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Nutricosmetics: Nutrients for Beautiful Skin

Nutricosmetics: Nutrients for Beautiful Skin

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The scientific effects of hydrolyzed collagen

To state the obvious, nearly all of us would like to improve our well-being and appearance, regardless of our age.[1] This universal desire has triggered a continual search for strategies to slow visible aging.

First and foremost, great-looking skin is associated with a healthy diet, adequate exercise, sleep, relief from stress, and avoidance of sun damage.[2],[3],[4]

In addition to one’s overall diet, specific nutrients  – including antioxidants – play a key role in skin health.[5] Vitamins, carotenoids, essential fatty acids, peptides, and plant extracts are widely used to support skin health, either as topical treatments or as oral supplements (nutricosmetics.)[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11]

Hydrolyzed collagen, also known as collagen peptides, is one of the best-known nutricosmetic supplements.[12],[13] But does it really work as advertised?  We’ll review the scientific evidence on hydrolyzed collagen in this post.

Why is collagen important?

The amount of collagen produced in skin is a key determinant of the skin’s firmness and elasticity.

Collagen makes up about 30% of the body’s protein mass.  It plays a crucial role in the structure of different tissue types, giving support to the skin, bones, and joints.

Collagen is made from three main amino acids – proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline – which form a triplex helix, creating a coiled scaffold that supports and lifts the skin. The amount of collagen produced in skin is a key determinant of the skin’s firmness and elasticity.[14]

Collagen production is robust in children and teens. After the age of 20, however, the production of skin collagen declines by one to two percentage points annually.[15] As collagen production declines, the skin loses its firmness and volume and begins to sag and wrinkle.[14],[15],[16],[17]

Clearly, finding ways to increase collagen levels may help transform our skin and reduce age-related deterioration.[14] This is where hydrolyzed collagen comes in.

What is hydrolyzed collagen?

Hydrolyzed collagen (HC) is prepared by the enzymatic digestion (hydrolysis) of collagen derived from fish or animal byproducts, such as the skin and cartilage left over from the food industry.[xviii] The enzymatic process creates small peptides (protein subunits) that are more easily absorbed in the intestines than intact collagen.[19]

After HC is ingested, its constituent peptides and amino acids are distributed to the tissues via the bloodstream.[20],[21] The amino acids are used as raw materials to produce new collagen where it is needed in the body. The peptides themselves are bioactive, they act at the molecular level to stimulate collagen formation within fibroblasts (skin cells).[22],[23],[24]

Striking effects have been seen in animal models, which show that supplemental HC can improve the structure, elasticity and texture of the skin, increase skin moisture content, and protect against ultraviolet (sun) damage.[25],[26],[27],[28] These effects have also been observed in human clinical trials, which we’ll describe below.

Clinical trials provide evidence of benefits

The group consuming HC showed statistically significant reductions in wrinkles in several regions of the face.

A growing number of clinical trials indicate that HC can indeed boost skin collagen levels, hydration, and elasticity. HC may also help reduce wrinkles.[20],[29],[30],[31],[32],[33],[34]

One randomized, placebo-controlled trial (RCT) was done with healthy women aged 45 to 59 years. HC supplementation (500 mg daily, prepared from fish cartilage) was found to improve the structural characteristics of the skin as compared to placebo after 90 days.[35] Moreover, the group consuming HC showed statistically significant reductions in wrinkles in several regions of the face. These effects were verified with high-resolution imaging, ultrasound, and microscopic analysis of the skin.[35]

In another RCT, 114 women aged 45-65 years were randomized to receive collagen peptides (2,500 mg daily, prepared from porcine collagen) or placebo for eight weeks. There was a significant reduction of eye wrinkles in the collagen-supplemented group after eight weeks.[20]

In further studies, HC has been provided in mixtures containing other nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.[36],[37],[38],[39] In one RCT, healthy 21- to 70-year-old volunteers received either a placebo or a supplement containing HC (4,000 mg daily) and other nutrients.[39] Since the study was blinded, the participants did not know whether they were consuming the HC supplement or the placebo. Three out of four participants in the HC group reported that their skin was more elastic, smoother, softer, and more radiant after 90 days. High-frequency ultrasound measurements revealed a 40% increase in skin elasticity in the supplemented group compared to placebo.[39]

Almost all of the studies have shown that HC can improve skin quality.

Although the published studies have been performed with small numbers of subjects, almost all of the studies have shown that HC can improve skin quality.[40],[41] A recent meta-analysis of 19 studies, including up to 1,100 participants, concluded that daily HC supplementation can improve skin elasticity, hydration, and texture over a period of 12 weeks or more.[40]


In sum, the scientific evidence to date suggests that hydrolyzed collagen can improve skin quality at any age. As a further benefit, HC supports joint and bone health, and it may be especially helpful for people with arthritis.[39],[42]

For more information, see:

Sturdy Joints and Glowing Skin: Hydrolyzed collagen and hyaluronic acid for joint and skin health

Connective Tissue Support, from Skin to Joint: How connective tissue nutrients support many aspects of health

Click here to see References


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