collagen to her morning coffee every day. "Great for hair, nails, joints, and SKIN!" she said.
Other celebrities like Kate Hudson and Jennifer Aniston have also endorsed collagen supplements, even launching their own brands. This sparked a widespread fascination with collagen supplements as an easy way to achieve youthful skin, strong nails, and supple joints.
Jennifer Aniston claims collagen helps maintain her ageless appearance
However, a closer examination reveals that the efficacy of collagen supplements might not be as straightforward as it seems.
In this article, we explore why most collagen supplements don’t live up to their grand claims and how you can make better choices when shopping for one.
What is collagen?
Derived from the Greek "kolla" (glue) and the French "gene" (to produce), collagen is like a scaffolding that holds our bodies together.
When we’re young, collagen is what gives our skin that plump, smooth, and wrinkle-free appearance. It also helps our joints stay cushioned, supports digestion, helps muscles grow, and aids in burning fat. These are the qualities that make us feel youthful and full of energy.
But as we age, our body’s collagen production decreases, leading to more wrinkles, cellulite, and sagging skin. We might start feeling achy joints and encountering digestion issues.
No wonder collagen supplements are so popular!
Collagen levels start to deplete at age 20
Types of collagen supplements
Collagen supplements come in two forms, each with its limitation:
Topically Applied Collagen: This comes in the form of creams. Collagen molecules are generally too large to penetrate the skin effectively. Even if there are methods to shrink these molecules, absorption through the skin remains an obstacle.
Edible Collagen: Pills, powders, and bone broths promise an internal boost in collagen levels. Yet, the reality is that consuming whole collagen molecules doesn't guarantee absorption. Many supplements pass through the digestive system without significant impact (More on this below).
Why most collagen supplements don’t work
Size does matter
One main problem with collagen supplements is the size of the collagen molecules. These molecules are naturally large, which makes it hard for the body to absorb them well. This is where the distinction between collagen peptides and whole collagen becomes crucial.
Collagen peptides are hydrolyzed into smaller, more easily absorbable units. This process not only enhances their bioavailability but also allows them to be effectively transported through the bloodstream, reaching the skin and joints where they are needed most.
When buying collagen, always choose hydrolised collagen peptides
Survivability matters too
Collagen supplements need to survive the acidic stomach environment to be effective. Unfortunately, many supplements lack microencapsulation, a process which involves encapsulating collagen molecules in protective coatings.
Without microencapsulation, stomach acids can break the molecules down before they even reach our skin. This coating shields collagen from degradation and allows for better absorption by the body.
Most collagen supplements don't survive stomach acid
Summary: Most supplements don't work because they utilise whole collagen instead of collagen peptides and they are not microencapsulated
Choosing Collagen That Actually Works – Here's How
1. Choose collagen peptides supplements rather than whole collagen for better absorption.
2. Look for the magic word – microencapsulation for better collagen survivability.
3. Choose wild-caught marine collagen as it is considered the purest form and offers the highest bioavailability.
4. Look for key antioxidant ingredients like vitamin C to support collagen protection and production from within.
Top 5 Collagen Supplements in Australia
We here at Superfood Reviews have done the research to find out what the best option for collagen supplements in the market. We have graded each choice through a stringent grading based on the following criteria:
Our evaluation criteria:
1. The Purest Co Collagen Glow Berries
Key differentiators: Superior ingredients, large amount of collagen
Hydrolyzed collagen peptides from Japan
Contains complementary ingredients
Made in an FDA-approved facility
The Purest Co’s Collagen Glow Berries contains a potent dose (5500mg) of marine collagen sourced from Japan in each sachet, and follows it up with supporting ingredients like vitamin C (250mg), bilberry extract, and mixed berries concentrate juice.
Collagen Glow Berries uses a patented technology to extract their collagen peptides, ensuring faster and more effective absorption of collagen into the body.
With its mixed berries concentrate juice, the taste is a hit amongst consumers and feedback is that it is just right in terms of sweetness. Not only does this make for a delicious supplement, but the Vitamin C in these berries provide added antioxidant support and improve your body’s rate of absorption.
2. Pure Collagen Powder by Dose & Co.
Key differentiators: Popular, well-known Australian brand
10 grams of type 1-3 collagen per serving
Popular brand in Australia
Dairy and gluten free
No sugars and sweeteners
Pure Collagen Powder by Dose and Co is a well-known collagen brand in Australia. This type of collagen is soluble and can be incorporated into your diet, whether to hot or cold liquids including coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and smoothies, and can also be added to your morning oats and baking.
The supplement from Dose and Co is free from dairy, gluten, sweeteners, sugars, and GMO. Each serving comes with 10g of type 1-3 collagen and is also keto-friendly. However, Dose and Co does not use branded collagen, and is not clinically tested or has research backing it. There is no information whether their collagen is hydrolyzed, which may affect the efficacy if it is not.
In addition to that, consumption can also be quite inconvenient as it needs to be mixed with cold or hot drinks and the taste may not be exactly pleasant.
3. Marine Collagen Powder by Vida Glow
Key differentiators: Greatly reduces wrinkles
Marine collagen peptides
No unnecessary ingredients or additives
Widely available online
Positive feedback from readers
Vida Glow's marine collagen powder is a premium brand of powdered collagen supplement. This is a good option with a good amount of collagen per 2 servings, and can be a go-to daily collagen supplement. As its powder is tasteless and just comprises marine collagen, it can easily be mixed into your everyday beverages, making regular use quite practical. However, liquid supplements are thought to be a preferable format since research has shown that liquids often have a greater absorption rate than powders.
While Vida Glow does have a subscription option that allows you to save some money per order, their absolute price of 140 AUD may be a barrier for some customers.
4. Collagen Peptides by Vital Proteins
Key differentiators: Widely available online
20g of Collagen per serving
No sugars and artificial flavorings
Widely available online
Contains Vitamin C & Hyaluronic Acid
Collagen Peptides by Vital Proteins is a high-quality powdered collagen supplement and is one of the more well-known brands in the market.
This type of collagen is soluble in hot or cold liquids, making it easy to mix in beverages like water, smoothies, and some even to their morning coffee.
The supplement from Vital Proteins contains grass-fed, pasture-raised bovine collagen that helps support healthy hair, skin, bones and joints. A scooper is included to measure 2 scoops of powder per serving - which contains 20g of Collagen Powder. The collagen powder is flavorless and free of gluten, dairy, and cholesterol.
It is also stated to contain high levels of Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid. However, some reviews have shown that the inclusions of these two are inconsistent.
This soluble collagen supplement is a good option that offers a good amount of collagen if you want your daily collagen intake to be mixed into your daily drinks or food.
5. Deep Collagen by The Beauty Chef
Key differentiator: Sustainable collagen supplement
Contains certified sustainable marine collagen peptides
Deep Collagen is one of the more popular brands in the market. According to the website, it is recommended to be mixed into "150mL of water, your favourite drink or a smoothie" and that it has to be consumed immediately. Additionally, this fine collagen powder hydrolysed marine collagen that is sourced from wild-caught, deep-sea North Atlantic cod, exclusively and sustainably sourced in accordance with stringent Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards.
However, they don't specifically say how much collagen one serving takes, and they recommend taking it at least 3 times per day. This collagen supplement is also not recommended for pregnant women and those who are under 15.
Buying The Best Collagen Supplement in Australia
Our body’s collagen production naturally decreases over time, so it’s ideal to take collagen supplements that prevent a lack of this substance that keeps our skin, nails, hair, joints, and bones in their top shape.
It’s important to check the nutritional values of the drinks and powders you’re considering to buy and compare their health standards and especially collagen contents for optimum collagen absorption and to reap the benefits that come with it.
Best Product Overall: Collagen Glow Berries
Clinically proven to: Firm, Lift, & Moisturize skin
Collagen peptide: 5,500mg premium grade Japan Nitta-Wellnex™
Infused with: 250mg Vitamin C & 100mg Bilberry extract
Lightly sweetened with: Real fruit juice
Risk-free money back guarantee
Sustainably-harvested from: Tilapia fishes