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Can drinking collagen really help my skin? I tried it for six months

Beauty Editor Donna Francis, hesitantly began taking collagen a few months back. She tells HELLO! what happened

Can drinking collagen really help my skin? I tried it for six months
Donna Francis
Contributing Editor US
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I’ve always been skeptical about introducing an oral collagen supplement into my beauty regime. When they first broke onto the beauty scene a few years ago, via a wave of celebrity endorsements, I felt dubious about the claims they were making.

Having been writing about beauty for over 25 years, I always thoroughly research the evidence behind any claims coming from brands' products and ingredients. And while I know that naturally derived collagen which is found in our bodies, provides essential building blocks for keeping skin healthy, I am aware that many experts are sceptical about the claims that drinking collagen can improve the health and look of your skin.

“Overall there have been small industry-sponsored studies and some small systematic reviews that show some benefit to taking collagen supplements,” explains dermatologist Dr Cristina Psomadakis. “Industry-sponsored essentially means paid for by the collagen supplement companies themselves so these are less reliable than large-scale independent studies.”

Hand with spoon of protein or collagen and orange juice on mint green color background. © Getty
Can adding collagen to our drinks really make a difference?

However, experts at Harvard reviewed and analysed 19 of these studies, and found that out of the 1,125 participants, those who used collagen supplements saw an improvement in the “firmness, suppleness, and moisture content of the skin, with wrinkles appearing less noticeable.”

Beauty experts such as celebrity make-up artist Donna May, also rave about their benefits. "I really miss the benefits of collagen when I stop taking it," Donna May explains to HELLO! “Because you get used to feeling quite good and then if you stop it for a few weeks, you notice that you don’t feel or look as good. I notice a difference in my hair, nails and skin as well as my joints, especially going through menopause - I don’t have those achy joints half as much when taking collagen.”

At 47, Donna is always on the look out for the best skincare products for her menopausal skin
At 47, Beauty Editor Donna is always on the look out for the best skincare products for her menopausal skin

Donna May was the person who convinced me to start taking a collagen supplement, especially because she knew that I was going through menopause too. Our collagen levels naturally deplete with age, which is why our skin loses its bounce, our hair loses its luster and our joints lose their suppleness.

I trusted Donna May's advice. Not only because she is a beauty expert and a friend, but also because I knew that she wasn’t being paid to post about her favorite collagen brand or recommend them to her 100k Instagram followers.

MORE FROM DONNA: I’m a Beauty Editor in menopause. These 9 daily habits keep my skin glowing 

Donna May told me that her favorite collagen supplement brand was Kollo. “Their sachets taste nice as they don’t have a fishy flavour like some of the others, plus I like that they have a high protein count.” Thanks to Donna’s recommendation, Kollo sent me a three-month course to try, but with no obligation or incentive to post or write about them, which was important to me, as I wanted to review their results fairly and objectively.

I surprised myself by remembering to take a sachet every morning for the next three months. I drank mine directly from the sachet rather than dilute it with water - that’s way too much of a faff for a busy morning. Just like Donna, I grew to like the fruity taste too, although it took a few sachets to get used to the gel-like texture.

Donna has noticed that the condition of her hair, skin and joints have improved since taking collagen daily
Donna has noticed that the condition of her hair, skin and joints have improved since taking collagen daily

After three months, I began to notice a difference in my joints. I was less achy getting out of bed in the morning. I had an extra spring in my step. And while I noticed a difference in my skin - it was glowier - it was my hair that seemed to be reaping the benefits of taking a daily collagen supplement. While I haven’t experienced menopausal hair loss, my hair has become finer and less dense as I’ve aged. So the baby hairs that I noticed growing back around my hairline were a welcome benefit. As was the thicker-feeling ponytail when I put my hair up at the gym.

When I was almost finished Kollo's three month supply, I was coincidentally sent another brand to try - Revive Collagen. I was seduced by their dusty pink packaging, but my scepticism spiked when I read about their roster of celebrity ambassadors (that’s what a 25-year career writing about beauty products does to you)! Still, I was excited to try a different brand which extended my collagen supplement trial for another three months.

So now I’ve been taking a collagen supplement every morning for six months, and I can say I have noticed the positive benefits in my skin, hair and joints, and it’s a supplement that I will continue to take.

But what does dermatologist Dr. Cristina Psomadakis have to say about my findings? “From a biological standpoint, eating collagen does not mean the collagen you ingest stays intact and somehow just replaces your existing collagen stores. Instead, you digest it and it is then broken into amino acids, the same as with eating any protein. The amino acid journey in your body is complex and variable. You can’t control whether they are then used to build collagen in your skin, as opposed to other places where it exists, such as bones, tendons, digestive track and blood vessels.”

The positives I have noticed could also be put down to other positive lifestyle changes that I have made at the same time, such as increasing protein in my diet and drinking more water. “I have heard some people report some positive differences, but consider that anyone adhering to a new oral collagen routine may be undergoing a general health kick that is contributing and clouding results,” Dr. Cristina  explains.

Cristina’s advice to anyone considering taking a collagen supplement to improve the health of their skin, hair and joints is to remember to do all the other things that we already know are effective in protecting and regenerating collagen too. She says that things like eating well, managing stress levels, wearing sunscreen, and using a retinoid regularly will all help. And I for one, will be ticking them all off my daily to-do list, alongside taking my collagen supplements too.

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