A Derm Says This Is How Much Collagen to Take to Make up for Its Loss Over Time

Photo: Getty Images/Westend61
Google searches for "How much collagen should I take?" have hit an all-time high. The reason? Once the skin-supporting supplement 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 protein-building products, including one I can slather onto my skin to stimulate the stuff topically (try: Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide serum, $30), another to blend into my smoothie (Vital Proteins Collagen Peptide Powder, $18), and a third to chew for good measure (Vital Proteins' collagen gummies, $18.)

Experts In This Article
  • Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology and associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital
  • Natalie Aguilar, celebrity esthetician and dermatological nurse
  • Whitney Bowe, MD, board-certified dermatologist based in New York

The reason collagen has become so popular is that, while the human body already has plenty of collagen within it—it's the main component of bones, connective tissue, and skin—as we age, our natural stores of the structural protein dwindle. And because collagen is responsible for smooth, younger-looking skin, stronger joints and bones, and enhanced muscle mass, people beeline for Google to research daily collagen intake in hopes of restoring the depleting protein.

To save you from falling down a rabbit hole of scholarly articles, we chatted with a few dermatologists and skin experts to uncover the benefits of collagen, how much collagen you should take, and more. So, without further ado, learn the best next steps on your collagen journey.

Benefits of collagen

Before diving into the ins and outs of collagen production and depletion, let's first explore why daily collagen intake is important to begin with. According to the Cleveland Clinic, collagen accounts for 30 percent of the body's protein and is responsible for providing structure, strength, and support for the skin, bones, joints, and muscles.

“Collagen is a crucial protein that our body makes to maintain our skin's elasticity and strength,” says RN and celebrity aesthetician Natalie Aguilar. “Ingestible collagen supplements, such as collagen powders, pills, and gels, claim to provide benefits to the skin by stimulating collagen production. When we supplement our bodies with ingestible collagen, our body breaks it down into amino acids that are then absorbed, transported, and utilized.” 

The true impact of ingestible and topical collagen is still up for debate, though. “It is a topic of ongoing research and discussion,” Aguilar says. “It is unknown how much of the collagen ingested actually reaches the skin. Additionally, factors such as the type of collagen, dosage, and individual variability might influence the outcomes.”

With this in mind, she says anecdotally, some people find the benefits of collagen to be positive, including visible and physical benefits to skin, such as hydration, elasticity, and an overall more plump look. “Some really see the difference when taking a collagen supplement, while others might not,” she admits.

The different types of collagen

It's worth mentioning that the benefits of collagen depend on the type at play. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the top five types of collagen are as follows:

  • Type I. This type makes up 90% of your body’s collagen. Type I is densely packed and used to provide structure to your skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments.
  • Type II. This type is found in elastic cartilage, which provides joint support.
  • Type III. This type is found in muscles, arteries, and organs.
  • Type IV. This type is found in the layers of your skin.
  • Type V. This type is found in the cornea of your eyes, some layers of skin, hair, and the tissue of the placenta.

“There are at least 28 different types of collagens that occur naturally in our body, and then there are six different supplement origins: Marine (fish and fish scales), bovine (cow), vegan (plants), porcine (pig), chicken, and lastly eggshell membrane collagen,” Aguilar says. “They are all different and unique to the types of collagen found in them. For example, chicken collagen is rich in collagen type 2, while eggshell membrane is rich in collagen type 1.”

Typically, collagen supplements include a mix of types to encourage comprehensive results.

Why does collagen naturally deplete over time?

Now that you know about the different types of collagen and how they can benefit the body and face, you might be dreading the idea of it depleting. You may also be wondering why the protein depletes in the first place.

"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." Genetics play a role here, but Dr. Zeichner notes that "environmental exposures like UV light and pollution can also cause damage to collagen, leading to early wrinkling."

So, how much collagen should you take?

At this point, you're likely itching for an answer to your burning question: How much collagen should I take 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.

Something to remember is that it's a form of protein. "So when you're trying to determine how much 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." (That's not grams of collagen, mind you, but protein in general, which includes collagen sources.)

When looking at collagen specifically, Aguilar reminds us there isn't a standard recommended daily allowance (RDA) for the protein “because it is not considered an essential nutrient like vitamins or minerals,” she says. That means there is no "required" collagen dosage based on your age or sex, either.

Some widely cited research from 2019 says adults can safely take between 2.5 and 15 grams of collagen per day, but this was just one study, and those numbers don't apply to everyone. In fact, a 2020 paper in Cureus notes that there are many safety concerns surrounding skin supplements, including ones with collagen, particularly due to interactions with other medications, a lack of third-party testing of supplements, and insufficient warnings on labels. So, if you're considering taking a collagen supplement, your best bet is to consult with your doctor or health care professional to determine what's best for you and your goals.

For her part, Dr. Bowe recommends no more than two scoops of collagen powder per day (with each scoop containing about 20 milligrams of the protein).

How to add more collagen into your diet

Nowadays, many, many collagen supplements exist thanks to them becoming a trending wellness topic. That said, Dr. Bowe always recommends honing your diet before reaching for powders of pills. "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."

Aguilar agrees. “You can obtain collagen from food sources without having to take a supplement,” she says. “Collagen is a protein found abundantly in various animal tissues. Some collagen-rich food sources include bone broth, chicken skin, fish, and egg whites.”

At the end of the day, it's important to remember that, like all supplements, collagen is best used to supplement your diet—not replace it.

Can you take too much collagen, and what are the side effects?

Collagen is generally safe to use but because it is pricey and your body can only do so much with it at a given time, it's best to stick to the product's recommended daily serving size and to not double up on similar products while doing so.

“When taken in amounts larger than the recommended dose, collagen supplements can cause gas, bloating, and other digestive issues,” Aguilar says. “Collagen supplements, especially bovine collagen, can cause high calcium levels, which could be of concern to those already getting sufficient calcium intake from their diet or other supplements.”

Aguilar says the supplements can also interfere with certain medications, including blood thinners, calcium channel blockers, diabetes medications, and certain antibiotics. 

“Always check with your doctor about collagen supplements, especially if you are on other medication,” she emphasizes.

How long does it take to see benefits?

If you find you still want to incorporate collagen into your daily routine, know this: It’s not a miracle supplement—it requires patience to see results.

From experience, it takes an average of three months to see complexion benefits from taking collagen,” Aguilar says. “Hair, nails, joint health, and skin health all start to improve within the first few weeks, but the three-month mark is when it becomes noticeable.”

That said, she reminds us that the time it takes and the resulting benefits vary with each individual, as well as with the quality of the chosen product.

—reviewed by Jennifer Gilbert, MD, MPH 

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