Collagen Benefits: What Does Collagen Do For You?

what does collagen do

Quick Health Scoop

  • Collagen is an abundant protein that the body naturally produces
  • Since collagen makes up about 90% of your hair, skin, and nails, collagen benefits may include helping to support healthy hair, skin, and nails
  • Starting in your 20s, your body produces less collagen
  • With no known side effects, the benefits of taking collagen supplements might be worth considering, especially as you age

Since collagen (types I and III to be exact) makes up about 90% of your hair, skin and nails, it is an important protein that supports skin, hair, and nail health and strength. Type I collagen is characterized by being extremely strong and able to stretch without breaking. Type III collagen is found alongside type I collagen in the skin and is important for the development of skin. Even though collagen is one of the most plentiful proteins in the body,1 as you get older, your body makes less collagen, which leads to issues such as loss of elasticity (a.k.a., saggy skin), dry skin, and wrinkles.2

While you can look to food sources of collagen (think protein sources such as chicken, pork, beef or fish—primarily in the bones and skin), if you avoid those foods, you might turn to a collagen supplement. But what does collagen do?

Let’s find out.

What Are The Benefits Of Taking Collagen?

After seeing so many ads for anti-aging products touting the benefits of collagen, you might already know that it plays a key role in healthy skin. In fact, collagen makes up to 90% of your hair, skin, and nails. But is collagen good for you?

Collagen works best in partnership with key nutrients that also support healthy hair, skin, and nails, including:

  • Vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals in the body and plays an integral part in collagen synthesis
  • Beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, is a key nutrient for healthy skin
  • Biotin, may help support healthy hair, skin and nails for those low in biotin
  • Copper, essential for collagen synthesis and skin support
  • Zinc, which helps support healthy skin

Besides being a key building block of your hair, skin and nails, the collagen in your body plays other vital roles. It serves as one of the primary building blocks of bones, connective tissue, fibrous cartilage, ligaments, organs, skin, teeth, tendons—and even the gastrointestinal system.3 It also protects your joints and maintains the health of arteries, organs, and muscles.3

Does Taking Collagen Really Work?

A 2019 literature review examined data from eleven research studies on over 800 participants showing a potential benefit in skin health. Specifically, taking collagen hydrolysate 2.5 g to 10 g/day for 8 to 24 weeks or collagen tripeptide 3 g/day for 4 to 12 weeks appears to support skin health, elasticity, and hydration.4 While more large-scale research is needed, collagen supplements show promise in supporting skin elasticity, firmness and hydration.5 

When it comes to supplements, what should you look for? You can find collagen supplements in a variety of forms, including collagen gummies, powders, pills, and creams. Most collagen supplements are made from an animal source and are “hydrolyzed (meaning water-soluble), making it easier collagen absorption in the body.6

Are there any side effects of taking collagen? For instance, can collagen cause weight gain? Collagen supplements are considered safe with no known side effects—including weight gain.

What Age Does Collagen Stop Being Produced By the Body?

Once you hit your 20s, you slowly start losing collagen—roughly one percent every year.2 And, thanks to menopause, women can lose up to 30% of collagen production in the first five years of the onset of menopause.7 The result? Dry skin, loss of skin elasticity, and wrinkles. So, the collagen benefits for women, in particular, are noteworthy.

Besides age, environment and lifestyle play a role in collagen production, too. Factors such as cigarette smoke, pollution, excess alcohol, sun exposure, and lack of sleep and exercise all contribute to the decrease in collagen production.8 So, it’s important to:

  • Avoid smoking and avoid being around second-hand smoke
  • Wear sunscreen when you spend time outdoors
  • Don’t overdo it when it comes to drinking alcohol
  • Get adequate sleep each night—seven to nine hours for most people
  • Exercise regularly

The Bottom Line

Collagen is an abundant protein throughout the body and supports the health and structure of the skin, hair and nails, as well as connective tissue, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, arteries, and muscles. Your body naturally produces collagen, but as you age, production drops. That’s why it’s important to eat a balanced, healthy diet, control lifestyle factors that affect collagen production (such as avoiding smoking and wearing sunscreen), and take a collagen supplement if needed.

Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.

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This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information.

†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

References

  1. Annual Review of Biochemistry. “Collagen Structure and Stability.” 2009. Accessed on: July 21, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846778/
  2. Dermato Endocrinology. “Skin anti-aging strategies.” July 1, 2012. Accessed on: July 20, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583892/
  3. Molecular Cell Biology, 4th Edition. “Section 22.3: Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix 2000.” Accessed on: July 21, 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/
  4. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. “Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications.” January 2019. Accessed on: July 21, 2021. https://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961619P0009X
  5. The New York Times. “Are There Benefits to Collagen Supplements?” May 13, 2021. Accessed on: July 21, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/09/style/self-care/collagen-benefits.html
  6. Allina Health. “Should you take collagen supplements?” March 17, 2020. Accessed on: July 21, 2021. https://www.allinahealth.org/healthysetgo/thrive/should-you-take-collagen-supplements
  7. Cedar-Sinai. “Collagen for Your Skin: Healthy or Hype?” January 15, 2020. Accessed on: July 21, 2021. https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/collagen-supplements.html
  8. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Collagen.” 2021. Accessed on: July 21, 2021. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/collagen/