Can Eating Collagen Really Improve Your Complexion?


There’s barely an influencer alive who hasn’t sung the praises of edible. And a quick search online produces hundreds of products, alongside reviews that make it sound like a miracle-worker. Now, we’re down for glowy skin, but given our beauty dollars aren’t limitless (because, budget), we decided to find out if it really works before splashing out. But first, some basics.

Collagen is the main structural protein in our skin — think of it as scaffolding for your face. When your natural collagen production starts to deplete with age and environmental damage, fine lines and sagging happen. “The skin is a complex organ,” says Cate Lilja, a naturopathic scientist and co-founder of Optima Nutricosmetics. “It’s our first line of defence against the environment and pathogens, and it’s worth noting there are plenty of dietary nutrients that play an important role in skin health.” For instance, a balanced diet that includes potent antioxidants (tomatoes and blueberries), vitamin C (oranges) and essential fatty acids (salmon) is imperative for collagen production.

As for actually ingesting the collagen, the kind found in pills, snacks, gummies and powders tends to be marine-derived (from either farmed or wild fish), which has shown promise in clinical trials. “Several high-quality peer-reviewed clinical trials in humans have shown significant improvement in skin hydration, firmness and elasticity,” says Lilja.

Anna Lahey, founder of Vida Glow, also notes, “Studies on marine collagen have shown significant improvement to the quality of hair and nails, too.”

The most obvious question is, how does the collagen find its way from your gut to your face? “We don’t completely understand the biochemical pathways behind these benefits,” says Dr Jaroslav Blazek, founder of The Beauty Shake. “However, several studies have used radioactively labelled collagen peptides, following them from the intestines to the dermis, where they help stimulate collagen and elastin synthesis.” As for how long it takes to see results, Keira Rumble, certified nutrition adviser and founder of Krumbled Foods, says that “while everyone’s body reacts differently, studies show you need to stick with a regimen for a bare minimum of eight weeks”. That is, as long as you consume enough. Five grams daily is good; 10 grams might be even better.

Our verdict: while a balanced diet has an undeniable effect on skin health and radiance, we’re pleasantly surprised by the science behind eating collagen. So, bottoms up.

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