photography by PHUONG NGUYEN
Collagen has become a buzzword in the wellness world over the last year. But what is it, why is it everywhere, and what can it do for us? Call us Nancy Drew, because we’re investigating for answers.
But first, a quick anatomy lesson: Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, accounting for about a third of its protein composition. It is one of the major building blocks in bones, skin, and muscles. It’s even present in blood vessels, corneas, and teeth.
“Think of collagen as the glue that holds our body together. It keeps our skin toned, joints and ligaments strong, and improves digestion,” says Vital Proteins Director of Marketing and Education, Traci Mitchell (and author of The Belly Burn Plan). (The word collagen even comes from the Greek word ‘kolla,’ literally meaning glue.) “Collagen is the reason you look so youthful and can stay so active.”
So, to boost the collagen in your body, is to boost your skin, health, and entire body actually. Collagen's newfound popularity has brought with it total market saturation—it's popping up in everything from face masks to smoothies to powders, even cocktails.
photography by Vital Proteins
Collagen in Powders
As we age, specifically after the age of 25, our collagen production lessens. “Fine lines, achy joints, and troubled digestion might start occurring, and slower collagen production, in part, is a culprit,” says Mitchell. A collagen powder can boost your collagen production, and thus, improve gut health, bone and muscle strength, and boost skin’s appearance.
“Collagen is incredible in that it gets shuttled to the parts of our body that need it most,” says Mitchell. “Collagen helps to improve both bone strength, mineralization, and density. Our gut needs collagen, too, and has been shown to greatly improve the gut lining.”
Collagen powders come in a variety of options: bone broth, bone broth protein powder, bovine collagen, marine collagen, and vegan proteins (like spirulina).
Vital Proteins is one of the most popular brands in the collagen arena, and even recommended in recipes by Gwyneth Paltrow and many wellness experts. Vital Proteins sources their collagen from grass-fed Brazilian bovine hide and red snapper scale sourced off the coast of Hawaii, along with some newly launched vegan options with Spirulina.
photography by Mint Images
Gwyneth and her site Goop took the collagen powder a step further, using it in their signature cocktail called “Goop Koolaid” for the first-ever goop wellness summit party earlier this year. If you feel inclined to try it out, feel free to shake up the below in a cocktail shaker with ice.
photography by HydroPeptide
Collagen in Skincare
Fans of collagen muse about how the protein can dramatically boost the quality of skin, so naturally, collagen is taking over skincare, too, with some companies developing collagen-boosting products to be applied topically.
One such company that has embraced collagen is HydroPeptide, with its Nimni Cream, developed mainly by Dr. Marcel Nimni, who has researched collagen for over 50 years. The Nimni Cream has a specialized time-release retinol to rejuvenate skin and lessen the look of fine lines and wrinkles, and also boosts the skin in similar ways to consuming it with improving skin’s fullness and elasticity.
“We believe collagen has to be a primary focus for skincare management,” says Dr. Marcel Nimni. “Loss of collagen accelerates after the mid-20s and more rapidly thereafter, which leads to extreme thinness in later years, when structural damage to the skin follows minor trauma. As such, we believe collagen has to be a primary focus for skincare management.”
photography by Nannette de Gaspe
Another brand embracing collagen’s advantages is Nannette de Gaspe, with her Restorative Techstile Masque, which includes a combination of ingredients that help stimulate the synthesis of collagen and elastin. “Marine Exopolysaccharides (plankton extract) helps to encourage both collagen and elastin synthesis,” says de Gaspe. “It tightens the skin and smoothes wrinkles by inducing fibroblast and collagen network contraction.”
Beyond consuming or applying collagen, there are treatments that can dramatically boost collagen, too, like in Joanna Vargas's collagen-boosting, patented LED light bed. It looks identical to a tanning bed, but features red and infrared lights instead, which are known for their anti-inflammatory benefits and collagen and elastin boosting abilities. “There is no doubt in the medical community that it works—it reduces inflammation, speeds the healing of the body by 300 percent, and grows collagen," Vargas told Town & Country.
With all these benefits, what are you waiting for? “Study after study has shown that regularly collagen consumption benefits the tone of skin, the thickness of hair, and the strength of nails: As we get older, we get wiser, but it's a nice added benefit to look and feel younger,” says Mitchell.
Get more beauty tips:
Everything You Need to Know About Caring for Sensitive Skin
6 Real Ways Makeup and Skin Care Can Help Your Mental Health
How to Age Flawlessly: Norma Kamali Reveals Her Secrets