With a slew of health gurus touting its benefits and adding it to their coffee and smoothies, collagen is the supplement right now. Why all the sudden buzz? Well, up until recently, researchers hadn’t really investigated the benefits of upping our intake of this protein (which happens to be the most abundant protein in our bodies). Now, studies are showing that collagen supplementation can boost our joint and skin health, and promote healthy aging, explains Marc S. Schneider, M.D., director at Schneider Centre for Plastic Surgery.
Bone broth, another big trend in the wellness world, is a major natural source of collagen—but since there’s only so much meaty broth one can swallow down on a daily basis, many different types of collagen supplements are currently taking over store shelves.
Most popular in powdered form, collagen supps are made from cow, chicken, fish, or egg sources. There are actually more than two dozen different types of collagen, all of which have slightly different functions—so which you choose depends on your goals, says Schneider. Here’s your guide to the most popular options out there.
Type I Collagen
If collagen’s skin-related benefits are your top priority, type I collagen is your go-to, as it makes up 90 percent of your hair, skin, and nails (organs, bones, and ligaments, too), according to Ryan Neinstein, M.D., plastic surgeon at NYC Surgical Associates. Type I collagen can help ward off the hallmarks of skin aging, like the stretching out or thinning of the skin.
“Collagen has been shown in preclinical studies to improve skin thickness, function, moisture content, and appearance,” says Neinstein, who credits type I collagen—particularly marine-sourced type I collagen—with these beauty benefits. “Collagen peptides from fish are considered superior in raising overall body collagen [which is predominantly type I] and improving skin, hair, nail, and bone quality,” he says. How? Research suggests marine collagen is up to one-and-a-half times more bioavailable than chicken or bovine collagen. (That’s why it’s the type of collagen most often used in topical cosmetic products.) Want to give it a try? We love Vital Proteins’ Wild-Caught Marine Collagen.
Type II Collagen
Chicken soup is good for the soul, but there’s another reason it’s so great when we’re sick: Type II collagen, which is mainly sourced from chickens and plentiful in chicken broth, is known for its immune-boosting and joint-supporting properties. “Type II collagen is by far the most important,” believes Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of DrAxe.com. This type of collagen is a major part of our gut lining and helps it act as a barrier between the substances we consume and our bloodstream, which helps our digestive system run smoothly and also benefits our immune system, Axe says. It’s also a major building block of cartilage, which is why it’s so crucial for joint health. Two of our go-to’s are NeoCell Collagen Joint Complex and Sports Research Bone Broth Protein.
Type III Collagen
Type III collagen helps form arterial walls, which is key for cardiovascular health. It’s often found alongside type I collagen in the body (think bone, cartilage, dentin, tendons, skin, and other connective tissues)—though in smaller amounts—and thus offers similar skin- and bone-related benefits, Axe says. For that reason, types I and III make perfect supplement sidekicks, packing a one-two punch.
Type III collagen supplements are often made from bovine (cow) sources. Try adding Vital Proteins Beef Gelatin to soups or hot beverages.
Type V And X Collagen
Though the first three types of collagen are the most abundant in the body and the most commonly found in supplements, some of the lesser-seen types—notably types V and X—are also important for key body functions. Type V collagen helps form cell membranes and the tissue in women’s placentas, while type X plays a crucial role in bone formation. Type V collagen is usually sourced from the membranes of eggshells, type X is made from chicken and bovine sources. Supplements that contain just types V and X are tough to find, but Dr. Axe’s Multi Collagen Protein contains types I, II, III, V, and X, and is a good option for anyone seeking the overall benefits of collagen protein.
What To Know When You Shop
Many of the collagen supplements out there today include collagen types I and III—but if you’re looking for the most comprehensive benefit possible, Axe recommends choosing a collagen supplement that contains a variety of types (like his!). “It’s like taking a multivitamin,” he says. “It’s a good idea because most people have multiple deficiencies.”
You’ll notice that many collagen supps are labeled as ‘hydrolyzed,’ which simply means they’ve been broken down into their smaller form—called ‘peptides’—which is easier for the body to absorb, says Schneider.
Lastly, since vitamin C supports collagen synthesis, it may be included in collagen supplement formulas (like Reserveage Collagen Replenish), but you can also just take your collagen alongside a vitamin C supplement or C-containing food (like citrus fruit) to reap the benefits.
Keep your collagen straight with this helpful infographic: