Will Drinkable Collagen Make Me Look Younger?

What we found, after giving it a solid go.

As winter approaches (and my 30th looms large), I’ve started to look for almost any answer to the creeping effects of dry, cold weather on my skin. Heavy night creams, serums, acids, a variety of natural oils—they’ve all done the job in one way or another, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a way to help improve my skin’s appearance from the inside out.

The skincare claims of collagen have been widely touted and well-documented. Women have been drinking tiny collagen-infused “beauty shots” for years, especially in the all-knowing K-beauty market. Wanting more collagen in your system makes sense—while maybe better-known as the stuff of fillers and injections, it’s actually the protein that keeps our tissue and bones together. It lends structure and elasticity to skin, and as you age your collagen levels tend to drop off. It’s normal, it’s natural, it’s one of the things that causes thinner, less-resilient, and wrinkly skin, and I decided I must stop the process at all costs.

So naturally, I ordered a bag of Premium Collagen Peptides and began spiking my morning coffee with it. As collagen is derived from animal proteins, it’s safe to say this was far from a vegetarian or vegan endeavor, but at least this particular collagen was derived from grass-fed, non-GMO sources and was paleo-friendly (it also had no preservatives, and was certified kosher and gluten-free if that’s a thing you’d like to know). The brand made some fairly bold claims about its effectiveness. Zint, the maker of the powder, was founded by a young couple with a passion for bringing the most natural, ethical, and sustainable products to market with the mission of “delivering super ingredients for maximum nutrition while making them simple to integrate into your daily routine.” They say, “collagen is your body’s most basic protein building block for skin, hair, and nails. Our pure collagen powder replenishes your body’s declining supply to counter the effects of age. Restore your skin’s natural moisture, elasticity, and smoothness for a glow that radiates from within. Feel the difference in healthier hair, stronger nails, and renewed growth.”

Sounds good, right? The powder dissolved quickly, thoroughly, and easily in my hot coffee. With iced beverages it was a little harder to incorporate without goopiness, but all in all I had a great experience with the product itself. As I chose to drink the powder only in coffee (which I tend to make strong), it was more-or-less a tasteless addition to my drinks, though I noticed a sort of richer texture overall.

With every sip I imagined bouncier, more radiant skin and thicker, shinier hair, and while the product touted added benefits to joint health, I’m sorry to say that wasn’t highest on my list of hopes for this concoction. But the days passed, the weeks passed, and alas—I noticed no real difference in my skin’s appearance. I went looking for answers.

That’s when I found the chemical biology side of the internet. Ronald T. Raines is a chemical biologist who teaches at MIT and whose career focuses on the stability of collagen in biomedicine, and he burst my bubble big time. He told Claire Carusillo at Manrepeller that “Our bodies have enzymes in our stomach and intestines that degrade the food that we eat and then it gets broken down and built up again. We break food down into amino acids, and as collagens are a protein, our body [breaks them down and then] builds them into things we need.” Bottom line? Stomach acid ruins the good-skin-from-drinkable-collagen party every time. Basically, he says, “I don’t see how eating collagen is different from eating a steak.” Try as we might, we can’t control where our body sends these amino acids, so whether or not this super-powered coffee I’ve been drinking has done anything to improve my skin’s elasticity or radiance is really up to…mysterious forces within me.

So is it all a hoax? Is every product containing collagen just a bunch of pseudo-science? Raines claims that, theoretically, a topical application of collagen can effectively moisturize skin, and it might even “conceivably fill in the gaps…[of] damaged skin DNA,” but as for my dreams of drinking my way to better skin? It might just be out of reach.


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