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Collagen is by far one of the buzziest beauty trends in recent years. And we get why! Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body and is essentially responsible for giving skin its structure and support. But once we hit our mid-twenties, its natural production slows, resulting in loss of firmness, bounce, and sagging.
Collagen supplements (i.e. ingestible beauty) may sort of work, but when it comes to topical skincare products like collagen creams, things can get a little murky. We’re not here to feed you false information or pedal proverbial snake oil, but the fact of the matter is that collagen is generally too big a molecule to be absorbed by the skin, making it a little redundant in terms of boosting our own supply. But when combined with other actives, it may firm, condition, and plump the skin. Who doesn't want that?!
What to Look for in a Collagen Cream
Your Skincare Goals
It’s important to understand how collagen functions in topical skincare products, so you can determine if it’s the best way to achieve your skincare goals. "Skincare formulated with collagen plumps, hydrates, and conditions the skin, though they definitely don't increase our collagen levels,” explains facialist and aesthetician Melanie Grant, before adding that “the molecular structure of collagen is far too large to penetrate the skin.” If your goals are to do any of the above, opt for a cream with the ingredient.
SPF, Vitamin C, and Retinol
So if your overarching goal is to increase your own collagen stores (in turn plumping the skin and improving the look of fine lines) Grant suggests looking out for other ingredients like vitamin C, retinol, and SPF: “You want to protect the precious collagen stores that you already have by employing a good quality, broad-spectrum sunscreen to prevent collagen degradation via UV exposure. Vitamin A is a tried and tested ingredient for collagen synthesis, so incorporate a retinol serum into your nighttime routine. For daytime, layer a vitamin C serum underneath your SPF to boost collagen production and protect against free radicals.”
In some instances, you can get a product that not only contains collagen molecules but also one of the above, so keep this in mind when you’re shopping around.
Niacinamide and Hyaluronic Acid
These two ingredients are good boosters to collagen creams because they can help you achieve the short term results of plumping and brightening, while also contributing to better skin long term. According to Dr. Jennifer Hermann, MD, niacinamide, which is also known as vitamin b3, "helps restore cellular energy, repair damaged DNA, and reduce the immunosuppressive effects of sun-induced UV rays."
And hyaluronic acid hydrates the skin in a manner that can make fine lines less visible. Cosmetic chemist Ginger King says, "Hyaluronic acid can draw moisture from air and keep your skin moist, holding almost 1000 times its own weight in water."
Here is an edit of the best collagen creams we can actually get behind—those that will work to give you the bouncy, healthy-looking skin you’re dreaming of (without the BS).
Best Overall: Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream
Bouncy, cushiony texture
More expensive than similar products
The team Byrdie collagen of choice is this fantastic formula from Elemis. The hero ingredient is a marine extract called padina pavonica—known for its ability to hydrate the skin, according to the brand. It has a fresh, bouncy texture and leaves the skin feeling soft and velvety.
Active Ingredients: Padina pavonica, jojoba seed oil | Skin Type: All | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | SPF: None | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Drugstore: L'Oréal Paris Collagen Moisture Filler Day/Night Cream
Plumps skin and visually fills in fine lines
Meant to be used day and night
Not Byrdie Clean
This drugstore favorite is proof that money doesn’t always equal quality in the confusing world of skincare. The wallet-friendly option contains nourishing shea butter plus collagen promising to plump and firm the skin, whilst temporarily filling in fine lines for a smooth makeup result.
Active Ingredients: Shea butter, boswellia serrata extract | Skin Type: All | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | SPF: None | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Splurge: Sisley-Paris Night Cream with Collagen and Woodmallow
Sinks into skin
Plumps skin and visually fills in fine lines
Lovers of luxury skincare will go weak at the knees for this superlative cream from Sisley-Paris. It contains what the brand refers to as soluble collagen, plus woodmallow meant to soften the skin and assist with absorption. There’s no denying the velvety texture of this product will leave your complexion soft, smooth, and luminous.
Active Ingredients: Collagen, woodmallow | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | SPF: None | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Before Makeup: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare C + Collagen Deep Cream
Works well as a primer
Buttery, rich feel
Also contains vitamin C and niacinamide
Byrdie Clean and cruelty-free
If you want to simultaneously boost radiance and firm your complexion, Dr. Dennis Gross has you sorted. Formulated with vitamin C, collagen amino acids, niacinamide, and oils, this product is buttery and comforting and will work to boost collagen production long-term. Use it in the morning to protect and prep the skin for makeup.
Active Ingredients: Vitamin C, niacinamide | Skin Type: All | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | SPF: None | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Sensitive Skin: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Firming Collagen Cream
Helps clear skin
Can feel a little sticky
This cream is a great pick because it contains a slew of skin-clearing and firming ingredients, including peptides, niacinamide, glycerin, and squalane. It’s rich and nourishing, making it a wonderful option for dry/irritated/lackluster skin types.
Active Ingredients: Squalane, niacinamide | Skin Type: All | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | SPF: None | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Dry Skin: Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte's Magic Cream
Works well as a primer
Also contains peptides and vitamins E and C
Not suitable for oily skin
A cult favorite for a reason, Charlotte Tilbury’s Charlotte's Magic Cream is full of nourishing oils to leave the skin primed and glowy. There’s also hyaluronic acid plus vitamins C and E to boost the skin’s natural collagen formation, leaving you looking firm and radiant.
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, vitamins E and C | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 0.5 / 1.7 / 5 fl. oz | SPF: None | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
“The Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte’s Magic Cream is a conditioning moisturizer rich in restorative ingredients that leave the skin softer, smoother, and ready for seamless makeup application.” — Gabrielle Dyer, Product Tester
Best for Mature Skin: Hydropeptide Nimni Face Cream
Also contains retinol
Helps with hyperpigmentation
Expensive per ounce
If you want a one-and-done hero skincare product, look no further than the Nimni Face Cream from Hydropeptide. According to the brand, it contains a patented amino acid complex that is clinically proven to support the skin’s collagen formation, plus time-release retinol to speed up skin cell turnover. And to top it off, there’s even vitamin C to firm and protect from environmental aggressors. How’s that for multipurpose?
Active Ingredients: Amino acids, retinol | Skin Type: All | Size: 0.5 fl. oz | SPF: None | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Normal Skin: Peter Thomas Roth FIRMx Collagen Moisturizer
Contains several types of collagen
Could be more moisturizing
Marine collagen, plant collagen, and hydrolyzed collagen come together in this super formula that claims to firm and smooth the skin over time. Outside of the actual collagen, there’s also a stack of ingredients meant to support natural collagen formation— including peptides, collagen amino acids, and hydroxyproline.
Active Ingredients: Marine, plant, and hydrolyzed collagen | Skin Type: Oily | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | SPF: None | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No
Best for Combination Skin: Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Face Moisturizer
Not Byrdie Clean
Drugstore moisturizers don’t get much better than this. Rich in skin firming ingredients, like collagen peptides and tremella extract, it will leave you looking healthy, luminous, and fresh. While it’s nourishing, the texture is actually quite light, making it an optimal pick for combination skin types.
Active Ingredients: Collagen peptides, niacinamide | Skin Type: Combination | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | SPF: None | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: No
Best With SPF: Mario Badescu Collagen Moisturizer SPF 15
Works well under makeup
Could be more hydrating
This simple, creamy moisturizer is a nice starter product for anyone looking to plump out fine lines. It does contain a form of collagen plus cottonseed oil meant to hydrate. While it doesn’t contain any heavy-hitting ingredients, it’s a lovely product under makeup.
Active Ingredients: 2% avobenzone, 7.5% octinoxate, 5% oxybenzone | Skin Type: All | Size: 2 fl. oz | SPF: 15 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best for Fine Lines: Moon Juice Cosmic Cream
Plumps and nourishes skin
Leaves skin looking dewy
Moon Juice is known and loved for its acid potion (a worthy P50 dupe), but we’re low-key obsessed with the Cosmic Cream as well. The idea is that it protects the skin’s natural collagen formation thanks to the inclusion of ashwagandha and schisandra. Plus the super fluffy texture leaves the skin looking glassy.
Active Ingredients: Ashwagandha, schisandra | Skin Type: All | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | SPF: None | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Unscented: Derma E Advanced Peptides and Collagen Moisturizer
Rich, nourishing formula
Soothes and hydrates
Okay, we know this isn’t exactly a household skincare name but upwards of 1000 5-star reviews on Amazon have to count for something, right? While it contains essential oils, there are also peptides and skin-soothing panthenol and jojoba meant to nourish. And at roughly $35 a pop, the price hits right as well.
Active Ingredients: Collagen peptides, vitamins B, C, and E | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 2 fl. oz | SPF: None | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes
For team Byrdie, three collagen creams truly stand out: Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream (view at Dermstore), Peter Thomas Roth FIRMx Collagen Moisturizer (view at Sephora), and Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte's Magic Cream (view at Charlotte Tilbury). We love Elemis for its unrivaled hydration powers, Peter Thomas Roth because not only does it contain collagen, but peptides and smaller amino acids meant to preserve skin integrity. And finally, there’s Charlotte Tilbury, one of the most luxurious skin conditioning creams we’ve ever tried.
Is collagen cream the same as moisturizer?
How can I rebuild collagen in my face?
As discussed, our skin loses collagen over time, which can cause sagging and wrinkles. Beyond using collagen creams to try to help restore the appearance of our skin, healthy lifestyle habits may contribute to slower collagen loss. Eating less sugar, quitting smoking, and using sunscreen regularly all may be beneficial for slowing down wrinkles.
What are the symptoms of lack of collagen?
What causes skin's depletion of collagen?
In addition to happening naturally (losing collagen is a part of life), lifestyle choices can also contribute to the depletion of collagen. Among those, smoking, drinking, and a diet that isn't nutrient-rich "can cause the collagen and elastin in our skin to decrease, leading it to become rigid and less effective—thus causing wrinkles, uneven leathery texture in the skin, and breakouts," according to estheticians.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Emily Algar is not here to tell you that collagen in topical skincare will fix all your problems because it won't. But she will say that collagen in skincare, when combined with other actives, can visibly improve the look of skin (and believe her when she says she's tried it all). Emily has also called on skin expert Melanie Grant to support these claims.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any collagen creams from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.