Learn about the benefits of collagen and which collagen supplements we recommend for healthier hair, skin, nails, and joints.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a protein found in the muscles, skin, teeth, tendons, and bones. It is the most abundant protein in the body, essentially holding everything together via insoluble fibers and connective tissue. These small fibers (also called fibril) form a rope, with four structural levels. Three of those levels are coils.
Collagen fibrils are organized in various ways inside the body. For example, they may be in parallel bundles in the tendons or could be in a disordered arrangement around the bone.
What are Collagen Peptides?
Peptides are the short-chain amino acids that act as the building blocks of collagen, keratin, elastin, and other proteins. Collagen peptides are naturally derived from grass-fed collagen protein, such as in beef. It is soluble in both hot and cold liquids, which makes them ideal for various uses in the body.
Collagen peptides contain hydroxyproline, a non-proteinogenic amino acid. It’s transported through the blood, acting as building blocks for local cells. Collagen peptides also assist with skin elasticity and rejuvenation, which can help the skin look younger.
Types of Collagen
Altogether, there are 28 different types of collagen, but here are the five most common:
Collagen I. This is 90% of the body’s collagen. It is found primarily in connective tissues, fibrous (stiff) cartilage, skin, tendons, and blood vessel walls.
Collagen II. This collagen promotes the health of the joints. It is also believed to help with various types of joint pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Collagen III. Type III collagen improves the muscular structure and is the main component of reticular fibers, which makes up the supporting tissues of many organs.
Collagen IV. Type IV collagen assists with the filtration process in the kidneys and other organs. This layer of collagen also surrounds various organs, muscles, and fat cells.
Collagen V. In addition to being located in some layers of the skin and hair, Type V collagen can be found in the placenta. It is an essential protein for neonatal development. It is also prevalent in the cornea, making it essential for overall eye health.
Essential Amino Acids
A necessary component of collagen is amino acids. Amino acids are considered the building blocks of protein and play a role in many of the body’s functions. While some amino acids are made in the body, others (essential amino acids) must come from food. Common amino acids found in collagen peptides include the following:
Glycine (GLY). Glycine is used by the body to create proteins. Glycine is unique because it contains hydrogen as a side chain, while all other amino acids contain carbon.
Proline (Pro). Proline assists the body in breaking down proteins so they can be used in cells. This amino acid also helps to cushion joints and heal cartilage. Proline is vital for collagen stability, permitting the sharp twisting of the collagen helix, a critical shape in the secondary structure (a pattern of hydrogen bonds in a biopolymer).
Alanine (Ala). Alanine is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. This is a biological process that occurs inside cells where the loss of cellular proteins is balanced through the production of new proteins. Alanine has several functions, such as being a source of energy for the muscles and central nervous system, as well as breaking down tryptophan and vitamin B6.
Arginine (ARG). Like alanine, arginine is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. It also helps the body rid itself of ammonia. Too much ammonia could be a sign; the liver is not working correctly.
Glutamic acid (GLU). Glutamic acid is used to form proteins. It also turns into glutamate, which is a chemical that helps nerve cells in the brain, sends and receives information from other cells throughout the body. It also plays a role in brain functions, such as memory and learning.
Benefits of Collagen Supplements
Studies indicate taking collagen supplements has many benefits with few adverse risks. Some benefits include improving skin health, relieving joint pain, possibly preventing bone loss, and others. For example, a study on the effects of collagen supplements on rheumatoid arthritis found that test subjects who were given supplements for three months went into complete remission. No side effects were evident among the test group.1
Best Collagen for Skin & Nails
- Type I: Tendons, bones, organs, skin and vascular ligatures
- Type II: Cartilage
- Type III: Stimulate the formation of crosslinks of fibers for durability and connective tissue strength
- Type IV: Improves the basement membrane strength (skin support and extracellular matrix)
- Type V: Supports the health of the hair, cell structure strength, and integrity of the placenta
Many studies on the benefit of collagen supplements on skin and nails have been conducted with promising results:
A study on women test subjects between 35-55 years of age was performed to study the effects of collagen peptides on aging skin. At the end of the eight-week study, “a significantly higher skin elasticity level” was observed, with no reported side effects.2
Collagen peptide supplements have been shown to improve nail quality. A study on the benefits of bioactive collagen peptides found that the supplement increased nail growth by 12% and decreased the frequency of broken nails by 42%. Researchers concluded that the daily consumption of the bioactive collagen peptides increased nail growth and improved brittle nails, while simultaneously decreasing the frequency of broken nails.3
Best Collagen for Hair
As people age, they produce less collagen, which could potentially lead to hair loss and other changes in the body. Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate was created to help replace lost collagen. This excellent source of high-quality protein contains 20 amino acids, all derived from grass-fed cows. Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate offers the following benefits:
- Assists in keeping hair healthy
- Supports joint health
- Stimulates the production of healthy skin and nails
- Improve digestive health
- Improve recovery from workouts
- Improves sleep quality
Collagen supplements may assist in hair growth, partly because Collagen IV has been found to be highly concentrated in hair follicles. A study on Collagen IV found a potential link between hair loss and hair follicle regeneration, indicating it could be a potential treatment for hair loss and other skin-related diseases.4
Best Collagen For Joints
Having strong, healthy joints is key to mobility and being able to move around freely. Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides contains short term amino acids from pasture-raised collagen protein. This is identical to the protein found in the joints, cartilage, skin, hair, and nails. This product is gluten-free, rBGH Free, and non-GMO, making it ideal for those who may be gluten resistant or have food allergies.
Collagen is essential for joint health. Studies indicate collagen supplements may be helpful in protecting and strengthening joints:
Approximately 43 million Americans (or 16.6% of the population) have arthritis. It is estimated that 21 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis. Weight-bearing activities such as walking and standing can make the pain from osteoarthritis worse. Studies on treating osteoarthritis of the knee found that Type II collagen was effective in treating the disease. Results of the treatment showed a “significant reduction” in all assessments after 90 days, and saw a “significant enhancement” in their daily activities, suggesting an overall improvement in the of quality of life.5
Best Rated Collagen Supplements
ACP – VITAMIN ACP is a supplement specifically designed to strengthen and support the body’s natural immune system: the first line of defense against illness and disease. It also supports tissue integrity and is a mild cellular detoxifier, helping the body remove toxins and waste naturally. Ingredients include vitamin A, Vitamin C, Paprika, citrus bioflavonoids, vitamin E, and other natural ingredients.
While eating food is one of the best ways to get the nutrients the body needs, vitamin and nutrient deficiencies can occur. Supplements are also an excellent way to ensure the body receives the nutrients it needs. For example, glycine supplements have been found to alleviate liver injuries caused by a deficiency in choline and methionine in rats. Researchers note rats receiving oral glycine saw a significant, protective improvement in liver health.6
Best Collagen Powder: Vital Proteins Collagen Protein – Gelatin 32 oz.
Vital Proteins Collagen Protein is a gelatin powder that is 100% natural and pasture-raised. It contains amino acids that are identical to the protein found in the hair, bones, skin, nails, and joints. Vital Proteins Collagen Protein can be added to either hot or cold drinks, as well as added to various recipes for soups, stews, custards, or fruit gelatins.
Best Collagen Pill: TCF – GastroRestore™
Many health experts believe the majority of health issues originate in the gut. The gut lining, in particular, must be healthy enough to prevent infection, repel toxins, and absorb nutrients. GastroRestore™supports gut health by promoting collagen production. It also contains glucosamine: an amino acid that helps healthy joints, cartilage, and healthy tissues. It also assists the body in repairing a leaky gut.
Best Liquid Collagen: #4 – Copper – (4oz)
Just four drops of #4 – Copper provides the body with improved iron absorption, collagen stability, and the prevention of free radical damage. Consuming minerals like #4 – Copperin liquid form is considered ideal by some because they are more readily absorbed in the body. Another benefit: by consuming “good” minerals, the harmful or “bad” toxins with the same ionic value will be removed from the body.
Best Collagen Cream: Natural Radiance™ MSM Vitamin E Body Lotion 8 oz. pump bottle
There are many things that can damage the skin: pollution, poor eating habits, smoking, UV light, and drugs. Each of these can produce free radicals that can damage the skin. In addition to these factors, the skin can lose its elasticity due to aging. Natural Radiance™ MSM Vitamin E Body Lotion is designed to nourish and hydrate the skin. It also contains aloe vera, which can increase collagen production in the skin and assist with wrinkle reduction.
Having sufficient levels of collagen is important for overall health. In addition to helping outer levels of the skin maintain its elasticity, collagen works deep inside the body, protecting joints, ligaments, and internal organs. Nutrient deficiencies could cause a person to become collagen deficient, prompting them to take medications to alleviate their symptoms. However, they may not realize the root cause of their ailment is a lack of collagen. By being proactive and consuming collagen supplements, a person can be one step closer to obtaining the good health they desire.
- Trentham DE1, Dynesius-Trentham RA, Orav EJ, (et al.). Effects Of Oral Administration Of Type II Collagen On Rheumatoid Arthritis. Science. 1993 Sep 24;261(5129):1727-30. [PMID: 8378772 DO]I: 10.1126/science.8378772.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8378772
- Proksch E1, Segger D, Degwert J, (et al.). Oral Supplementation Of Specific Collagen Peptides Has Beneficial Effects On Human Skin Physiology: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55. doi: 10.1159/000351376. Epub 2013 Aug 14. [PMID: 23949208 DOI]: 10.1159/000351376https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23949208
- Hexsel D1, Zague V2, Schunck M3, (et al.). Oral Supplementation With Specific Bioactive Collagen Peptides Improves Nail Growth And Reduces Symptoms Of Brittle Nails. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2017 Dec;16(4):520-526. doi: 10.1111/jocd.12393. Epub 2017 Aug 8. [PMID: 28786550 DOI]: 10.1111/jocd.12393https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28786550
- Chen P1, Cescon M1, Bonaldo P2. Lack of Collagen VI Promotes Wound-Induced Hair Growth. J Invest Dermatol. 2015 Oct;135(10):2358-2367. doi: 10.1038/jid.2015.187. Epub 2015 May 19. [PMID: 25989472] DOI: 10.1038/jid.2015.187. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25989472
- Crowley DC, Lau FC, Sharma P(el al). Safety and Efficacy Of Undenatured Type II Collagen In The Treatment Of Osteoarthritis Of The Knee: A Clinical Trial. Int J Med Sci. 2009 Oct 9;6(6):312-21. doi: 10.7150/ijms.6.312. [PMID: 19847319]; PMCID: PMC2764342.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2764342/
- Barakat HA1, Hamza AH. Glycine Alleviates Liver Injury Induced By Deficiency In Methionine And Or Choline In Rats. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2012 Jun;16(6):728-36. [PMID: 22913202}https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22913202