Once collagen became a hot-ticket wellness item, everyone—including moi—started hoarding it in either liquid, supplement, or gummy form. On my desk as we speak, there are a total of three collagen products, including one I can slather onto my skin to stimulate the stuff topically, another to blend into my smoothie, and a third to chew for good measure. The thing is, your body already has plenty of collagen within it—it’s the main component of your bones, connective tissue, and your skin.
The reason why it’s blown up as a sort of diet or vitamin staple is because that vault you have within you is constantly being subtracted from your system (sorry). As we age—along with plenty of other factors—collagen is broken down and the production of new protein slows. So yes, we’re always making more of the stuff, but at the same time, we’re constantly depleting it as well.
“Our skin cells continually make new collagen to help support the structure of the skin,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York. “After the age of 30, however, collagen production and cell turnover starts to slow down, contributing to the natural aging process. Plus, environmental exposures like UV light and pollution can also cause damage to collagen, leading to early wrinkling.”
Besides that, general lifestyle factors contribute to collagen loss as well: “Diet, water intake, and sleep affect your collagen levels along with the biggest culprit being the sun,” says Louise Marchesin, global head of marketing at liquid collagen brand Skinade. “It also must be mentioned that genetics play an important part in how your skin will age.” .
So all of this kind of begs the question: How much collagen should you be taking in order to compensate for all of its loss? Just like with other supplements, the amount you should take can vary. “If your body’s breaking down collagen more rapidly due to factors including your exercise regimen, your environment, and your stress levels, you might want to consider adjusting your collagen intake through your daily diet and supplementation to help your body and skin regain balance,” says Whitney Bowe, MD, a board-certified dermatologist who works with Body Kitchen Collagen.
“If your body’s breaking down collagen more rapidly due to various factors, you might want to consider adjusting your collagen intake.” —Dr. Whitney Bowe
Something to remember is that collagen is a form of protein. “So when you’re trying to determine how much collagen you need, the first step is to calculate how much protein your body needs daily,” explains Dr. Bowe. “A good general rule is to aim to get about as many grams of protein as your weight in pounds.” And incorporated into this mix would be the amount of collagen that you’re consuming as well (not the collagen alone, mind you).
On a more general level, Dr. Bowe says the magic number is two scoops of collagen powder daily. “It’s really not recommended to take more than that,” she says, noting that there are 20 milligrams of collagen in each scoop. A-ha.
It’s important to take into consideration, though, that your collagen levels do decrease with age. “Our collagen production starts to slow down from our early twenties at the rate of one to one and a half percent a year,” says Marchesin.
So to supplement your daily collagen supplement routine, look for incorporating more of it into your diet in an organic way. “Most people are not getting enough collagen from their regular diet,” says Dr. Bowe. “If you’re not a salmon skin eater, for example, then I would definitely consider trying some bone broth, which is rich in collagen-building amino acids.” Besides that, stick to the golden number of scoops in your daily regimen and you’ll be golden.
As for other useful supplements, here’s the lowdown on krill oil vs. fish oil. And these are the best supplements to take for a boost in your mental health, according to an MD.
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