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What is collagen?

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Collagen is a type of protein that is naturally abundant in the body. It’s vital for supporting and strengthening the skin, bones, muscles, and connective tissues, and it also plays a role in blood clotting.

In recent years, collagen has become a must-have skincare ingredient. Collagen products are available as creams, serums, sheet masks, and even shampoos, but they’re also increasingly popular in the form of edible powders, supplements, and drinks.

If you’re interested in trying collagen, and you aren’t sure which product is right for you, read on.

How collagen works

The first thing to understand is how collagen works, and why it’s been embraced by the skincare community. Collagen is naturally produced in the body from a combination of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) found in food. It makes up a third of our body’s protein and contributes to healthy joints, kidneys and other organs, bones and skin elasticity.

As we get older, collagen production decreases, causing some of the tell-tale signs of ageing, like wrinkles in the skin and weakened joints. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent this from happening, although you can slow down the decrease of collagen production by quitting smoking and wearing sunscreen.

Is collagen best as a tablet, powder, or drink?

Collagen is sometimes added to products designed for direct application on the skin, like face creams. However, it’s most popular as an oral supplement.

Oral collagen comes as a powder, tablet, or drink and is usually made from the skin and bones of animals or fish. These products will often contain other complementary ingredients such as vitamin C, which is vital for collagen production.

Most oral collagen products will contain collagen derived from pigs (porcine), cows (bovine), or fish (marine). Once extracted from the skin and bones it is broken down into short chains called peptides in a process called hydrolisation. This makes it easier for the body to absorb and use the collagen.

The type of collagen product that you choose will depend on your personal preferences. If you don’t eat meat, but you do eat fish, for instance, marine collagen will be the best collagen supplement for you.

If you’re seeking the “best collagen supplement” just be aware that there are thousands of products on the market, and lots of them will have very similar ingredients. The best thing you can do is try out different types until you find something that works for you.

You may have a preference for collagen powder, as this can be easily added to water, juice, smoothies, or shakes. Alternatively, you may find it easier to take a tablet like New Nordic skin care collagen filler or have your collagen made up in a flavoured drink like Perfectil platinum collagen. The choice is yours!

Does oral collagen work?

It’s believed that oral collagen may:

  • Boost natural levels of collagen
  • Improve the appearance of skin
  • Increase skin elasticity
  • Help with conditions affecting joints

However, there is little clinical evidence to support these claims, and more research needs to be carried out before it can be recommended. Please bear in mind that you should consult a healthcare professional before taking collagen supplements and to continue to take any prescribed medication.

Because collagen isn’t considered a medical treatment by the NHS, not much is known about its side effects or long-term risks. For this reason, you should never use it as a substitute for NHS-approved medication that your GP has already prescribed.

What should I look for on the label?

When buying your collagen product, it’s a good idea to read the ingredients list to make sure that the product is right for you. If you don’t want to take bovine or porcine collagen, look for the words “marine collagen” on the front of the pack or in the list of ingredients.

Side effects associated with collagen supplements

Collagen is an important naturally occurring protein, so there aren’t any risks associated with collagen in general. However not all supplements are required to be proved safe to consume before they hit the shelves - so make sure to speak to your healthcare professional before adding them to your diet.

Some people may also be allergic to types of collagen found in supplements. For example, if you have a seafood allergy then you will be at serious risk of a reaction if you consume marine-based collagen.