- Collagen is the most abundant protein and important structural player in the body, made up of the long-chain of amino acids which build our skin, connective tissue, organs, and bones.
- Although your body produces collagen on a regular basis, it slows down with age and other factors, leading to sagging skin, wrinkles, and fine lines, as well as certain health issues.
- There are not many known risks to taking collagen peptide supplements, but it’s important to be aware of how and when side effects may present themselves.
Collagen is the most important structural protein in the body, critical to skin firmness, elasticity, and an overall youthful appearance. It is made up of amino acids which build our skin, connective tissue, organs, and bones and plays a role in forming the fibroblasts (cell clusters) which allow new cells to grow and replace dead ones.
Collagen peptides (also known as hydrolyzed collagen) are a shorter, broken down version of collagen that is more easily absorbed by your body than regular collagen supplements, and thus more effective. When applied topically or ingested, products containing collagen peptides signal to your body that it needs to produce more collagen.
Although collagen peptide supplements are typically considered safe, and there are not many known risks, many supplements are made from potential food allergens such as fish, shellfish and eggs, so it’s best to avoid these products if you are prone to such allergic reactions.
Others may experience side effects causing issues with the skin or digestive system, among other problems, but the likelihood of this is based largely on the quality of your chosen collagen peptides product.
Benefits of collagen peptides
When it comes to skin care, collagen peptides are most often used to improve skin smoothness, firmness and moisture. They accomplish this by stimulating new collagen growth, in turn reducing wrinkles, boosting skin elasticity, and improving skin hydration.
Although they are most popularly used to combat the signs of aging in the skin, collagen peptides can provide a number of other potential benefits as well.
Some other known benefits of collagen peptides include:
- Antioxidant properties
- UV protection
- Wound healing potential
- Improvement of joint and bone health
- Ability to strengthen hair and nails
- Promotion of gut health
Are Collagen Peptides Good For You?
Consuming collagen peptides are good for you insofar as they may offer a variety of health benefits, from improving joint health to improving your skin. However, it’s important to ensure you do not have allergies or sensitivities to collagen and that you select a quality product in order to avoid unnecessary side effects.
Because the law does not require cosmetics to be approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), topical skin care products containing collagen peptides are not regulated.
As well, since the FDA considers collagen a dietary supplement, the safety and effectiveness of collagen peptide supplements are also unregulated.
In spite of this, the FDA does monitor supplements and take legal action against any which have been proven to make false claims or which pose safety concerns. When choosing your collagen peptides supplement, be sure its manufacturer hasn’t been called out by the FDA.
Collagen peptides supplements
Collagen peptide supplements usually come in the form of either powders or pills and are generally considered equally safe and effective for skin care purposes.
Collagen powder can sometimes have a bad taste but can be blended into a smoothie, while pills have the benefit of being tasteless but are generally large in size. Be sure to choose a collagen peptide product that best suits your needs and goals.
Topical collagen peptides
Although some experts believe that peptide skin creams or moisturizers are not able to be absorbed fully via the skin, instead recommending oral supplements, some research has nonetheless shown them to have positive effects on skin health.
Creams have the advantage of providing extra hydration, making them particularly suitable for dry, wrinkled, or aging skin, and they pose even fewer risks than the already rare potential side effects of oral supplements.
Side Effects of Collagen Peptides on the Skin
Although rare and typically mild, side effects of collagen peptides on skin often take the form of inflammation and skin breakouts or rashes. This is typically due to additives, preservatives, heavy metals, or poorly sourced animal products included as ingredients in certain supplements.
Can collagen peptides trigger acne breakouts?
Chemical additives in collagen peptide supplements, such as anti-caking substances and preservatives are common causes of acne flare-ups in those who notice increased breakouts with collagen use.
These chemical ingredients can cause systemic inflammation as well as accumulate within the body, leading to enlarged and clogged pores, and ultimately more breakouts.
Gastro-intestinal Side Effects
Ingredients such as dyes and synthetic gelatin found in gummy supplements can be difficult to digest, leading to inflammation of the gut. This may cause a range of digestive issues including diarrhea, a general feeling of heaviness in the stomach, feelings of fullness, and heartburn.
Others may experience constipation when they begin to integrate collagen peptides into their supplement regime, while others notice a reduction in appetite. It’s always best to speak with your doctor when beginning to take new supplements, particularly in order to avoid adverse interactions with medications.
Other Potential Side Effects
Other potential side effects of collagen peptides in individuals with sensitivities or for those using poor quality collagen products include the following:
If you are sensitive to the free glutamic acid found in collagen protein, you may experience mild headaches or have difficulty sleeping. It’s important, in such cases, not to over-consume collagen peptides or take them right before sleeping.
The animal ingredients commonly found in collagen peptide supplements can be extraordinarily high in calcium, which, in come cases can lead to hypercalcemia. This in turn, can lead to a number of side effects, including abnormal heart rhythms.
Hydroxyproline, (a key amino acid found in that collagen), can be converted into oxalate and excreted through the kidneys. In some individuals, this can trigger the formation of kidney stones. If you have a history of calcium oxalate kidney stones, exercise caution when incorporating collagen peptides by beginning with no more than about 1 tablespoon per day, and always stay well-hydrated.
Anti-Aging Alternatives to Collagen Peptides Supplements
If you’re allergic or sensitive to collagen peptide supplements, there are a number of alternatives to collagen supplementation that can nonetheless help increase your collagen intake. These include:
- Try a preventative approach. To protect collagen stores, doctors recommend you use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day, refrain from smoking, and eat a healthy, protein and antioxidant-rich diet.
- Topical creams which include retinoic acid or over-the-counter retinol can help promote collagen growth, while a secondary vitamin C-containing cream can provide additional antioxidant benefits.
- Hyaluronic acid fillers boost collagen production and improve skin’s appearance.
- Red light therapy is a natural way to tighten skin and increase collagen production.
- Despite the well-known risks of exposure to sunlight, it also happens to be important to natural collagen production. Getting out in the sun for 10-20 minutes first thing in the morning can facilitate optimal collagen production by preventing a vitamin D deficiency. Aim for 30 minutes total of sun exposure daily.
Collagen peptide supplements can offer a range of benefits from improved skin health to a reduction in joint pain and stronger hair and nails.
For most people, taking collagen peptide supplements should not have any major effects or health consequences, and topical collagen peptide products in particular are unlikely to pose a risk
Collagen peptide supplements can however lead to dermatological, digestive side, and other side effects, particularly in products with poorly sourced ingredients. If you have allergies, make sure to purchase supplements that aren’t made from collagen sources you’re sensitive to.
Always take your collagen peptide supplements as instructed by a healthcare professional or as directed on the label of a product. Look for companies that get their bones and tissues from cage-free, free-range, and antibiotic-free sources, and avoid formulas with multiple additives.
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