Jan 29, 2021 · 4 min read
What exactly is a collagen peptide? Does consuming collagen benefit your skin?
As someone who writes about all-things-skincare, I’m familiar with all of the popular myths about collagen-infused products. I’ve heard it before: collagen plays a role in our body beyond our skin, so adding an extra serving to your diet supposedly has all sorts of health benefits.
Here’s the truth: even though collagen supplements are a go-to dietary supplement for many, we don’t know if they have any benefits for your skin. We need more research. Here’s what we know so far about collagen peptides.
Collagen is the protein that helps give our body structure. With its fellow protein, elastin, it gives our skin its, well, elasticity. In the skin, it helps maintain strength and firmness. And it’s the most plentiful protein in our body, helping to build and connect our bodies (bones included).
Peptides and proteins are both made up of the same building blocks: amino acids. The difference between them is that a peptide contains up to 50 amino acids while a protein has 50 or more.
Collagen peptides (also known as hydrolyzed collagen) are broken down pieces of collagen proteins. They’re often sold as a powder-based dietary supplement that you can mix into whatever you’re already drinking — or eating! (Collagen peptide soup, anyone?)
Does eating more collagen lead to younger looking skin? We don’t know for certain — yet.
In 2018, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study on edible collagen found that it can potentially be used to improve “skin hydration, elasticity, and wrinkling.” But you don’t need to buy a special supplement to get the benefits of oral collagen! You can get collagen from eating protein-rich foods (think meats, cheese, eggs, and beans).
The collagen in our bodies gradually breaks down over time. And we can only control some of the causes for this breakdown.
Eating collagen can only do so much — it gets broken down by the digestive system into individual amino acids, which then get absorbed into the rest of our body. In other words, collagen peptides might not do more than eating an extra helping of beans.
If you think you’d benefit from an extra helping of collagen, talk to your in-person medical provider about what makes sense for you! And be sure to practice sun safety to help protect your skin from UV damage, which can lead to collagen loss and signs of premature aging.
It might be more beneficial to try to stimulate collagen production through topicals. But topical collagen isn’t an effective skincare ingredient. Collagen molecules in skincare products are far too large to be absorbed into the skin. This means that topical collagen products are likely of no benefit. Instead, seek out skincare products featuring vitamin C and tretinoin, two collagen-stimulating ingredients. Here's how they work.
Vitamin C treats firmness and wrinkles by acting as a shield against aging. Vitamin C also promotes collagen growth, fights wrinkles, and helps clean up the damage from UV rays. It's a great option if you’re building your skincare routine with fully over-the-counter products (as opposed to ones prescribed by your dermatology provider). I use a vitamin C serum, since I can just add a couple drops to my SPF to get the antioxidant benefits my skin craves.
Tretinoin is a prescription-strength retinoid that’s often considered the gold standard in stimulating collagen production, treating and helping prevent wrinkles, and even clearing up acne. It’s only available through a prescription, but if you can’t get to an in-person doctor, teledermatology is an option!
When you sign up for Curology, your first month is free — just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover shipping + handling. Take a quick skincare quiz and snap a few selfies, and you’ll be matched with one of our in-house medical providers, licensed to practice in your state. They’ll prescribe you a custom cream with a mix of up to 3 active ingredients for your skin concerns, and you can complete your routine by adding on any product from the Curology line at no extra cost.