Collagen supplements have flooded shelves of grocery and health-food stores—and if you’ve been confused by which to try and trust, you’re not alone. Even if you have Supergirl vision that can see through clever marketing and convincing promises, the sheer amount of collagen products out there can muddy your normally astute and discriminating decision-making. We did the due diligence to provide you peace of mind and separate the truly good from the copycats.
Our Criteria for Picking Collagen Supplements
In order to recommend the best collagen supplements, we put some of the most popular brands to the test. Here’s how we chose the best supplements for you.
- We checked the FDA database. The FDA keeps records on the companies they reprimand for violations.
- We checked for third-party testing. Several different organizations offer third-party testing of supplements, including NSF, Consumer Labs, the non-GMO Project and BioChecked.
- We may reach out to brands to find out how they source their collagen and to ensure that they meet safety guidelines.
- We read reviews from real consumers like you.
Our Top Picks for the Best Collagen Supplements
What is Collagen?
Simply put, collagen is a type of protein found in your body, important for supporting feelings of optimal skin and bone health, among other functions. It’s important to note that collagen protein isn’t the same as some other protein powders and might not be a good choice for those who want to build muscle. Check with your primary care physician when making changes to your lifestyle.
Hydrolyzed collagen, or collagen peptides, come from animal sources, each of which bestows different benefits. There are also different types: collagen Type I, collagen Type 2, and collagen Type III. You can read more about which collagen types are best for you here.
Collagen supplements most commonly come in powdered form and can be mixed into drinks such as coffee and smoothies. You can also get collagen from a variety of foods. If you’re a vegan or a vegetarian, collagen may not be an option, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the beauty benefits. Our collagen guide for vegans and vegetarians shows you how you can boost collagen production in a plant-based diet.
Is Collagen Regulated by the FDA?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers collagen a dietary supplement—and the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA. In other words, it’s up to the manufacturer to make sure their products are safe.
The rules for marketing dietary supplements are fairly strict. Companies can make some general claims on the health benefits of collagen concerning their products, but they must also print the disclaimer: “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.” The FDA keeps tabs on supplements and how they’re marketed, taking legal action against those who make false claims or whose products are unsafe.
When choosing any type of supplement, it’s crucial that the manufacturer hasn’t been reprimanded by the FDA for any of these violations.
Why Take Collagen?
Before adding any type of supplement to your diet, it’s important to talk to your primary doctor or qualified health practitioner. In the meantime, here’s what the current research has to say about the health benefits of collagen.
Wrinkles and Aging Skin
Visibly reducing the appearance of wrinkles and aging in skin is another common reason for taking collagen. A 2021 review of several clinical studies published in the International Journal of Dermatology concluded that ingestion of hydrolyzed collagen for 90 days can be effective in visibly improving the appearance of wrinkles, skin elasticity, and skin hydration.
“Collagen production starts to gradually drop off around age 20, but it doesn’t usually become noticeable to us until we’re in our 30s.” Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN and Nutrition Expert
A small study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology also showed that collagen peptides can improve the appearance of brittle nails.
Marine collagen in particular may be beneficial for beauty purposes. A study published in Molecules journal stated that marine collagen visibly improved the appearance of wrinkles in skin. And another study published in Nutrients journal showed that marine collagen improved the appearance of hydration, elasticity, and wrinkling in skin.
Many people take collagen to address feelings of joint pain, especially pain associated with arthritis. A 2006 review of clinical research on collagen and joint pain stated: “A growing body of evidence provides a rationale for the use of collagen hydrolysate for patients with OA [osteoarthritis].”
Another study on taking oral collagen was done on athletes at Penn State University. While taking a collagen supplement for 24 weeks, the athletes reported less joint pain. While these results are promising, more research is needed to provide conclusive evidence of the benefits of collagen for joint pain.
More recent research published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine showed that collagen supplementation may be effective in improving feelings of joint discomfort associated with osteoarthritis. More research is needed however.
Some people take collagen for leaky gut, although there are no published studies showing this benefit. Overall, more research into oral collagen and its effect on the body is needed.
Beauty From the Inside Out, Well-Aging
Beauty trends show that anti-aging may soon become outdated. While the past decade (or more) has been focused on retaining a youthful appearance, sometimes at great monetary and physical costs, the new take on beauty is well-aging. Or what we at OA like to call “pro-aging”.
Think of pro-aging as supporting your system to deliver optimal results both in the way you look and the way you feel. It’s less about reversing signs of aging or boosting this and that, and more about embracing options that support a feeling of healthy body and skin. And when you feel healthy, you look healthy too.
Editor’s Picks: 4 Best Collagen Supplements
1. Best Marine Powder – Crushed Tonic Marine Collagen
- Pure Marine Collagen
- Sustainably Harvested From Non-GMO Tilapia
- Heavy Metal-free (tested)
- Low Calorie, No Sugar, No Fat, No Carbs
- Supports Feelings of Optimal Digestion, Energy, and Overall Wellness
- Gives Skin and Hair a Healthy Appearance
- Comes in 4 Flavors
Once you try this collagen, you’ll wonder where it’s been all your life. Sustainably harvested from non-GMO tilapia raised in freshwater European fish farms and tested to ensure it’s heavy metal-free, Crushed Tonic collagen supplements are low calorie, no sugar, no fat, no carbs. Lends a feeling of supported digestion, energy, skin and hair health, and overall wellness. Options include pure marine collagen or with biotin and probiotics to further support the appearance of youthful vibrance. Choose from Coffee, Matcha, Original, and Just Marine (unflavored) flavors.
2. Best Vegan Powder – Ora Organic’s Vegan Aloe Gorgeous
- Vegan Collagen Alternative
- Provides Polysaccharides From Aloe Vera
- Contains Organic Pea Protein, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E
- Non-GMO, Gluten-free, Soy-free, Dairy-free, and Kosher
- Supports the Appearance of Optimal Collagen Production
- Comes in 2 Flavors
From the Organic Authority Files
Question: What’s aloe vera doing in your collagen powder? Answer: Providing polysaccharides, essential to supporting optimal collagen production. This thoughtful blend features ingredients to offer the collagen supplement benefits you are looking for. Organic Pea Protein is high in Lysine, an amino acid used in the creation of collagen. Vitamin C from acerola cherries is an essential precursor to collagen production. And Vitamin E sourced from sunflowers visibly diminishes the appearance of aging in skin. This mix is an easy way to keep your skin looking its best. Vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, and kosher. Choose from delicious Vanilla or tasty Chocolate flavors.
3. Best Bovine Capsule – The Nue Co Hydrator
- Hydrolyzed Collagen From Grassfed U.S. Beef
- Contains Hyaluronic Acid, Ceramosides® Wheat Seed Extract, and Astaxanthin
- 95% Recyclable Packaging
Providing a sense of protection to the skin barrier is an effective way to keep skin looking firm and youthful. The PhytoCeramides in these collagen blend capsules offer a rejuvenated feel to the skin’s barrier, improving the appearance of moisture and plumpness. Aloe vera and Hyaluronic acid lend a feeling of optimal hydration and leave skin looking calm and bright. Antioxidant-rich Astaxanthin from microalgae visibly reduces the appearance of age spots and fine lines.
“I personally use collagen from pasture-raised bovine. I found that adding it to my coffee in powder form was easier and also provided the best results.” Heather Hanks, Nutritionist at usarx.com. Healther holds an MS in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and specializes in holistic nutrition, gut health, and chronic disease management.
4. Best Bovine Powder – Thorne Collagen Plus
- Grassfed, Hormone-Free Collagen Peptides
- Contains a Supporting Cast of Plant Extracts
- Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Soy-Free
- Derived From Natural Flavors
Enhance the appearance of skin, hair, and nails from within by improving the feel of hydration and elasticity. This collagen powder supplement includes Red and Black Currant extracts to reduce visible signs of skin aging. Ceramides from Japanese Peach help to maintain a sense of water balance in the skin. And Nicotinamide Riboside supports a sense of cellular rejuvenation and offers a feeling of protection.
Still undecided on which collagen supplements are right for you and your lifestyle? Check our Answers to your Questions below.
Is collagen vegan?
That depends on which type of collagen the supplement is made from. Bovine, porcine, and marine collagen are animal-derived. Vegan “collagen” supplements contain ingredients that provide a sense of support to the body’s own collagen production.
What are the 5 types of collagen?
Type I collagen is the strongest type of collagen and is easily absorbable by the body. It’s sourced from bovine or marine collagen. Type II is the main collagen found in cartilage and can be sourced from chicken and bone broth. Type III is the main collagen found in skin and organs and can be sourced from bovine collagen. Type V collagen is one of the main types of collagen found in connective tissue and can be sourced from egg whites. Type X collagen is a protein found in joint cartilage.
What is undenatured collagen?
Undenatured collagen refers to collagen in its biologically active form. Denatured, or hydrolyzed, collagen refers to collagen that has been broken down into smaller peptide molecules.
Do collagen supplements work?
The growing body of research on the benefits of marine collagen, collagen peptides, and hydrolyzed collagen is promising.
How is collagen powder made?
The collagen supplements we recommend are animal-derived from bovine or marine sources, and tested for heavy metals. As with our marine collagen from Crushed Tonic, the collagen undergoes a sterilization and pasteurization, filtration, UF, and demineralization process. We also recommend a vegan option that is not animal-derived.
Is collagen safe?
Collagen supplements are well-tolerated, for the most part. According to Consumer Labs, mild side effects may include gastrointestinal symptoms, headache, dizziness, and rash. If you have an allergy to a specific collagen source (fish, for instance), avoid that type of collagen.
Is marine collagen better?
“Not only is fish collagen free of slaughterhouse diseases, more sustainably sourced, and frankly better tasting, it is also more effective,” said Sally Kim, Founder of Crushed Tonic.
How long does it take for collagen supplements to work?
A study published in Nutrients journal showed an improvement in the appearance of skin hydration, elasticity, and smoothness after 12 weeks of collagen supplementation. Research published in the Journal of Nutrition found a significant reduction in the feelings associated with joint pain after 6 months use. And research published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found an improvement in the appearance of nails after 24 weeks of supplementation with collagen peptides.
How to take collagen effectively
For best results, follow the product recommendations or a doctor’s recommendation for your chosen collagen supplement.
Can collagen be absorbed through the skin?
While collagen supplements have benefits for the skin’s appearance, there is no reliable evidence that topical collagen offers the same advantages. “Collagen is not effectively absorbed through the skin when applied topically because it is large in molecule size, making it difficult to penetrate the dermis,” said Kristin Gillespie, MS, RD, LD, CNSC of Exercisewithstyle.com.
Which type of collagen is best?
When it comes to selecting the “best” collagen, choose the collagen type based on your health goals. Also choose brands that source ingredients sustainably and implement third party lab testing to ensure their collagen supplements are devoid of contaminants. See our product recommendations for more.
Is collagen good for hair health?
Hair is comprised mainly of the protein keratin and the amino acids the body uses to build keratin are found in collagen. Plus, a study published in Nutrients journal showed an improvement in the feeling of skin hydration and elasticity after 12 weeks of collagen supplementation, and that goes for the scalp too.
Does collagen help with wrinkles?
A 2021 review of several clinical studies published in the International Journal of Dermatology concluded that ingestion of hydrolyzed collagen for 90 days can be effective in visibly improving the appearance of wrinkles, skin elasticity, and skin hydration.
Can collagen supplementation rebuild cartilage or reduce joint pain from arthritis?
Although current evidence shows some potential for the use of collagen hydrolysate and undenatured collagen as an option for patients with osteoarthritis, according to research published in Rheumatology and Therapy journal, there is still room for progress in terms of laboratory and clinical research before any definitive conclusion can be made.
Wondering which supplements you need in your life? Take our custom Nutrition + Wellness quiz and we’ll send hand-selected recommendations just for YOU.
Always consult a medical professional before using supplements to address a health condition. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
*Note! This article contains affiliate links that are independently vetted by our editorial team which we may earn a commission on. We are here to help you navigate the overwhelming world of consumer products to source and uncover thoughtfully made, consciously clean products for you and your family.
This guide was updated on November 30, 2021 with product updates and recommendations.