The Pros and Cons of Collagen
WHICH ONE IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
Been staring in the mirror a lot more lately? Happens to the best of us.
If you’ve ever wondered if a collagen supplement is right for you, you’ve come to the right place. While you’ve probably heard plenty about the benefits of collagen for skin – as a smoothing serum, an anti-aging/anti-wrinkle agent, and an overall plumpness perfector – there are probably things you don’t know about the pros and cons of collagen in its many different forms.
You also may be unaware that collagen can help heal the gut and lubricate the joints to assist in anti-inflammatory effects for pain relief.
Sounds great, right?
Of course it does! Collagen is a superstar in the bone broth world. But, are there any downsides or side effects that outweight the potential benefits? Any reasons to avoid it?
In lieu of sending you on an extensive internet search – and since there’s so much misinformation to wade through – we’ve laid out the pros and cons of collagen right here. We’ll not only review the health benefits, but call out potential pitfalls of which you might not be aware.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in sea and land animals – hey, that’s us! – and is located most densely in connective tissue like tendons, ligaments, joints, and skin; though it’s present in muscle as well. (The graphic above shows where it lives in our skin in relation to other layers.)
The body has an amazing natural ability to make collagen its own, through a process that breaks down protein into amino acids. Those amino acids then build other proteins within the body, including – drum roll – collagen.
Skin elasicity, hydration, strength, and suppleness are all credited to collagen production.
TYPES OF COLLAGEN
It’s worth mentioning (if only for the trivia points) that 90% of the collagen in the body is Type 1, which is found in the skin, tendons, internal organs, and organic parts of bone.
Although there are many other types, the majority fall under these main categories:
- Type 2: Found in cartilage.
- Type 3: Found in bone marrow and lymphoid tissues.
- Type 4: Found in basement membrane (thin sheets that surround most types of tissue).
- Type 5: Found in hair and cell surfaces.
WHAT HAPPENS AS WE AGE?
The more birthdays we celebrate, the less our bodies produce this beneficial protein naturally.
More cake = less collagen.
Production begins to decrease as early as our twenties, and is shown to significantly slow down in our thirties. Sigh. All good things must come to an end.
As we age, our skin becomes thinner, drier, and less elastic and we begin to see more wrinkle formation and appearance of lines.
We also begin to see effects of collagen depletion in other parts of the body:
- Bones – become weaker and more fragile
- Joints – cartilage weakens, making it tough to stay active
- Muscles – function decreases, affecting mobility and balance
While it’s possible to accelerate collagen loss (through poor diet and bad habits), it’s also possible to either slow it down or help replenish what’s been lost. The next sections will cover that.
SOURCES OF COLLAGEN
Since the body stops producting collagen on its own, it can use a little help doing so. Below are some commonly known sources of collagen.
SUPPLEMENTS, SERUMS, & SYNTHETICS:
Despite what the beauty industry will tell you, these are probably some of the least effective options – and therefore our least-recommended.
For supplements, you can find capsules or containers that contain hyrdolized collagen – aka collagen peptides – appearing in a processed powder form. This powder can have a bitter flavor – or “no flavor” that’s still slightly bitter – and dissolves easily in beverages, smoothies, soups, or sauces…or they can be taken with water. There are also newer, chewable forms of collagen supplements that make the same claims.
While labels tout a multitude of benefits, over-the-counter supplements are widely unregulated so it can be risky to down tons of processed products in the hopes of boosting collagen.
Skin creams and serums may be slightly more helpful, but the most a lotion or potion can do is provide a barrier to the outer layer of your skin, helping to reduce water loss and protect from environmental elements.
So, while it’s great to shield the skin from sun damage and other elements, really good skincare begins within.
Synthetics, aka injections and fillers, are demonstrably the most uncomfortable and potentially unsafe option. (More on that below.) While many swear by the immediate or fast-acting effects, collagen injections are not a natural way of supplying the body with a crucial protein. It’s like putting a bandaid on a shark bite.
Because of all the unfounded claims – and the fact that none of the sources above actually reach the collagen layers of the body (at least not in a safe way, for injections), it’s best to nourish skin the way we nourish our bodies: by eating our nutrients
Eat your cake, and your collagen too! (Well, maybe not a lot of cake.)
As with most advice for graceful aging, eating a balanced diet of protein-rich foods (like chicken, beef, eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts and whole grains) and a variety of fresh produce can help reduce the effects of collagen loss.
Foods have been shown as a superior supplement than processed powders when it comes to helping the body naturally produce collagen.
The process also requires vitamin C, zinc, ad copper – which you can get by eating citrus fruits, red and green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and other greens. You can get the minerals by eating meats, shellfish, nuts, whole grains, and beans.
This is, by far, the safest and healthiest option.
THE #1 SOURCE OF COLLAGEN
Shameless plug alert! If you’re familiar with our products at Kettle & Fire, this one will come as no surprise.
Any foods that help create the building blocks you need for optimal skin health (amino acids like proline, lysine, and glycine) are beneficial for a natural beauty routine.
But bone broths – especially those made with high-quality ingredients and cooked slowly for a long period of time to extract collagen – are exceptional in this department, since they not only contain crucial amino acids, but also calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, glucosamine, chondroitin, and many other nutrients.
Plus, bone broth comes in a bioavailable form – meaning the body can make use of it easily and right away.
Pros: The Health Benefits of Collagen Sources
While we can’t travel back in time (yet) and enjoy the spoils of our youth – like perfectly plump, smooth skin – we CAN enjoy the benefits of collagen from its various sources.
We mentiond above that skin creams can provide a barrier from unwanted invaders and damaging elements. This is one of the major benefits of any skincare regime found in the beauty aisle.
Not only that, but supplements can provide additional nutrients to a diet of whole foods, especially if you aren’t able to ingest the amount needed for maximum benefits.
A diet rich in amino acids, plus a dietary supplement if chosen, along with skin-protecting creams can actually help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as improve skin elasticity, hydration, and overall health.
That’s not to say you have to go out and spend obscene amounts of money on all of the above. Diet alone can drastically improve your outer layers, as we stated above.
Improvements in diet also help remedy leaky gut syndrome, by countering inflammatory responses within the body and protecting the good bacteria livig in the large intestine. This has significantly positive effects on the immune system as well.
Not only that, but joint lubrication provided by collagen can help reduce risks associated with physical activity. (Pro-tip: getting more calcium alone isn’t the secret to bone health…it’s the combo of calcium and collagen that REALLY gets the job done.)
Cons: The Risks of Collagen Sources
SHOULD I BE USING A SUPPLEMENT?
Side effects of supplements can range from very minor – i.e. bitter flavor – to extremely severe.
We mentinoed it before, but sourcing matters. In the world of collagen, the supplement industry has overlapped the beauty one, and not all labels are exactly as they seem. Broken promises abound!
If the collagen powder you’re considering doesn’t have clear sourcing information on the packaging, choose a different brand. The potential benefits of collagen definitely don’t outweigh the risk of anaphylaxis.
Other side effects of powdered supplements include upset stomach, feelings of fullness, heartburn, and a lingering bad taste in the mouth. If you experience any of these, stop taking your supplement until the symptoms have subsided. If you’d like to try again, begin with small amounts to allow your body to acclimate. Then you can slowly work your way up to a meaningful dose.
There is still very little proven evidence that supplements provide the benefits they claim. And the same goes for lotions as well. Daily sunscreen and moisturizer with retinoids, retinol, or salicyclic acid (depending on individual needs) can be way more effective than collagen creams alone.
Collagen peptides, which are present in these powder or lotion forms, is created in a highly-processed manner in which the structure of collagen has been broken down to make it water-soluble, resulting in short-chain amino acids.This process severely diminishes the effectiveness of a natural form of collagen.
ARE COLLAGEN FILLERS BAD?
Disclaimer: we’re not knocking trained medical professionals who have conducted the necessary research, have completed extensive training, and who know exactly what they’re doing! There are trusted members within the industry who do a wonderful job of making sure women feel good about the way they look…and we don’t fault them for that!
What we caution is for consumers to not just rely on a quick fix for their faces. These solutions usually come at a (hefty) price, can be incredibly painful, carry the most risk (see our complete list at the bottom of this page), and results are extremely short-term as compared to the longer term benefits of a balanced diet. Not only that, but fillers and the like do very little, if anything, for the rest of the body.
ARE THERE DOWNSIDES TO EATING OR DRINKING COLLAGEN?
As with any consumption, if you have any allergies or aversions to certain foods or nutrients (most commonly shellfish and eggs), you may want to take precautions before changing your diet. Aside from individual aversions, whole food sources are virtually risk-free.
The one thing to note – or watch out for – is the quality of food sources. Just like supplements, foods in processed forms are significantly less effective than those in their natural one.
As for bone broth: the quality of ingredients matter, as well as the duration of the slow simmer. (We might know a reputable place where you can get some high-quality bone broth made from the best stuff on Earth – wink, wink.)
At a Glance: More Pros & Cons to Help You Decide
We’ve laid out some pros and cons for collagen sources above, but here’s a quick, in-depth look at those and more:
Pros of Collagen Sources:
SYNTHETICS & INJECTIONS
- Quick results, with little effort.
- Will not replace collagen, but can counter appearance effects of aging.
- Effective at improving facial features, when done by a trained professional.
SUPPLEMENTS & SERUMS
- Can provide additional nutritional support to a balanced diet.
- Are easy-to-find, and easy to incorporate into daily life.
- Creams can help smooth and protect the outer layers of skin.
- The most natural collagen source.
- Counters the effects of collagen depletion, helping to boost skin elasticity, hydration, and overall health.
- Nutrients can benefit the rest of the body (i.e. the gut, the immune system, the joints, etc.)
- For bone broth, specifically: easy for the body to absorb and use nutrients quickly.
- Extremely easy to incorporate into everyday life, especially if you plan ahead.
- Can provide sustainable energy, enhanced focus, lead to better rest, etc.
- “Feel-good” effects are more lasting.
Cons (Side Effects):
SYNTHETICS & INJECTIONS
- Ow! They hurt.
- They can be really (REALLY) expensive.
- Come with a long list of risks, including: swelling, bleeding, and bruising.
- More dangerous side effects can occur, like infection, scarring, disfigurement, and even more permanent wrinkling. (We’ll take “Counterintuitive” for $5000, please.)
SUPPLEMENTS & SERUMS
- Supplements and powders are part of a largely unregulated market.
- Collagen peptides are highly-processed and this can diminish effectiveness/benefits.
- Labels do not always deliver on promises, or provide necessary or accurate sourcing information.
- Some supplements may be sourced from allergy-inducing ingredients.
- They can leave a bad taste in your mouth. (Supplements, not serums. Please don’t eat lotion.)
- Collagen creams do not reach crucial layers of collagen within the body.
- Allergen potential, but only for certain individuals with aversions to certain types of foods.
- Sourcing concerns; stick with high-quality foods and ingredients and you’ll be A-okay!
- Some foods require larger quantities for optimal collagen support; drinking bone broth is a great way to get the benefits without feeling too full.
Your New Beauty Routine
Now that you know the facts, you can decide which collagen source is best for you. We don’t discourage supplements in addition to diet, but be sure you know the sources to avoid major issues; especially if you have allergies. Use only supplements from reputable brands.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it til the end of time: drinking quality broth is the best way to ensure you’re getting the most effective, cost-friendly, and beneficial collagen support!
Not only that, but you’ll be supporting other processes and functions within the body to help you acheive specific goals, or optimal overall wellness. Cheers to that!
If you need help finding the best bone broth for your beauty needs, we’ve got you covered. Or, if you’re just looking for a variety of flavors to keep things interesting, we can help there too.
GLOWING SKIN BEGINS WITHIN.