The Truth About Collagen Supplements

17 min read
Hermes SS24

Collagen supplements might be trending right now, but are they really the best way to boost levels or is there a more effective way to turn back the clock? MOJEH asks the experts

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock of late, you’ve likely noticed a tremendous buzz surrounding collagen drinks and supplements, as celebrities and influencers tout their miraculous benefits for skin, hair and nails. Be it through popping pills, drinking bone broth or even sampling chicken feet, the belief is the more you ingest, the younger you’ll look, with loyal fans claiming that the best sources not only slow down the body’s loss of collagen rate, but also firm up skin, boost elasticity and improve overall radiance too. But do they really live up to the hype?

Contributing to skin physiology and structure, collagen is also vital for providing support to tendons, ligaments, skin, teeth and other connective structures. However, as we age — and particularly as oestrogen depletes during the menopause — our collagen reserves deplete too. “The amount of collagen in young, healthy skin has been shown to be greater than 75 per cent,” Jessica Sepe, clinical nutritionist and founder of JSHealth Vitamins tells MOJEH. “The decline begins in our late 20s to early 30s and, while it varies between different people, it generally accelerates in the mid-40s. Factors that contribute to this loss include ageing, sun exposure, smoking and poor diet, resulting in visible signs of ageing such as wrinkles and sagging skin.”

Despite their often rave reviews, the efficacy of collagen supplements has been widely disputed. Some positive studies have been at least part-funded, sponsored or backed by the company behind the collagen supplement being tested, which is an obvious conflict of interest, while others are anything but conclusive. One study by the International Journal of Dermatology, for example, found those who used collagen supplements did see an improvement in the firmness, suppleness and moisture content of the skin. Researchers at Harvard Health, however, were quick to point out that it’s unclear if these skin improvements were actually due to collagen, as most of the trials used commercially available supplements that also contained vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, coenzyme Q10, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulphate among the additional ingredients.

Another of the big controversies around collagen supplements, say experts, is that fact we can’t tell exactly how much of that makes it into the bloodstream. “Collagen absorption can be hindered by its large molecular size, which can limit its effectiveness when taken orally,” explains Mona Mirza, CEO and founder of Dubai’s BioLite clinic. Additionally it’s important to remember that ingesting a substance subjects it to the highly acidic environment of the stomach and the digestive enzymes of the remainder of the intestinal tract. “Stomach acid during digestion can break down the collagen, impacting its ability to be properly absorbed into the bloodstream,” she adds. As such, while you may find products that claim to boast high quantities of collagen, it’s vital to know where it’s sourced from, and if the supplement itself has any scientific backing. “Collagen supplements may not work well if they are not hydrolysed, poorly sourced, lack scientific backing or don’t meet the dose supported by research to deliver results,” adds Jessica.

Of course, as with everything in life, not all supplements are created equal. And herein lies the real problem with such supplements — the variables are endless. “The research points to marine collagen being the most effective when it comes to skin health and anti-ageing benefits,” adds Jessica, whose own collagen supplements use hydrolysed marine collagen from wild cod skin, ensuring high bioavailability. In fact, marine collagen peptides have been shown to be around 1.5 times more effective than other collagen sources such as bovine and porcine due to the low molecular weight and purity. “To enhance absorption we would recommend taking supplements on an empty stomach or combining them with vitamin C, which aids collagen synthesis,” continues Mona. “I also highly recommend organic bone broth as an alternative.”

There’s little doubt that some collagen-takers will see no improvement and are wasting their money so, for smarter ways to replenish the body’s main structural protein, looking to treatments is a fail-safe option without the guesswork. In the same way as when you graze your knee and your skin cells go into high alert sending signals to the fibroblasts (the factory cells that secrete collagen proteins) to elicit an emergency uptake in collagen to repair the wound and form scar tissue, certain facial treatments like chemical peels or lasers work by creating a controlled injury in order to trick the skin into repairing itself, sparking collagen synthesis, both naturally and powerfully, in the process.

“Treatments and injectables for increasing collagen, such as dermal fillers like Juvederm and laser therapies are proven to be much more effective than supplements as they directly stimulate collagen production within targeted areas,” explains Mona. “There has been huge growth in bio-stimulating injectables such as Sculpta and Polynucleotides, and when combined with treatments, these can truly support the neocollagenesis process.”

What’s more, while collagen supplements, if effective, can take months before we see any change thanks to the time it takes the body to absorb them, these wrinkle-busting treatments have immediate results, with improvements often visible shortly after the procedure as they directly influence the collagen production in targeted areas. Keen to get involved? Here’s exactly where you need to start…

Nithya Collagen Treatment

State-of-the-art skin-plumping injections created to stimulate collagen production and enhance the texture and tone of the skin, this minimally invasive procedure is designed to leave the skin tissue both replenished and reconstructed by literally ‘line erasing’ areas of wrinkles, laxity and sun damage through the stimulation of Type I collagen production. Initial results are usually visible between seven to fourteen days after the first treatment is performed, while an average of four treatments at intervals of two weeks are necessary to achieve optimal results. Available at Lucia Clinic, UAE

HELEO4 Skin Detox

A revolutionary patented technique in the field of aesthetic medicine and cosmetology, HELEO4 is aimed at molecular-cellular rejuvenation, increasing the natural resus of the skin by getting rid of old and damaged cells through the use of red light. Designed to enhance the production of our own collagen while improving blood circulation and increasing the activity of fibroblasts, the special cells responsible for skin rejuvenation, it’s non-invasive and safe with virtually no imminent side effects, making it a great option for a quick lunchtime pick-me-up. Available at Evolution Aesthetics Clinic, UAE

Signature Laser Facial

Laser facials are one of the most popular and pain-free ways to naturally boost the anti-ageing process, emitting a low-level heat that stimulates cells deep in the skin called fibroblasts, which in turn wakes them up to produce more collagen. Look to Skin Laundry whose signature facial promises to deep clean, stimulate collagen, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, all while improving pigmentation and elasticity all at the same time. Talk about killing five birds with one stone. Available at Skin Laundry, UAE


A trending treatment that involves inserting fine short needles into the skin, microneedling is one of the most effective ways of helping skin’s overall texture through the stimulation of collagen production thanks to the way the damage from the needles helps stimulate the skin’s healing process. It’s more commonly being used for ‘tech neck’ too — the visible appearance of horizontal neck wrinkles caused by the repetitive motion of looking down at our devices. Available at Cornerstone Clinic, UAE

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  • Words by Naomi Chadderton