Collagen is a bona fide skin-boosting star. For a while now, the protein has been coveted by beauty aficionados and celebrities alike, sprinkled into smoothies, gulped down in supplement form, and even infused into pillowcases all in the name of a more radiant complexion. That's great and all, but the superstar ingredient also happens to be kind of polarizing—because it excludes vegans and vegetarians.
"Collagen has been recognized for its powerful ability to boost glow and radiance by increasing skin elasticity for a youthful bounce," says Angela Caglia, celebrity facialist and Tweezerman skin-care ambassador. "It's a natural, abundant, and essential part of the composition of all of our bodies, and helps to provide support to our bones, muscles, and especially our skin." The thing is, it's most commonly made from animal byproducts.
"Vegans can certainly get the same benefits as those who ingest collagen." —Dendy Engelman, MD
That's not to say that everyone can't enjoy its benefits—the more inclusive ways are just going to be slightly different. "Vegans can certainly get the same benefits as those who ingest collagen, but the ways will work differently than collagen sourced from bovine or fish," says Dendy Engelman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. "Usually they use phytoceramides and silica to support collagen synthesis as opposed to introducing collagen into the bloodstream. These ingredients help replenish lipids for supple skin." Of course, she notes that most studies on the skin benefits are about collagen sourced from fish or bovine.
The easiest way to still reap the benefits of the protein actually comes from what you put on your plate. "There are a wealth of fruits and vegetables that offer collagen-boosting nutrients," says Caglia. "I love to recommend to my clients to eat lots of veggies and fruits high in vitamin A and C that help reduce inflammation and help make collagen in the body." She also recommends incorporating foods like almonds, spinach, kale, papaya, berries, and mushrooms into your diet for a glow (Dr. Engelman also advizes to eat fruits, leafy greens, and nuts). "The protein in avocado helps support the structures of collagen and elastin in your skin while the fat keeps your skin hydrated," adds Dr. Engelman.
You could also pop some alt-collagen supplements. "The demand for vegetarian and vegan collagen supplements has brought some wonderful products to the market," says Caglia. "Collagen Inner Beauty Boost by The Beauty Chef and MyKind Organics' Vegan Collagen Builder are great alternatives to animal collagen protein for boosting skin's natural collagen production from the inside out." So good news, vegans—you don't have to be left out.
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