Collagen needs no introduction. Anyone who's at all interested in skincare knows that it has something to do with keeping our skin youthful and glowing. There are endless products, supplements, and treatments out there that boast about the benefits of this incredible protein. It has a great reputation for slowing aging and reducing wrinkles and smile lines.

But what exactly is collagen? What type of protein is it? Does it contribute to more than just our skin? What supplement form is more effective – should we apply it topically, or ingest it? And more importantly, what foods are naturally rich in collagen-creating compounds? 

These are just some of the questions this article intends to examine.

What Exactly Is Collagen?

Collagen is one of the most abundant and naturally occurring proteins in our body. It comprises about 75 percent of our skin. This protein has a fiber-like structure that allows it to make connective tissue throughout our bodies from bones to muscles, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and skin. 

Collagen is the main structural protein of our body that strengthens our tissues and makes them resilient and enables them to stretch. It helps to keep hydration within our skin. And works with a protein called elastin, which helps maintain our skin’s elasticity.

As we grow older, our bodies produce less and less collagen. Our bodies are unable to create and replace as much collagen as we are breaking down and losing. And the rate of this production slows down more rapidly with lack of exercise and sleep, too much exposure to the sun, excess alcohol, and smoking. 

This drop in collagen formation begins to set in, as early as our 20s – we lose 1 percent of our collagen every year. 

So what does lesser collagen mean?

It means drier skin, reduced elasticity, and the gradual emergence of wrinkles and lines. particularly among menopausal women. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, when a woman reaches menopause she loses around 30% of her skin collagen within 5 years.

As we age, the network of collagen fibers in the deeper layers of our skin changes from one that is tightly organized to one that looks like an unorganized maze.

Health Benefits of Collagen Supplements

Drinking Collagen Supplements

Ingesting extra doses of collagen may do more for your body than just improve your skin. Scientists believe it may also relieve joint pain, prevent bone loss, promote heart health, and boost muscle mass. 

Various studies have shown that these supplements can improve your overall skin elasticity. Some studies have proven that these supplements containing collagen peptides can slow your skin’s aging, and reduce dryness and wrinkles.

Several studies, which interestingly were conducted mostly on women, concluded that ingesting 3 to 10 grams of collagen daily for about 3 months improves skin hydration and elasticity.

These supplements promote the formation of more collagen along with the production of other closely related proteins that may help in making your skin appear more youthful. 

There are many claims about collagen but they are more anecdotal at this point, and less scientific. However, the great news is that if you want to try out a supplement and see its effects personally, we’ll tell you it’s safe. These supplements will certainly do you no harm except they might dent your pocket...

Topical Supplements - creams and lotions

Whether or not topical collagen supplements work is a matter of debate. There are many influencers and beauty gurus who would encourage applying certain collagen creams and lotions. However, whether or not these treatments work remains to be established with certainty.

The problem is that collagen has yet to receive sufficient scientific attention and there’s much that remains to be known about it.

According to Harvard University-based nutritionists, there isn’t enough beneficial evidence to promote using collagen topically. These nutritionists assert that the collagen protein molecules are simply too large to be effectively absorbed by our skin. Theoretically, these molecules cannot go through or be “absorbed” by the outer layers of the epidermis.

These researchers insist that at best collagen creams can only have the kind of minimal impact that moisturizers have. 

Since nothing is known for sure yet, and scientists are still studying to reach a definitive conclusion, we believe there’s no harm in trying these topical treatments out. Just speak to your dermatologist and give it a try.

How Long Do Collagen Supplements Take To Show Results?

The formation of collagen takes time. It’s a relatively slow process and if you’ve just begun taking collagen supplements, the possible results won’t be visible to you before 8 weeks. Studies researching the effects of these supplements on joints and skin, last at least 8 weeks long. While studies related to bone health take much longer. They may even go up to a year.

If you want to try a collagen supplement, understand that committing to your routine is key to making the right evaluation of how effective it is.

10 Foods That Boost Collagen Production

Scientists believe that certain high-protein foods nurture collagen production. These are the kind of foods that are rich in the required amino acids – hydroxyproline, glycine, and proline. Soy, legumes, poultry, eggs, dairy, and meat are examples of such food.

But it is not just the hard-core protein-abundant foods that collagen formation needs. It also requires other nutrients like zinc for example, which is found in meats, legumes, nuts, shellfish, whole grains, and seeds. Another necessary nutrient is vitamin C found in tomatoes, bell peppers, leafy greens, fruits, and berries.  

A healthy and well-balanced diet is necessary for healthy collagen production. But it is also beneficial to consciously incorporate foods that contain some essential bioavailable forms of collagen – the forms of collagen that our body can bring into use without much processing. Such foods are arguably more helpful than collagen supplements. 

However, it is important to note that having these nutrient-rich foods isn’t going to make you look much younger or erase wrinkles. But it will certainly help you feel and look your best as you age.

Here’s a list of 10 foods that can boost your collagen production.

#1. Citrus Fruits

Vitamin C is all the rage in the beauty world.  And in the last couple of years, all the best-known beauty lines have come up with their Vitamin C serum. This vitamin promotes collagen formation and the human body must consume it in sufficient amounts.

Vitamin C is also crucial to the production of pro-collagen, which is a precursor to collagen. Pro-collagen provides intense, plumping hydration to the skin and plays a major role in smoothing fine lines and wrinkles. 
Vitamins C also stimulates collagen synthesis – the process by which pro-collagen is converted to collagen.

Lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit are some of the citrus fruits full of vitamin C and come highly recommended for anyone eating to improve their skin.

There are many ways in which you can incorporate citrus fruits into your diet. Have a broiled grapefruit for breakfast. Try to have an orange as a meal starter or eat it as a snack. You can also toss it in your salad. 

If you’re fond of tart, tangy, spicy foods, lemons are an excellent option for you. You can also add them to meats as a marinade.

#2. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are an incredible source of Vitamin C – A medium-sized tomato carries up to 30% of this vitamin.

Tomatoes also provide us with ample amounts of lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant that strengthens skin support.

#3. Leafy Greens

Salad greens like spinach, Swiss chard, and kale get their deep green color from chlorophyll, a substance that is known for its antioxidant properties. That is why health and wellness gurus swear by making it part of their regular diet.

Studies have shown that consuming a sufficient amount of this nutrient, elevates pro-collagen levels in the skin.

#4. Cashews

Nuts and seeds are an important part of a healthy diet. And if you’re looking to boost your collagen, add a few cashews to your daily food.

These nuts are rich in copper and zinc, both of which improve our body’s ability to form collagen.

#5. Beans

Beans are high in protein content and contain the amino acids that are essential to produce collagen.

They are often also rich in copper, which is another nutrient crucial for collagen formation.

#6. Berries

Citrus fruits are crowned as the biggest vitamin C providers but berries are just another great source. Strawberries have more vitamin C to offer than oranges. Other berries like raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are excellent too.

Berries are also great skin food since they are high in antioxidants that protect the skin from damage.

#7. Bell Peppers

Red bell peppers have made it to this list because they contain high doses of vitamin C. But they also offer a special anti-inflammatory compound called “capsaicin”, which purportedly fights early signs of aging.

You can add this nutrient-rich veggie to your salads, pizzas, pasta, and even a simple cheesy toast.

#8. Egg Whites

Unlike other animal products, eggs do not contain connective tissue. However, their whites are loaded with large quantities of proline, which is one of the many amino acids necessary for collagen production.

#9. Fish & Shellfish

Fish and shellfish, like other animals, have collagen in their ligaments and bones. Some researchers claim that fish and shellfish can provide some of the easiest-to-absorb forms of collagen.

But here’s where it gets a little complicated – it is not the fish’s meat that stores these absorbable quantities of collagen. Instead, it is the less desirable parts of the fish like its eyeballs, head, and scales. 

See if you can find a recipe that uses those parts... or at least the latter two.

#10. Chicken

A variety of collagen supplements use chicken. That’s because this popular white meat contains abundant amounts of collagen. Various studies for treating arthritis have used chicken cartilage and the neck as a source of collagen.


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  5. The roles of vitamin C in skin health. (2017). National Library of Medicine: National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  6. Collagen. The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H. Chan: School of Public Health.