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What is the Best Collagen Supplement?

Written by Madeleine Hartmann, Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT) and Health and Wellness Copywriter | Updated 5/16/24

Disclaimer: The products featured in this article have been independently reviewed by a holistic health practitioner.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is an essential protein that is one of the fundamental building blocks of the human body. This protein is not only the most abundant in our systems - comprising about 25% of the body's total protein content - but also the primary component of connective tissues. Collagen is extensively distributed throughout the body, in bones, skin, muscles, tendons, and organs.

As a strong, flexible protein, collagen is essential for maintaining the structural integrity of these tissues. In the skin, it helps provide elasticity and resilience, reducing wrinkles and enhancing skin hydration. In bones and joints, it acts as a component of the matrix that supports bone mineral density, joint flexibility, skeletal strength, and durability. Collagen also plays a role in muscle repair, where it works alongside other proteins to facilitate movement and stability.

The presence of collagen in so many tissues of the body, affecting everything from our appearance to our ability to perform everyday movements, indicates its importance for bodily function and integrity.

Types of Collagen

There are 29 different types of collagen, but the ones you will see most often in a collagen supplement are types I-V because they are the most common.

  • • Type I Collagen is the most common type of collagen found in the body and makes up some of the tougher elements like tendons, ligaments, bones, and the cornea. It is also found in the matrix that underlays the skin.
  • • Type II Collagen is found in elastic tissues and the connective tissues that cushion the ends of bones within joints.
  • • Type III Collagen makes up your muscles, blood vessels, digestive tract, and the support system for many of your organs.
  • • Type IV Collagen is found in all layers of the skin.
  • • Type V Collagen exists in the outermost (waterproof) layer of skin and the cornea.

Sources of Collagen

Just as collagen is found in our connective tissues, it is also found in the connective tissues of other animals. Animal protein is the main source of collagen in your diet. Other than tough cuts of meat, it can also be found in bone broth and gelatin. Most collagen supplements are sourced from beef (bovine), pork (porcine), or fish (marine) proteins.

Dietary collagen is a huge molecule and can be difficult for the body to break down in its natural form, which is why collagen supplements can be more effective in inciting collagen remodeling in your tissues.

How Does Collagen Production Work?

Collagen is a protein that our bodies synthesize naturally. This synthesis is crucial for replacing collagen that degrades over time in our skin, connective tissues, and organs. Unfortunately, as part of the natural aging process, the body's ability to replenish collagen diminishes, leading to common signs of aging such as wrinkles, less elastic skin, and weaker joints.

Collagen is composed of amino acids, the building blocks that form this protein. To enhance its absorption and effectiveness, collagen supplements undergo a process known as hydrolysis. This process breaks down the collagen's large molecules into shorter chains, known as peptides, which are easier for the body to absorb.

By supplementing with hydrolyzed collagen, you can provide your body with a concentrated dose of the necessary amino acids required for collagen production. This not only helps to counteract the slowdown in natural collagen production due to aging but also stimulates the body's processes to create more collagen. Clinical research supports these benefits, indicating that collagen supplementation leads to an increase in key markers in the blood, which signals that the body is synthesizing more collagen. These markers are indicators of the body's active and augmented synthesis of collagen.

Benefits of Collagen Supplementation


Collagen is an integral component of healthy skin, providing structural support, reinforcing the moisture barrier, and boosting elasticity. The protein forms a dense network in the dermis, the layer beneath the skin's surface, offering foundational support that keeps the skin firm. External factors such as UV radiation from sun exposure, smoking, pollution, and other environmental stressors can further degrade collagen in the skin. Over time, especially as we age, the body's natural capacity to produce and replace damaged collagen diminishes. This results in visible aging, including the development of wrinkles, loss of skin texture and firmness, diminished moisture barriers, and an overall sagging appearance.

Supplementing with collagen can combat signs of aging by accelerating collagen synthesis. Adding hydrolyzed collagen supplements into your diet provides the body with readily available amino acids, which are the building blocks necessary for producing new collagen. This supplementation helps compensate for the slower natural production rates and repairs the damage more swiftly.

As a result, you can experience significant improvements in skin texture, enhanced moisture retention, increased elasticity, and greater overall skin integrity. These changes contribute to a more youthful appearance, with reduced fine lines and firmer, more radiant skin.

Bones and Joints

Supplementing with collagen can improve the density and functionality of bones and connective tissues. Collagen supports bone health by providing a structural framework that supports the deposition of calcium. This process increases the strength of bones, reducing the likelihood of fractures and improving density, which can be particularly useful in those with degenerative bone diseases like osteoporosis. Collagen is essential for the bone remodeling process, a mechanism where old and weakened bone tissue is continuously replaced with new tissue. This ongoing renewal is instrumental in maintaining bone strength throughout life, preserving the flexible element of bones and decreasing brittleness.

Collagen also contributes significantly to the mechanical properties of connective tissue. It boosts the strength and elasticity of ligaments and tendons, which are what control joint movement and stability. By increasing the cross-sectional area of these tissues, collagen supplementation makes them thicker and stronger, rendering them more resistant to tears, strains, and other injuries. This is particularly beneficial for individuals engaged in physical activities where the risk of connective tissue injuries is heightened.

Cartilage is a flexible connective tissue that cushions the ends of your bones within your joints. By supplementing with collagen, the structural integrity and shock-absorbing capabilities of cartilage improve, reducing the pain and impact on joints during movement. This enhancement helps preserve joint function, particularly for individuals suffering from joint problems such as osteoarthritis. By improving the cushioning properties of cartilage, collagen supplementation helps alleviate the symptoms of joint pain and stiffness, improving quality of life and mobility.

Regular intake of collagen supplements can be a strategic measure not only for those looking to enhance their skeletal health but also for those seeking to maintain healthy joint and connective tissue function as they age.

Inflammation and Gut Health

Collagen supplementation reduces inflammation and fortifies gut health through several methods, mostly due to its amino acid profile and its role in improving tissue integrity. Collagen's amino acids, glycine and proline, have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce systemic inflammation and protect against chronic disease. In the gut, these amino acids are crucial for repairing the gut lining, which prevents conditions like "leaky gut" where unwanted metabolites produced during digestion enter the bloodstream and trigger inflammation. This reinforcement of the gut barrier also aids in ensuring proper nutrient absorption.

Collagen also aids in the healing of damaged tissues and supports optimal microbiome composition within the digestive tract, helping alleviate inflammation associated with disorders like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Crohn's disease.

Muscles and Recovery

During exercise, muscle fibers are torn, and collagen helps repair these tears, which is a key part of the muscle-building process. The action of collagen is distinct from that of whey. Collagen helps improve the cross-linking of muscle fibers for more efficient contractions and increases the thickness of the connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone. Whereas whey is better adapted for directly building muscle mass due to its amino acid profile, providing all of the essential amino acids needed to construct muscle tissue.

Collagen enhances the body's natural production of creatine, a compound vital for muscle strength and energy during workouts. This helps improve performance and speeds up recovery times, reducing muscle soreness after exercise.

Collagen aids in the repair of connective tissues surrounding muscles, which is crucial for adapting to increased physical demands and preventing injuries. This physical and structural support provided by collagen makes it a valuable supplement for athletes and individuals engaged in regular physical training, aiding muscle growth, performance, and recovery.

What Makes a Good Collagen Supplement?


The bioavailability of collagen is an important factor in determining the effectiveness of a collagen supplement. Bioavailability refers to the proportion of the collagen that actually enters the circulation and is able to have an active effect. For collagen supplements, this means the extent to which the protein is absorbed and utilized by the body.

Collagen molecules in their native state are large and complex, making them difficult for the body to absorb efficiently. To improve this, collagen supplements are often hydrolyzed. Hydrolysis is a process that breaks down the collagen's long amino acid chains into smaller peptides using water and enzymes. These collagen peptides are much smaller, more digestible, and more soluble in water, which significantly improves their absorption in the digestive tract.

Once absorbed, these hydrolyzed collagen peptides are readily available for use. The high bioavailability of hydrolyzed collagen means that the body can quickly and effectively use the fragmented peptides to repair and build tissues.

So, when choosing a collagen supplement, products featuring hydrolyzed collagen (also known as collagen peptides) are generally considered superior due to their increased bioavailability and effectiveness in supporting the body's collagen needs.

Amino Acid Composition

The specific amino acid composition of collagen peptides, which includes glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, is not as prevalent in other protein sources. These amino acids give collagen its unique triple helix structure and are essential for the formation and stability of collagen fibers throughout the body. The effectiveness of collagen in promoting health and tissue repair is directly linked to its distinctive amino acid composition.

Types of Collagen

Choosing the best type of collagen - marine, bovine, or porcine - depends on several factors including your dietary preferences, health goals, and any specific allergies or sensitivities. Each type of collagen has distinct characteristics and benefits:

Marine Collagen

  • • Source: Derived primarily from fish skin and scales.
  • • Type: Mostly contains Type I collagen, which is abundant in the skin, bones, and connective tissues.
  • • Benefits: Known for its high bioavailability due to smaller peptides, marine collagen is excellent for skin health, promoting elasticity and moisture. It is also believed to be the most environmentally sustainable collagen source.
  • • Considerations: It's a good option for those who avoid beef and pork products, but it can be more expensive and not suitable for those with fish allergies.

Bovine Collagen

  • • Source: Derived from cowhide.
  • • Type: Primarily consists of Type I and Type III collagen, supporting skin, bones, and muscles.
  • • Benefits: Bovine collagen is widely used for its beneficial effects on skin health and joint mobility. It's also good for gut health.
  • • Considerations: Bovine collagen is generally more accessible and often less expensive than marine collagen but may not be suitable for those with dietary restrictions.

Porcine Collagen

  • • Source: Derived from pig skin or bones.
  • • Type: Contains primarily Type I and some Type III collagen.
  • • Benefits: Similar to bovine, it supports skin, tissues, and bone health.
  • • Considerations: It is often the most cost-effective option and is widely available. However, it may not be suitable for those avoiding pork.

Our Top Picks for the Best Collagen Supplements

Disclaimer: How We Chose the Best Collagen Supplements:Products were selected based on user satisfaction, cost, and third-party certification, and determined solely by the editorial team. The FDA is not authorized to approve dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they are sold to the public, which is why it's so important for you to research each supplement and speak with your healthcare provider before use. All product prices are accurate as of publication and are subject to change.

Our Top Pick: Vital Proteins Marine Collagen Powder Unflavored

Vital ProteinsMarine Collagen is our top pick for a collagen supplement and an excellent option, given its marine source and high glycine content per serving. This marine collagen is made of wild-caught whitefish. Marine collagen is typically more costly than other sources, but is the most environmentally sustainable option and has the smallest peptides, making it highly bioactive.

It mixes easily into hot or cold beverages and can also be added to recipes to increase the protein content of meals. Vital Proteins also sells its Collagen Peptides and Collagen Gummies if you prefer that delivery method over a powder.

Allergen Warning: This product is manufactured in a facility that processes milk, fish, and tree nuts.

  • • Form: Powder
  • • Dose: 12g per 2 scoops<
  • • Servings per container: about 20<
  • • Other product benefits: Non-GMO Verified, Paleo-friendly, Gluten-free, Dairy-free.

The Most Cost-Effective: Allergy Research Group Arthred Collagen Formula

The Arthred Collagen Formula by Allergy Research Group is a powder that can be mixed into a hot or cold liquid and is composed of hydrolyzed bovine collagen peptides. It has a great balance of the essential peptides needed to remodel and replace your body's damaged collagen network.

This formula is free of additives and is some of the purest collagen on the market, offering almost as much collagen as the Vital Proteins Marine Peptides, but in a smaller dose. This supplement is also a good option for people with allergies, given that it is sourced purely from bovine tissue and is not produced in a facility that handles common allergens.

  • • Form: Powder
  • • Dose: 10.5g per 2 scoops
  • • Servings per container: About 23 servings
  • • Other product benefits: Hypoallergenic, Preservative-Free, Diluents-Free, with no artificial additives.

Our Pick for Advanced, Broad-Spectrum, Collagen: Designs for Health Whole Body Collagen

Designs for HealthWhole Body Collagen utilizes 3 different kinds of patented collagen peptides to provide a broad-spectrum supplement that incites collagen remodeling in numerous tissues. Due to the proprietary nature of collagen peptides utilized in this powder, this supplement manufacturer has not released a specific dosing of amino acids. but the wide spectrum of collagen types is likely to contain an optimal balance of glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline.

This formula is unflavored and can be mixed with hot or cold water.

  • • Form: Powder
  • • Dose: 13g per scoop
  • • Servings per container: 30 scoops
  • • Other product benefits: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Non-GMO

An Alternative to Collagen Powder: North American Herb & Spice Collagen Power Plus

If you prefer a collagen capsule over a powder, North American Herb & SpiceCollagen Power Plus may be a good option. This collagen supplement is delivered with additional nutrients to promote digestion and absorption, as well as ingredients like ginger and camu camu to lower systemic inflammation. The delivery of collagen, along with the added vitamin C, may also increase the absorption and utilization of collagen in your tissues.

  • • Form: Capsule
  • • Dose: Proprietary formula, 3 capsules per day
  • • Servings per container: 30 servings, 90 capsules total
  • • Other product benefits: Non-GMO, Grass-Fed Bovine Collagen

Potential Side Effects

Collagen supplementation is generally considered safe and beneficial for most people, but it is not without potential side effects. These side effects tend to be mild and predominantly affect the digestive system. Some individuals may experience digestive discomfort, including symptoms like nausea and diarrhea, when they begin taking collagen supplements. These side effects are typically temporary and can often be mitigated by adjusting the dosage or taking the supplement with meals. Others have reported sleep disturbances and headaches, but it is rare.

In addition to digestive issues, allergic reactions are another possible side effect, though they are less common. These reactions are usually linked to the source of the collagen peptides, such as bovine (cow), porcine (pig), or marine (fish) proteins. People with allergies to these sources are at a higher risk of experiencing an allergic reaction to collagen supplements derived from them. Symptoms of such allergic reactions can include hives, itching, or gastrointestinal distress.

Always check the source of the collagen listed on the supplement label to ensure it is safe for you, especially if you have known allergies. It is also advisable to start with a lower dose to monitor how your body reacts and consult with a healthcare provider if you have any concerns or pre-existing conditions. By taking these precautions, you can maximize the benefits of collagen supplementation while minimizing the risk of adverse effects.


Collagen is an essential protein that offers significant health benefits as a supplement, namely, maintaining the structural integrity of various tissues like skin, bones, connective tissues, and cartilage. As the most abundant protein in the human body, it not only supports the structural framework of your tissues but also enhances skin elasticity, reduces wrinkles, improves joint and bone health, and aids in the repair and growth of body tissues.

The bioavailability of collagen, particularly when hydrolyzed, is a key factor in its effectiveness. Hydrolyzed collagen, or collagen peptides, are smaller, more easily digestible forms of collagen that have been broken down through the process of hydrolysis. This process increases the absorption rate of collagen, allowing it to enter the bloodstream more quickly and efficiently after ingestion. The high bioavailability of hydrolyzed collagen ensures that the body can readily utilize these peptides.

Once ingested, the broken-down collagen peptides are absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed throughout the body, where they can provide the necessary amino acids required for the formation of new collagen. This supplementation helps replenish the body's own collagen stores, increasing collagen production in target tissues; this is particularly important as natural collagen production declines with age. The most important amino acids in collagen are glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, which are amino acids specifically adapted to be used by cells to build new collagen structures. This not only supports the body's natural healing processes but also contributes to maintaining the youthfulness of skin, the strength of bones, and the flexibility of joints.

Collagen supplementation, especially in its hydrolyzed form, supports collagen synthesis by providing a direct source of the amino acids needed to build up your collagen network. This supplementation can be a useful tool for counteracting the age-related decline in collagen production, supporting overall health and well-being.