Collagen drinks and collagen-infused coffees and cereal bars are very popular. Experts believe the global market will hit US$7.4 billion by 2020, driven by a “beauty from within” trend and aggressive ads that claim that these nutrients are absorbed faster in the bloodstream than when applied on the face.
But is it all just marketing hype?
Collagen: Before you drink it – understand it
I believe that everything you drink, eat, or put on your face is a personal choice, but please make it an informed choice. The word “collagen” is in every anti-aging campaign, but knowing what it is, how it works, and how collagen products can help your skin can help you see the truth behind any product’s claims.
Collagen is a protein in your skin that maintains its structure and elasticity. It comprises about 75% of your skin, but by the time we reach our twenties, we start losing 1.5% of our collagen every year! Sun exposure and environmental hazards can also break down collagen. Our bodies will replace collagen, but fibroblasts – our body’s “collagen factories” – become less efficient as we grow older. That’s when we start seeing fine lines and loss of radiance (when our skin is less firm, the light doesn’t bounce off as beautifully), and finally, sagging and deep wrinkles.
How collagen drinks work
Anti-aging creams work either by temporarily hydrating and plumping the outer skin layer, and/or penetrating deeper into the skin to activate collagen production. Collagen drinks claim to be effective because they deliver collagen fragments directly into the bloodstream. Some of them also provide other skin-boosting ingredients – hyaluronic acid, resveratrol, and other antioxidants – for the skin-equivalent of pizza delivery: “All this goodness, delivered to your doorstep!”
The natural question is how the body will process ingredients once it’s ingested. Critics say that will simply break them down like it does any other protein, such as meat, cheese, or eggs. Others say that any collagen fragments will be subjected to digestive enzymes, which will significantly affect their form and ability to significantly restore or repair skin.
Clinical trials of these drinks are not extensive or conclusive, and many testimonials are from customers who may have made other lifestyle changes – good diet, exercise, use of other skin creams – that could affect the quality of their skin. Also note that supplements and homeopathic remedies are not scrutinized by the FDA, and companies are not mandated to submit their products to dermatologists for review.
Bottom line: is it worth it?
Collagen drinks may hold promise, but as a consumer, we need to weigh the possible benefits with the cost and the effect we are looking for right now. Does that “beauty concoction” of collagen or nutrients fight aging better than drinking regular water and snacking on a regular apple or slice of cheese? Are you better off saving your dollars on a good skincare regimen? That is all up to you. But here are the facts: there is no clinical, independent, long-term evidence that collagen drinks can fight aging, and yet there are decades of evidence of doctor saying that a balanced diet, consistent skincare, and liberal doses of sunscreen work.
Your natural alternative
There is truth that your body needs nutrients to make healthy cells, but collagen drinks are not the only way to get them. You can get antioxidants from fruits and vegetables that can help your body produce collagen. These include tomatoes, grapefruit and watermelon (which are rich in lycopene, that helps prevent collagen degeneration), and broccoli, leafy greens and cauliflower (which contain glucosinolates, that attack free radicals that affect our collagen). Any food that is rich in omega-3 fatty acid (such as oily fish) has anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects that improve your skin barrier and protect against environmental damage. In other words, you can eat or drink your way to better skin – but you can get it from ingredients that are already in your pantry.
Again, I have always said that the choice is yours. Fill your mind with information, and fill your grocery basket with what you feel works best for you. If a collagen drink seems effective and interesting enough for you try, by all means, go ahead. But remember that skincare is never as easy as drinking as just one thing. There is no miracle drink, anti-aging potion, or superfood – just diet and lifestyle choices that add up and give you a well-earned glow.
Mei Hui - Managing Director/Pharmacist