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Collagen is undoubtedly a beauty buzzword, but it’s essential for more than just your looks. “Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, making up about 30% of our total body protein," explains Tamar Samuels, RDN, NBC-HWC, co-founder of Culina Health. "It’s found in our muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive organs, and connective tissues, where it gives them their structure and shape and allows them to perform various functions without tearing.” To go back to the beauty part of things, in the skin, this translates to a firmer, smoother complexion, though, as Samuels points out, the protein is imperative for your entire body.
The only issue? Our natural collagen stores deplete as we age, as well as due to exposure to toxins, pollution, sun, and high sugar intake, adds Samuels. Couple that with the fact that most modern diets are lacking in good collagen sources, and enter the benefit of taking a collagen supplement. By replenishing collagen, these can have benefits ranging from, yes, more youthful skin and hair, but also improved digestive health, liver detoxification, and healthier joints, Samuels says. There’s no shortage of options out there, ranging from pills to powder, but when choosing a quality option, the simplest ones are usually the best: “Collagen should always be the first ingredient on the list, and there should be as few ingredients as possible,” says Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Brigid Titgemeier.
Ahead, everything you should look for when shopping for a collagen supplement, according to the experts.
Meet the Expert
- Tamar Samuels, RD, NBC-HWC, is a registered dietitian and national board-certified health and wellness coach). She’s also the co-founder of Culina Health, a non-intimidating space for BIPOC in the field of nutrition.
- Brigid Titgemeier is a Functional Medicine Registered Dietitian who focuses on the transformative power of personalized nutrition. She holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition and a board-certification in integrative and functional nutrition. She was also a founding dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic Center for functional medicine.
What to Look For in a Collagen Supplement
Samuels recommends looking for supplements that are formulated with hydrolyzed collagen which indicates that it’s easier to digest and is more quickly absorbed after ingestion. “It’s also high in the amino acids glycine and proline which are essential for building new collagen in your muscles, bones, and gut,” she adds.
Grass-Fed, Pasture-Raised, and Antibiotic-Free
When shopping for a collagen supplement, Samuels also stresses the importance of choosing a product that’s made from grass-fed, pasture-raised, and antibiotic-free animals to ensure you’re ingesting the healthiest collagen possible. “The collagen shouldn’t contain any additives or fillers,” she says. “Dietary products are not regulated by the FDA, so it’s important to be mindful of the source of your ingredients to avoid excessive exposure to antibiotics, pesticides, and other potentially harmful substances."
Samuels also recommends looking for products with third-party verification to ensure that the product lives up to its claims and contains the ingredients it says it does. “These companies also ensure there aren’t any additional ingredients in the product that aren’t listed on the label,” she says. She suggests looking for verifications by the following credible groups: NSF International, UL, and US Pharmacopeia.
As with any supplement, check with your doctor before taking one, but if you get the thumbs up, here are the best collagen supplements out there.
Best Overall: Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Capsules
Arguably the brand that put ingestible collagen supplements on the map, Vital Proteins offers a litany of different options in various formats, flavors, and more. Both Titgemeier and Samuels are fans of the collagen they use, with Samuels noting that it’s sourced from pasture-raised animals and has no additives or chemicals. She’s a fan of the powder (see at Sephora) for the higher collagen content; these pills contain 3 grams in one serving of six pills, whereas the powder contains 20 grams per serving. Still, these are choice for anyone who wants to get their collagen quickly and easy, without having to mix a powder into food or water.
Best Powder: Great Lakes Gelatin Co. Collagen Hydrolysate Powder
Both Samuels and Titgemeier agree that powder collagen supplements are ideal for incorporating into your daily diet in any number of ways, and both experts like this brand. Not only does it use grass-fed, pasture-raised bovine collagen, it also has no flavor, mixes well with hot and cold liquids, and can be added to many savory and sweet dishes without altering the flavor or texture, points out Samuels.
Best Gummies: Olly Glowing Skin Vitamin Gummies
Trust us, when your daily supplement comes in a yummy gummy form you definitely won’t forget to take it. These are both delicious (with a blueberry and pomegranate flavor) and contain 120 milligrams of collagen peptides, along with hyaluronic acid, and sea buckthorn, a powerful antioxidant. That trifecta makes it an especially choice pick for those looking to reap the skin-enhancing benefits of collagen.
Best Liquid: Vital Proteins Collagen Water
Vital Proteins does it again. Drinking more water is good for your skin, as is collagen, and this ready-to-sip option is the perfect way to score the benefits of both. Each bottle contains 10 grams of bovine collagen and not more than three grams of sugar, plus, there’s no mixing, shaking, or swallowing pills required. Not to mention that it comes in six delicious flavor combos with something to suit every palette, think blueberry mint and lemon ginger.
Best Supplement Alternative: Bonafide Provisions Organic Beef Bone Broth
“It’s always preferable to have a less processed, real food version of a nutrient,” says Samuels, and collagen is no different. Incorporating more foods that aid in collagen formation is a good move—think vitamin C-rich citrus and berries, and sulfur-rich foods such as garlic, onions, and broccoli, adds Titgemeier. That being said, both experts note that bone broth is a super quick and easy way to get more collagen via your diet rather than a pill.
Titgemeier recommends this one, a certified organic broth made from grass-fed, grass-finished beef bones and with minimal seasoning to ensure versatility.
Best On-the-Go Option: HUM Nutrition Collagen POP Tablets
Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue is fan of these dissolvable tabs, which make it easy to get your collagen fix anytime, anywhere. They combine marine collagen with vitamin C (another ingredient that can have great skin benefits when ingested) and dissolve quickly in a glass of water. Bonus points for the yummy strawberry-lemon flavor.
Best Vegan: Rae Wellness Vegan Collagen Boost Capsule
Collagen is primarily animal-derived, most often bovine (from cows) or marine (from fish). This can prove problematic for vegans, who incidentally often need the extra protein boost more than anyone. Enter this vegan option. Rather than containing collagen, it works by helping your body produce more of the protein on its own. It relies on plant-derived collagen boosters, ingredients that contain a variety of the amino acids needed for collagen synthesis. There’s also vitamin C in the mix, as well as vitamin- and mineral-rich bamboo.
Best Marine: NeoCell Marine Collagen
Marine-derived collagen is a great option for pescatarians or those who prefer to avoid red meat. This particular capsule uses both Type 1 and Type 3 collagen; the former is the most abundant kind of collagen in the body, a key component in bones and ligaments, whereas the latter is the main collagen found in the skin. This non-GMO pick also has added hyaluronic acid for skin hydration, though it’s a good option for anyone seeking the holistic benefits of collagen.
Best Bovine: Hum Collagen Love
Grass-fed, pasture-raised bovine collagen peptides are the start of the show here, another good source of both Type 1 and Type 3 collagen. But the benefits don’t stop there, since this formula also boasts several different types of protective antioxidants and hydrating hyaluronic acid. Also noteworthy is the addition of chondroitin sulfate, a substance found in the cartilage of our joints that both aids in collagen production and plays a role in natural skin hydration.
Best With Probiotics: The Beauty Chef Collagen Inner Beauty Boost
Byrdie Social Media Editor Star Donaldson is a fan of this liquid supplement. While it doesn’t contain collagen, it does contain good-for-your skin prebiotics and probiotics, along with a laundry list of different antioxidants and vitamin C that stimulate your body’s natural collagen production. This makes it another great pick for vegans, and it’s also gluten- and refined sugar-free, though Sephora reviewers rave about the natural berry-flavor.
Best for Hair: Objective Wellness Healthy Hair
Collagen is often talked about in relation to skin, but let’s not forget that it’s an important factor for strong and healthy strands, too. Samuels references that one study found that collagen supplementation improved hair volume, shine, thickness, and growth. Here, it’s combined with vitamin C to target scalp and hair follicle health. Coupled with the unique keratin in the formula (the most abundant protein in our hair), popping this pill on the regular can help minimize shedding and increase shine.
Best for Skin: The Nue Co Skin Hydrator
As the saying goes, beauty starts from the inside out, and this supplement definitely can give your complexion a little boost from the inside. It relies on hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid, plus astaxanthin, one of the most potent antioxidants out there. On top of all that, there’s also a blend of ceramides that work to strengthen the skin barrier. Best of all, you only have to take one pill once a day to reap the benefits, namely smoother, plumper, more hydrated skin.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Along with writing about beauty, she also frequently covers health and wellness.