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3 things you need to know before buying a collagen supplement

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Photo: Stocksy/Lyuba Burakova

There’s a reason why there’s so much buzz around collagen protein: Fans say that when it comes to beauty benefits, it’s perhaps the closest there is to a fountain of youth, reputedly doing serious wrinkle-reducing and skin-smoothing magic.

The fibrous protein, sourced from grass-fed cows, chickens, fish, and certain plant sources, has a rep for bestowing not just a major glow, but also stronger nails and even shinier hair. (Jennifer Aniston, who scoops it into her a.m. smoothie, raves about the results.)

And its effects are more than skin-deep (think: strong bones and better digestion). “It’s a major structural component of the human body—30 percent of the body’s protein is collagen,” says Tonja Lipp, a nutritionist and collagen expert who doubles as a top science guru for Gelita, a German collagen supply company.

And now, thanks to its growing health-and-beauty cred, the prized ingredient is popping up in more places, like ready-to-eat nutrition bars and powders that boost everything from your water to a latte.

But how do you know you’re getting good collagen? As more brands hop on the trend in powder, liquid, and capsule form, it can be tricky to navigate this new crop of drinkable beauty products.

And just to complicate things, collagen isn’t closely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. (It also isn’t cheap: A one-pound tub runs $40-plus.) So I consulted some experts to get their best buying tips for this super-buzzy protein.

Scroll down for 3 things to keep in mind when you’re shopping for collagen protein.

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Photo: Stocksy/Renáta Dobránska

1. Evaluate the color and smell

Reserveage Nutrition founder Naomi Whittel, who has been studying collagen for the past 20 years, advises to steer clear of anything yellow, brown, or another tinted color—that’s one way to spot less-than-premium quality.

If you’re buying a collagen in powder form, Whittel says it should be colorless (when mixed with water) and tasteless. “This shows how pure it is,” she adds.

Evaluating color and taste is the easiest way to find the best brands—especially since the aisles at your health food and clean beauty stores are getting crowded. “Beauty from the inside out has always been a small market,” she says. “Even a couple years ago it only made up three percent of the market. Now, it’s really starting to trend, which is why knowing how to buy good quality collagen is important to understand.”

how to find the right collagen supplements
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2. Pay attention to dosage—and how it makes you feel

Since collagen is already naturally produced in your body, Whittel and Lipp both say adding a supplement to your diet shouldn’t make you feel weird or cause any gut problems whatsoever. “If it’s hard on your body, it’s not the quality you want,” Whittel notes.

And you shouldn’t have to take scoop after scoop of it either. Both experts agree that 2.5 grams a day is enough to see a difference in your skin. So if a company is pushing a much bigger dose at you, it’s a red flag that they may be more interested in your money than your health. 

Dirty Lemon
Photo: Dirty Lemon

3. Choose a science-backed supplement

Another important tip: Look for products with science-backed studies where the actual supplement was tested. That way you know the amino acid profile has been studied, down to a T.

“So many companies say their collagen [supplement] is science-based, but when you look at their research, you see they’re just applying the uses of collagen in general and not their specific product. That means there’s no connection between the science and the product they’re selling,” Whittel says. Some other brands that have done their homework:  Bulletproof, Dirty Lemon, Beauty Scoop, Sparkle, and Primal Kitchen.

Another (delicious) way to get your fill of the in-demand nutrient? Just fill up on bone broth. (There’s even a k-cup for that.) Either way, you’ll be giving your daily hydration routine a protein-packed makeover.

While you’re rethinking your supplements, find out if spray vitamins are the way to go. Plus, these are the probiotics that will give you your best skin yet.

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