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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.
There is some evidence to suggest collagen supplements (i.e. ingestible beauty) 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 absolutely can firm, condition, and plump the skin.
So 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).
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Best Overall: Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream
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 and lessening the look of lines and wrinkles. It has a fresh, bouncy texture and leaves the skin feeling soft and velvety.
Best Drugstore: L'Oréal Paris Collagen Moisture Filler Day/Night Cream
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 to plump and firm the skin, whilst temporarily filling in fine lines for a smooth makeup result.
Best Splurge: Sisley-Paris Night Cream with Collagen and Woodmallow
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 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.
Best Before Makeup: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare C + Collagen Deep Cream
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.
Best for Sensitive Skin: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Firming Collagen Cream
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.
Best for Dry Skin: Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte's Magic Cream
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.
Best for Mature Skin: Hydropeptide Nimni Face Cream
If you want a one-and-done hero skincare product, look no further than the Nimni Face Cream from Hydropeptide. 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?
Best for Normal Skin: Peter Thomas Roth FIRMx Collagen Moisturizer
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 to support natural collagen formation—peptides, collagen amino acids, and hydroxyproline.
Best for Combination Skin: Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Face Moisturizer
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.
Best With SPF: Mario Badescu Collagen Moisturizer SPF 15
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 to hydrate. While it doesn’t contain any heavy-hitting ingredients, it’s a lovely product under makeup.
Best for Fine Lines: Moon Juice Cosmic Cream
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.
Best Unscented: Derma E Advanced Peptides and Collagen Moisturizer
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 to nourish. And at $20 a pop, the price hits right as well.
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 to preserve skin integrity. And finally, there’s Charlotte Tilbury, one of the most luxurious skin conditioning creams we’ve ever tried.
What to Look for When Buying a Collagen Cream
Your Skincare Goals
So first and foremost, it’s important to understand how collagen functions in topical skincare products, and if it’s the best way to achieve your goals. According to facialist and aesthetician Melanie Grant, “skincare formulated with collagen plumps, hydrates, and conditions the skin, though they definitely don't increase our collagen levels,” she explains, before adding that “the molecular structure of collagen is far too large to penetrate the skin.”
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 one of the above, so keep this in mind when you’re shopping around.
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.