In this era of Kardashian, collagen has becomeÂ synonymous with wrinkle fillers and lip injections. But for a group of forward-thinking women (and men!), the protein is the secret behind their glowing, gorgeous complexionâwith nary a needle in sight.
Indeed, collagenâmost derived from bovine sources and sometime chickens and fish scalesâhas become the beauty drink du jour (part of a larger trend we’ve been seeing towards sippable products), with everyone from the founder of Bulletproof to Jennifer Aniston herself singing its praises. But is the hype justified?
The lowdown on collagen
Collagen is a fibrous protein that’s a key component of your skinâit helps keep your dermis youthful and resilient (as well as lubricate your joints and, according to some, aid in digestion). It’s also jam-packed with “nonessential” amino acids that are actually pretty important in keeping the body functioning smoothly, like sleep-boosting glycine, as well as the skin, namely proline and hydroxyproline.
Alas, as we age, collagen starts to break down, which is why cosmetic docsÂ use itÂ as a soft-tissue filler to help erase linesâand, yes, give some women Angelina Jolie-esque cheeks and lips.
But unfortunate plastic surgery associations aside, collagen has promisingÂ holistic beauty applications. To wit:Â A recent review found that supplementing with oral collagen peptides significantly increased skin hydration after eight weeks, and boosted collagen density in half that time.
Why drinkÂ your collagen?
The ingestible collagen craze started, as offbeat beauty trends often do, inÂ Asia, where brands like Shiseido and Amore Pacific have been selling collagen powders, drinks, and supplements for years. In the US, theÂ bone broth phenomenon warmed us up toÂ the idea of drinking our collagen, and more recently, Western brands have startedÂ to roll out beautifying supplements featuring the power proteinâmore on that in a minute.
âCollagen protein is unique, in that it has high amounts of the amino acids glycine, proline, and lysine, which are essential for the formation and repair of connective tissues, repair of bone matrix and joint surfaces, support of healthy skin and hair, and more,â raves Dave Asprey, the mad scientist behind the Bulletproof Coffee craze. BulletproofÂ sells aÂ collagen protein supplement ($39.95) that can be stirred into coffee, tea, soups, stews, smoothies, or plain oldÂ water.
Sipping collagen, rather than applying it topically or injecting it, provides the entire body with the building blocks it needs to support the creationÂ and repair of the bodyâs connective tissues, Asprey saysâa process that starts to break down once you hit your mid-20s. Providing your entire system with collagen, he explains, can help kickstart it again.
How does drinking collagen help your own skin make more collagen?
Reserveage founder and CEO Naomi Whittel concurs explains what happens to your skin when you sip it: “When you ingest science-based hydrolyzed collagen, you increase the pool ofÂ special amino acids available to the cells in your body that make collagen,” explains Whittel, who’s a font of injestible skin-care know-how and formulates collagen powders and supplements from a white-lab-coat perspective. “In the skin, the fibroblasts in the dermal layer produce the collagen, so flooding the body with [collagen] canÂ stimulate or optimize [your own] collagenÂ formation, especially in cases where the supply is declining due to age or diet.”
A mega-trend in the making
Asprey’s a big believer that ingestible collagen is going to be a huge trend in the beauty world, which has caught up to the idea that, as he puts it, âphysical appearance begins on the inside.” And given that he introduced usÂ to an entirely new way of sipping coffee, he’s got some serious trend-spotting cred.
Whittel of Reserveage, probably the category leader in collagen you can sip, and newcomer Dirty LemonÂ certainly agree. The functional beverage brand (buzzed about in its own right) isÂ putting the finishing touches on a new product, Dirty Lemon Skin+Hair, which placesÂ marine collagen front and center. (âOur marine collagen is derived from fish scales, which sounds gross,” laughs the Dirty Lemon’s founder, Zak Normandin. “But itâs odorless and tasteless.â)
âTopical collagen just affects one specific area of the body, but ingestible collagen helps with overall healthy skin,â he adds.Â SoÂ not only do the appearance of wrinkles begin to fade, butÂ even younger women who might not yet be stressed about frown lines can benefit from skin thatâs smoother and glowing.
Also trying to makeÂ collagen drinksÂ indispensable is Fountain’s Phyto-Collagen MoleculeÂ beverage ($34.48) combines drinkableÂ collagen with nutrient-dense wild phytoplankton, L-Glutathione (reputed to be a super antioxidant), and ultra-moisturizing hyaluronic acid.
And best-selling Reserveage Collagen ReplenishÂ powdered drink mixÂ ($13.99) includes an added boost of skin-brightening vitamin C with its collagen, hyaluronic acid, and proprietary skin-plumping peptides.
The company also just debuted a new vegan form of collagen-boosting supplements, which is “monumental in the category,” says Reserveage’s Whittel. It contains plant-based sources of amino acids.
All of which means that the day when collagen is synonymous with holistic beautyâand not fake-lookingÂ fillersâmay soon be at hand.
Collagen’s not the only supplement that gives good skinâtheseÂ three plant-based powdersÂ are alsoÂ known to impart a particularly stellarÂ glow. Or, try addingÂ more of these complexion-boosting foods to your diet.