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  • Writer's pictureOlivia H

Why Collagen Creams Are Kind of a Scam & What to Buy Instead

Updated: Dec 27, 2023


As one of the structural proteins in the skin, collagen plays a crucial role in maintaining its firmness and the appearance of youth. The inevitable decline in collagen levels as we age, leading to the formation of wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging skin, has spurred a booming market for collagen skincare.


Yet, the pressing question remains: Can collagen skincare truly replenish collagen in the skin to reduce signs of aging? Truth is, not at all.


In this article, we'll delve into the intricacies of collagen creams, exploring why their promises fall short and what alternative solution you should consider instead.


 

What Happens to Collagen as We Age?


Collagen is continuously produced by cells in our skin called fibroblasts to keep the skin plump and youthful. However, it is also naturally broken down by enzymes in the skin. 


As we get older, this delicate balance shifts, resulting in a net loss of collagen fibers. 



The estimated collagen loss is approximately 1% every year throughout adult life. (Source: Avila Rodríguez, M. I., et al.)


Coupled with other aging-related changes to elastin fibers and hyaluronic acid in the skin, the skin becomes thinner, less firm, and less elastic.


Many beauty companies market collagen creams as a solution to replenish lost collagen in the skin and combat signs of aging. But do they actually work?


 

Can Collagen Creams Truly Replenish Collagen in The Skin?

Beauty companies have capitalized on the popularity of collagen skincare by introducing a myriad of products, from collagen creams and serums to "needle-less" threads, all promising to restore collagen fibers, repair fine lines, and lift sagging skin.



To really replace the lost collagen in our skin, the collagen in skincare products has to be absorbed and integrated into the dermis. Unfortunately, this is not possible.


 

The Problem with Collagen Creams

Our skin has a barrier function that protects our body from external threats such as infectious agents, harmful toxins, and allergens. Inevitably, this function also hampers the absorption of active ingredients with larger molecular weights.


The skin has a limitation on the size of molecules it can absorb. Skincare ingredients with molecular weights exceeding 500 daltons struggle to penetrate the skin effectively. This is why many topical medications are designed with smaller molecules. (Source: Bos, D., & Meinardi, M. M. H. M.)



Collagen, however, is inherently a large molecule. The average collagen molecule weighs between 285-300 KDa, making it more than 500 times larger than the maximum size allowed for effective skin absorption. (Source: León-López et al.)


Even when collagen is hydrolyzed (broken down into smaller fragments), the resulting molecules are still too large to be absorbed effectively by the skin.


In simpler terms, the human skin cannot effectively absorb collagen from skincare products.

The molecular weights of native and hydrolysed collagen. Image credit: León-López et al.


 

So, Are Collagen Creams a Scam?

If our skin can’t absorb the molecules in the first place, why then do companies claim that using collagen skincare can improve signs of aging? Well, it turns out this claim isn't entirely baseless.


As an active ingredient, collagen serves as a humectant in moisturisers, helping the skin retain moisture and stay hydrated. This plumping effect temporarily reduces the appearance of fine lines and enhances firmness. 


Collagen also has film-forming properties that minimize water loss through the skin and alleviate mechanical stresses, contributing to an improved skin appearance. 


The humectant and film-forming qualities of collagen in skincare offer a temporary improvement in the appearance of the skin. However, they do not address the depletion of collagen at deeper levels. (Source: Sionkowska et al.)


Summary: While collagen skincare products may provide temporary improvements in skin appearance by acting as humectants and reducing water loss, they cannot address the deeper collagen loss within the skin. These products may hydrate and moisturize the surface, offering a fleeting plumping effect, but they do not address the root cause of aging.

 

What to Buy Instead: Liquid Collagen Supplements


To effectively boost collagen levels, what you need is an inside-out approach by consuming liquid collagen orally.

Liquid collagen goes through a process called hydrolysis, breaking it down into smaller pieces known as peptides that can be absorbed into the bloodstream. This makes it easier for your body to handle – think of it like making collagen bite-sized.

So, when you drink it, your body can smoothly digest, absorb, and spread these smaller collagen pieces where they're needed.

When you take a collagen supplement, the acids in your stomach break the peptides down into an amino acid called proline-hydroxyproline. This amino acid not only enhances hydration by increasing the skin's hyaluronic acid content, but it also improves elasticity and reduces the appearance of wrinkles. (Source: Ohara et al.)


Summary: Liquid collagen supplements, particularly in hydrolyzed form, contribute to increased skin hydration, improved skin elasticity, and a reduction in the appearance of wrinkles. The ingestion of collagen peptides stimulates the production of amino acids that enhance the skin's hyaluronic acid content, resulting in a more youthful and hydrated complexion.


Liquid Collagen (Oral)

Collagen Cream (Topical)

Can Be Absorbed

✅ YES

❌ NO

Can Stimulate Natural Collagen Production

✅ YES

❌ NO

Can Benefit Skin, Joints, Hair & Nails

✅ YES

❌ NO


 

Choosing The Right Liquid Collagen

When choosing a liquid collagen supplement, it is important to consider the following factors:


  1. Make Sure They're Collagen Peptides: Choose collagen peptide supplements over whole collagen for better absorption. Collagen peptides are broken down into smaller, more easily absorbed fragments, ensuring they reach where they're needed in the body.

  2. Prioritise Type 1 Collagen: Type 1 collagen is the most abundant in the skin and is particularly effective in promoting skin health, elasticity, and hydration.

  3. Choose Wild-Caught Marine Collagen: Rich in Type 1 collagen, wild-caught marine collagen is considered the purest form and offers the highest bioavailability.

  4. Look for Antioxidant Support: Look for collagen supplements that include key antioxidant ingredients to support collagen protection and production from within. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, help combat oxidative stress and promote a healthy environment for collagen synthesis.


 

Top 10 Collagen Supplements in Australia


We here at Superfood Reviews have done the research to find out what the best options for collagen supplements in the market are. 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


Pros: 

  • 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


Pros: 

  • 10 grams of type 1-3 collagen per serving

  • Popular brand in Australia

  • Dairy and gluten free

  • No sugars and sweeteners

  • Keto-friendly

  • Good reviews


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


Pros: 

  • Marine collagen peptides

  • Heat stable

  • Sustainably sourced

  • 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


Pros:

  • 20g of Collagen per serving

  • Popular brand

  • 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


Pros:

  • Contains certified sustainable marine collagen peptides

  • Delicious taste


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.



 


6. Vitality X + Collagen Powder by JS Health

Key differentiator: Delicious taste


Pros:

  • Marine collagen peptides

  • Sustainably sourced

  • No unnecessary ingredients or additives

  • Widely available online

  • Positive feedback from readers


With the aid of many intriguing components, JS Health has created a collagen powder that also works to increase your energy. It is marketed not just as being good for your skin, but also as promoting energy production and easing intestinal problems.


There are several elements in JS health's Vitality X + Collagen powder that are thought to boost vitality. They've included Siberian ginseng and turmeric, which aren't often seen in collagen supplements.


Despite the fact that each tub only contains a little amount of marine collagen, this product would be a good choice for anyone searching for both increased collagen benefits and all-day energy.



 


7. Collagen Beauty by Nutra Organics

Key differentiator: Large amount of "branded" collagen


Pros:

  • Large amount of collagen per serving

  • Contains camu camu extract

  • Uses “branded” collagen


Collagen Beauty by Nutra Organics is a collagen powder supplement made from bovine sources from Brazil and Germany. Due to this usage of bovine collagen, they are able to provide 10g of collagen in every serve. Nutra Organics are able to do this as collagen supplements formulated with bovine collagen are cheaper to manufacture.


While the brand states that there is no large difference between bovine and marine collagen sources, and it is more so due to the process in which they are treated. There has been enough research to show that marine collagen is more effective in terms of quality and bioavailability. This is recommended for customers who are on a budget.



 


8. Youtheory Collagen

Key differentiator: Healthy dose of Vitamin C


Pros:

  • Hydrolyzed collagen peptides

  • Contains daily dose of Vitamin C


Similar to the majority of collagen supplements in the market, Youtheory’s collagen capsules contains Vitamin C, which helps against the effects of aging and revitalizes skin, hair and nails.


This brand offers a gluten-free daily supplement, while using hydrolyzed collagen. Youtheory contains 6,000mg of collagen per serving, with 18 amino acids and highly absorbable peptides. However, adults require taking 6 capsules per day to ensure optimum daily collagen intake.


Customer feedback shows that this can get quite tedious. This is also not recommendable for those who have a hard time swallowing or taking supplements in pill or capsule format.



 


9. Super Collagen Peptides by Neocell

Key differentiator: Popular, well-known brand


Pros:

  • Available in unflavored and flavored types

  • Contains Vitamin C

  • High dose of collagen per scoop


Neocell’s Collagen supplement contains 6g of collagen per serving. They utilize types 1 & 3 of collagen, and provide a keto-certified and gluten-free daily collagen supplement. Neocell uses hydrolyzed collagen that provides the body building blocks that aid in collagen formation.


According to their website, the suggested way of taking it is by dissolving and mixing it into your favorite beverages and taking it with an empty stomach. However, this format isn’t ideal for people who are on-the-go and have little time every morning to prepare a supplement.


Additionally, their product listing notes that this product may contain traces of sulfite residue - a chemical preservative.



 


10. Collagen Peptides by Ancient Nutrition

Key differentiator: Organic Berry Extract


Pros:

  • No artificial flavors and preservatives

  • 2000mg of collagen per capsule


The Collagen Peptides Pills also contain organic amla berry extract and can be taken with water, tea, juice or coffee. They recommend taking it mixed into 8 ounces of water a day, which, according to their product description, is equivalent to about 2000mg of collagen intake per day. Each bottle contains 20g per 2 scoops, making it perfect for a month's supply of collagen. The powder form is fitting if you want an easy-to-consume source of collagen especially if you have an on-the-go lifestyle. However, liquid intake helps you absorb collagen and vitamins better.



 

Best Product Overall:

Collagen Glow Berries

30 Sachets



  • 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




 

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is based on research and the author's opinion and is not intended as professional advice.

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