Which Collagen Sources Should You Try?

RELATED: 20 Ways to Increase (and Maintain) Collagen in Your Face

A greater awareness of the importance of collagen for health has led to a spike in the popularity of supplements, powders, and topical creams. “When collagen supplements and powders first came out, there was a lot of healthy skepticism,” says Whitney Bowe, MD, a board-certified celebrity dermatologist in New York City. “The collagen molecule itself is large,” she explains, which can make it tricky for collagen to make it into skin regardless of application mode.

You might see someone stirring it into their coffee. Or sipping on a brownish liquid midday (and nope, it isn’t coffee). Or taking capsules along with other morning vitamins. It’s collagen — and it’s one of the buzziest ingredients in skin care.

“Collagen is an abundant protein occurring naturally in the body, and can be found in the bones, muscles, organs, and skin,” says Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical Center.

When it comes to your skin, collagen is what makes it smooth, plump, and springy. The more collagen in your face, the fewer wrinkles you have. There are at least 28 different types of collagen, with collagen type 1 and 3 found in skin, as an article published in April 2020 in Marine Drugs noted.

“Your skin starts to lose collagen starting in your twenties,” says Dr. Garshick. The visible effects of that loss may show up when fine lines begin to appear later in your thirties, but it’s happening. UV exposure from the sun and free radical damage, which happens as a result of environmental exposures such as air pollution, are two primary factors that weaken collagen and lead to its breakdown.

There are several ways to promote collagen growth in the skin, including by protecting your skin from environmental exposures like UV rays and air pollution, and eating a balanced, healthy diet full of antioxidants, noted an article published in May 2018 in Cell Transplant.