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Here's What You Really Need To Know About Collagen Drinks

collagen drinks
Just A Super Useful Guide To Collagen DrinksLAUNCHMETRICS SPOTLIGHT

From Instagram to Tiktok, collagen drinks are making a splash in the social-media sea of wellness content. (The current you is just fine, FYI). Much like the now viral apple cider vinegar, the hashtag #collagen has even racked up over 4.7 billion views on TikTok – serving up promises of plump, glowing skin with every sip.

But are these wonder powders as effective as their makers would have you believe, or are they simply a #sponcon fad? And if they do work, exactly how much liquid collagen would you need to knock back to notice a difference in your skin?

We've got the experts involved to find out if there's any solid science behind collagen drinks and their supplement sisters, and reveal the true benefits of drinking collagen.

What Are Collagen Drinks?

First things first, what actually is collagen? 'Collagen itself is a particular protein which contains many important amino acids: the building blocks that keep tissues and bones together,' explains nutritional consultant Amanda Griggs. 'It helps give your skin strength and elasticity, as well as stimulating production of hyaluronic acid.'

There are many different types of collagen found throughout the body, from your bones and muscles to your hair and skin. Research shows that certain forms are responsible for the structure and elasticity in our skin, but after the age of 25, we tend to lose approximately 1.5% of our natural stores every year. 'Many factors can further slow our collagen production, including ageing, smoking, excess sugar, UV rays, excess alcohol consumption and eating denatured processed food,' says Griggs. Long-term results include slacker skin and fine lines.

collagen drinks
Tory Burch AW24LAUNCHMETRICS SPOTLIGHT

These changes are perfectly normal and there's no need to worry about them, but companies are now capitalising on our well-ingrained fear of pre-mature ageing, by flooding the market with collagen drinks.

What Are The Benefits Of Drinking Collagen?

As collagen is the key component for our skin's structure and elasticity, brands claim that ingesting collagen daily will help with:

  • Improving the plumpness of the skin.

  • Fortifying hair and nails.

  • Boosting hydration.

  • Minimising the appearance of fine lines.

There is actually some evidence in support of these beauty shots. A growing number of laboratory-based studies demonstrate the potential for collagen peptides in drinks or supplements to improve skin hydration and to reduce wrinkles by strengthening our own network of collagen. In fact, one independent study conducted in 2019 found collagen supplements to show promise in terms of improving skin elasticity and dermal collagen density.

However, evidence for liquid collagen's effectiveness on human skin outside of the laboratory setting is still scarce – something Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist at Self London explains further...

The Hard Evidence

'During the digestive process, collagen is broken down in the gut to smaller molecules such as peptides and subsequently amino acids,' Dr Mahto says. 'There is little evidence that ingesting whole collagen will survive digestion and then travel in the bloodstream to the skin in high enough quantities to make any meaningful change to the skin’s structure or function.'

That said, anecdotal evidence from ELLE editors have shown that regular consumption of collagen has improved the strength of our nails, especially. Unlike topical creams, you can't tell the ingested collagen exactly where to go, so there's a high chance it will target the areas that need it most, such as weakened nails. Plus, reputable collagen formulas contain nutritional vitamins and minerals that can help with our overall wellbeing.

If you're keen to commit to a collagen drink or supplement, it's best to opt for a high-grade, hydrolysed version that has a much better chance of making it through the digestive process. Be cautious about filler ingredients such as added sugars, too.

Another factor to consider is that much of the research in support of collagen drinks has been sponsored by – you guessed it – a collagen drink manufacturer.

How Do Collagen Drinks Work?

A daily dose of collagen to plump lines and stop sagging sounds a little too good to be true – yet sales are soaring and anecdotal approval abounds.

While there a few studies that support the skin-boosting benefits of consuming collagen drinks, these studies can't ascertain whether it's the collagen itself that is causing the aesthetic improvements, or something else in the formula (such as hyaluronic acid or vitamins).

The key issue at play is absorption – the jury is really still out on how much, if any, collagen peptides are actually absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract. Many believe that hydrolysed (or 'broken down') collagen is the solution, as these molecules are small enough to make it unscathed through our systems, ending up where we really want them.

As Griggs explains: 'Many of these drinks contain collagen which has been hydrolysed in order to break down the protein structure – this means it can be more easily absorbed and the collagen peptides become more bioavailable,' says Griggs.

Is Collagen Vegan-Friendly?

Unfortunately, collagen isn't a vegan-friendly supplement, as it's derived either from bovine (the connective tissue of cows) or marine (fish skin) sources. Many of today's brands use by-products from the meat and fishing industries to source their collagen.

Vegan products that claim to boost your body's natural production of collagen do exist, however this is not the same thing as a vegan-friendly collagen supplement, so read your labels carefully.

So, is vegan collagen a no-go? Actually, tech start-ups are currently experimenting with lab-made collagen peptides, but the end focus isn't to produce a beauty-boosting supplement, but rather to create a replacement for gelatine in food manufacturing.

The brand making most headway in this category is Revive Collagen, which has a plant-based liquid collagen substitute proven to mimic human collagen itself. Not only that, but the raspberry-flavoured sachets contain 100% of an adult's RDA of vitamin C, anti-inflammatory ginseng and vitamin A.

The Best Collagen Drinks To Try

So, back to those promising hydrolysed collagen drinks. There's now a whole host of advanced options on the digital shelves, many of which come backed by independent nutritionists and dermatologists. If you're keen to put collagen to the test yourself, these are the best brands to look to.

collagen drinks
Kobi Halperin AW24Matteo Valle - LAUNCHMETRICS SPOTLIGHT

Vida Glow sachets contain marine collagen sourced from fishing industry waste, hydrolysed to an especially low weight to ensure maximum biocompatibility. Even better, the Original iteration is flavourless and heat-compatible, so can simply be stirred into your morning coffee

Ingenious Beauty boasts an independent clinical trial where testers noticed a marked improvement in their skin quality after 12 weeks of taking the supplement.

Dose & Co. is another editor-favourite. It uses either bovine or marine collagen and doesn't include any filler ingredients. The flavourless ones doesn't change the taste of your latte and there are also options which feature added vitamin C and protein.

collagen drinks
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How Else Can You Boost Your Collagen Levels?

Drinking your collagen isn’t the only way to boost your skin’s plumpness: topical skincare can lend a hand, too. However, we’re not necessarily talking about 'collagen' skincare – these products, like their ingestible sisters, can be lacking in efficacy, due to the fact that collagen molecules are too large to actually penetrate the skin barrier. If a brand claims to directly drop a bucketload of collagen into your complexion, approach with caution.

Instead, look to alternative ingredients that support the cells working on your skin's natural collagen production.

- Retinoids

Retinoids should be your first port of call, according to the experts. They're often referred to as the gold standard in skincare, thanks to their ability to prompt cell turnover at lightning speed.

'The retinoid family consists of a group of compounds that are derived from vitamin A,' explains Dr Mahto. 'They are the only topical agents (meaning you apply them directly onto the skin) that repeatedly demonstrate anti-ageing effects in scientific studies.'

'Retinoids are able to minimise the appearance of wrinkles, slow the breakdown of collagen and fade pigmentation or age spots,' Dr Mahto continues. 'They work by improving skin cell renewal and stimulating collagen production.'

- Vitamin C

'Vitamin C is also needed for collagen production: it provides the skin with support,' says Dr Mahto. 'It's an antioxidant, a skin-brightening agent and anti-inflammatory, and it is also required for the synthesis of collagen, which gives our skin its structure.'

However, it pays to do your research when it comes to vitamin C skincare, as formulations on the market vary wildly in terms of concentration, potency and stability. 'Vitamin C should be used for skincare in concentrations of up to 20 per cent. Higher percentages can potentially cause irritation,' says Dr Mahto. What's more, the product you choose needs to be properly stabilised to ensure maximum absorption into the skin.

- Diet

Of course, slathering on the skincare isn't the only way to top up your collagen levels.

'Eating a balanced diet with adequate protein – either plant-based or animal – will boost collagen production,' says Griggs. What's more, vitamin C is found in abundance in most fruits and vegetables, so make sure you're getting your 5 a day.

Griggs also advises adding chicken, beef or fish bone broth into your diet – either homemade or store-bought. 'It's healing and rich in some collagens, gelatine and amino acids, which will help to repair the gut. For this reason, bone broth is especially beneficial for people with inflammatory bowel diseases, as well as anyone who is finishing a long course of antibiotics or steroids.'

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