Collagen is a trend that just keeps on trending. Throughout the last few years, this important protein—which is touted for its skin, hair, nails, and joint benefits—has popped up in everything from powders and capsules to gummies and coffee. But just how much collagen should you take to reap the benefits? Here’s what experts and the latest research have to say about getting the most out of this super-popular supplement.
First, A Quick Collagen Recap
Collagen is actually the most abundant protein in the entire human body. You’ve probably heard that your skin contains it, so let’s start there. “It’s the main structural protein in the skin,” says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King, M.D. “It is what gives skin its strength, contributing to a youthful appearance.”
However, the collagen in your skin breaks down with age. “With age, it transforms into weaker elastin, which leads to wrinkling,” says Dr. Orit Markowitz, M.D., associate professor of Dermatology at New York City’s Mount Sinai Medical Center. “Aging and your DNA makeup impact collagen depletion, but other factors, like smoking and UV damage, also contribute.”
Skin aside, “the protein is also found in other parts of the body, including the eyes, cartilage, bones, blood vessels, GI tract, and teeth,” says Dr. Anne Allen, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist with First Derm.
Types of Collagen
Just as multiple parts of the body contain collagen, there are multiple types found throughout the body.
“Type I is the most abundant type of collagen in the skin (and the entire body),” Allen says. “There are, however, several other types that play an important role in the skin.” Though there are 16 types of collagen found throughout the body in all, types I, II, and III are by far the most abundant.
Collagen supplements are made from the bones, cartilage, skin, muscles, and connective tissue of cattle, chickens, fish, or pigs. Often, they contain collagen hydrolysate, a form of the protein that’s broken up into its different components, called peptides, making it easier to digest.
The Benefits of Supplementing
When it comes to beauty, “collagen supplements have been shown to increase skin elasticity and to hydrate the skin,” Allen says. (The jury is out on whether supplements directly increase the skin’s contents or provide the building blocks for the skin to increase its own production.)
Either way, a 2019 Journal of Drugs in Dermatology review concluded that preliminary results on short- and long-term use of oral collagen supplements for skin aging, elasticity, hydration, and collagen density are promising.
Skin health aside, collagen supplements can also support joint and bone health, Allen says. And that 2019 review? It also found that collagen promoted wound healing.
Plus, collagen can support your muscles and promote muscle growth and mass. (Yes, really!)
How much collagen to take for your health goals
If you’ve gone so far as to browse the various collagen supplements on the market, you’ve likely discovered (and been confused by) the seemingly unlimited array of different products.
The reason: How much collagen you should take may depend on your specific health and wellness goals. Here’s what King and the latest research recommend:
For joint health: A 2012 study found that 2.5 grams daily may benefit those dealing with joint issues.
To support healthy nails: According to one 2017 study, taking 2.5 grams per day can promote nail growth and help with brittle nails.
To promote muscle: According to 2015 and 2019 studies, when paired with resistance training, supplementing with higher amounts (15 grams) per day may promote muscle mass and help improve body composition.
Best Practices for Supplementing
If you’re interested in making collagen a regular part of your supplement regimen, chat with your doctor or a registered dietitian (book a free virtual nutrition consultation!).
Your diet can ensure that your supplement does what it’s supposed to. “You also need vitamin C, which is essential in the pathway to build collagen,” says King. It helps with connective tissue rebuilding. So if you don’t consume enough vitamin C through food, consider supplementing with that, too. Or, look for a supplement that combines the vitamin and the protein, like The Vitamin Shoppe brand Collagen Peptides Plus.