The Hard Truth on Collagen Supplements

Collagen, what is it? Collagen is a protein, and like all proteins, are made up of amino acids. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body because it’s the structural material found in skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, joints, cartilage, and fascia found in muscle tissue. Didn’t mention hair or nails, did I? Nope. No collagen, there. None. Zip. Zilch. What?? But all the supplement companies say collagen will help my hair, nails, and skin. Well, they won’t.

With aging, collagen in the deep skin layers changes from a tightly organized network of fibers to an unorganized maze. Environmental exposures can damage collagen fibers reducing their thickness and strength, leading to wrinkles on the skin’s surface.

Our bodies naturally make less collagen as we age. And not only that, the machinery that manufactures the collagen just doesn’t work as well either. Collagen production drops most quickly due to excess sun exposure, smoking, excess alcohol, and lack of sleep and exercise. What? Wow, look at this list! These are things we can control! That we have power over.

The secret, or the facts, are in how ingested protein–whether it’s from meat sources or supplements–is absorbed. Absorption happens in the small intestines. The stomach breaks down the large molecules into smaller molecules to aid in greater absorption once the protein peptides and amino acids reach the duodenum of the small intestine. There are specific protein channels in the small intestine that allows individual amino acids to pass through. Once these amino acids are absorbed they move to the bloodstream and are transported to the liver. The liver processes and will shuttle amino acids to specific cells for manufacturing. Based on the protein needs of the human system, the body will synthesize the necessary proteins required by the body. Collagen supplementation doesn’t mean reconstituted collagen after absorption. It’s entirely up to the body to use the “amino acid pool” as it sees fit. And this is why expensive collagen supplements are a waste of money.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of using supplements to fix a lot of things, including bad diets. In truth, they can’t. In 2022, the collagen supplement industry hit the 2.08 billion dollar mark. That should tell you how lucrative the market place is.

What can you do?

  1. Where sunscreen or sunscreen protective clothing when out in the sun.
  2. Quit smoking if you smoke.
  3. Reduce or eliminate your alcohol intake.
  4. Develop habits for better and more hours of sleep.
  5. If you’re not exercising, start. If you’re exercising only a small amount, increase your exercise to at minimum 3-4 days per week.

There are some supplements that may impact collagen growth and stimulation. They are Vitamin C and Ginseng. Vitamin C is essential for collagen production. While there are other benefits to topical Vitamin C creams, collagen stimulation isn’t one of them.  A 2012 study showed Red Ginseng increased collagen in the bloodstream. Whether that translates to an increased collagen in skin cells, remains to be seen. A 2020 study showed Red Ginseng may reduce the stiffness of fibroblasts, part of the structure of collagen, which would help improve skin elasticity.

Collagen in topical skin care products are equally ineffective at stimulating collagen production or adding collagen to the deep layers of the skin. Collagen is too large of a molecular structure to be absorbed through skin. Even collagen peptides (small amino acid groups) are too large. The skincare industry has tried both of these tactics to only find that collagen absorption is non-existent topically. Of course, that doesn’t mean they’ll still market collagen rich products in skincare and charge a significant price.

Your best option is to use a topical ointment, serum, cream that has options for stimulating or protecting the collagen already existent in the skin. I’ve written about two of these compounds, retinol and hyaluronic acid, both have peer reviewed research showing it absorbs into the dermis. Pure aloe vera gel also contributes to growth of cells that benefit the skin.

If there’s one thing you know about me, I’m a scientist. Science doesn’t falsify or deceive. I will always present to you the facts from peer reviewed research. I encourage you to be an informed consumer and dig beyond the surface and detractors. Science is the discovery of truth.

Continue to grow in intellect, love and kindness. It’s your time to rise, reach, and become! I am with you on this journey and believe in your possibilities. I believe in you!

XO

Samantha

P.s. If you haven’t tried our Ultimate Facial Serum you can read about it and order it from the link. It has hyaluronic acid as well as other good skin conditioning ingredients.

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