The 8 Best Collagen Supplements of 2021, According to a Dietitian

Boost your protein intake (and your skin health)

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Our Top Picks
"In addition to grass-fed bovine collagen, Vital Proteins adds vitamin C to their powder to increase collagen absorption. "
"This product is Pareve, Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, Keto Certified, Paleo Friendly, Verified Glyphosate Free, and USP/NF Compliant."
"This uses BioCell Collagen as its main ingredient and contains a specific blend of fruit and vegetable extracts."
"With a diverse blend of collagen types from multiple food sources, it's designed to benefit skin, gut and joint health. "
"This mix keeps things simple and features six recognizable ingredients."
"Consumer Labs research ranks this as the best for joint pain."
"It's made from the skin of wild-caught cod from the North Atlantic."
"It uses Verisol, a form of bioactive collagen peptides which have been used in studies on collagen’s effect on skin elasticity."

Collagen is the main structural protein of connective tissues such as bone, skin, cartilage, and tendons. Collagen supplements have exploded in popularity in recent years, and there are some major proposed health benefits tied to supplementing with collagen. It has been hypothesized that if humans ingest collagen from outside sources, it will support and optimize our health and address physiological needs posed by aging and exercise. Unfortunately, there is not much concrete published evidence.

Collagen supplements are made from extracting the collagen from connective tissues of animals such as cows, fish, and chickens. Collagen peptides are the broken down elements of the longer protein chain and are more bioavailable and absorbable by humans in this form.

These supplements can be taken in powder and capsule form or added to foods such as protein bars. Since collagen makes up a large percentage of our skin, collagen supplements have been regarded as a tool to improve and maintain skin health as well as joint, gastrointestinal, and bone health.

Here, the best collagen supplements:

Best Overall: Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides Powder

Vital Proteins puts extra care into the sourcing of their bovine collagen peptides. The cows used to produce their collagen peptides are raised in alignment with the Global Animal Partnership 5-step animal welfare rating standards, an important quality to look for when purchasing protein powders sourced from animal ingredients.

In addition to grass-fed bovine collagen, Vital Proteins adds vitamin C to their powder to increase collagen absorption. Consumers can naturally consume Vitamin C with their collagen by using the collagen in a fruit or vegetable smoothie; however, for those that prefer adding collagen powder to water or coffee, Vital Proteins makes vitamin C consumption very easy.

Best Budget: Great Lakes Gelatin Co Collagen Hydrolysate

Great Lakes Gelatin, Collagen Hydrolysate

Great Lakes Gelatin Company uses grass-fed and pasture-raised cows from Argentina and Brazil to make their collagen powder. This product is Pareve, Gluten-Free, Non-GMO, Keto Certified, Paleo Friendly, Verified Glyphosate Free, and USP/NF Compliant.

Consumer Lab, a third-party testing company has also given this product its stamp of approval and has verified that the claims on the bottle match the actual ingredients. One 16-ounce container provides 38 servings of high-quality collagen, a true steal.

Best Capsule: Reserveage Nutrition Ultra Collagen Booster

Reserveage Ultra Collagen Booster uses BioCell Collagen as its main ingredient. BioCell Collagen is a patented hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract that contains a naturally occurring matrix of hydrolyzed collagen type II. This powerful collagen blend also contains chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid, two naturally occurring substances in the body that promote healthy tissues.

In addition to BioCell Collagen, Reserveage adds a specific mix of fruit and vegetable extracts, such as Acerola cherry, asparagus, and pomegranate, to each capsule. These extracts have been researched for their ability to help retain skin elasticity and brightness. This product is free of gluten, corn, dairy, soy, sugar, wheat, and preservatives.

Best Powder: Ancient Nutrition Multi Collagen Protein Powder

Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Protein offers a diverse blend of collagen types from multiple food sources. Using collagen from beef, chicken, fish, and eggshell membranes, this product is designed to benefit skin, gut, and joint health.

Stick to the original Multi Collagen Protein if you are looking for a product with four ingredients and no flavorings or sweeteners. It's an excellent addition to smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, or sauces,

Best Tasting: Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel Protein Mix, Chocolate Coconut

Sorting through long ingredient lists can be confusing and overwhelming. Primal Kitchen keeps things simple with their Chocolate Coconut Collagen Peptides. This product features six recognizable ingredients, including bovine collagen peptides, organic fair-trade cocoa powder, coconut milk powder, and monk fruit. This product is sugar-free, Whole30-Approved, and made without dairy, whey, or soy ingredients. It's also Keto Certified and Paleo Friendly.

Primal Kitchen has sought out highly dissolvable collagen that meets their strict standards for sourcing and processing. One scoop provides 11 grams of protein, 10 grams of collagen, and only 70 calories, making it a great addition to smoothies and shakes.

Best for Joints: Healthy Origins UC-II with Undenatured Type II Collagen

Consumer Labs research ranks Healthy Origins UC-II Collagen the best for joint pain. UC-II contains a patented form of undenatured type II collagen derived from chicken sternum. UC-II has been examined in multiple research studies for its efficacy in relieving joint pain.

A randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition tested the use of UC-II in individuals reporting knee discomfort when exercising. Researchers examined the efficacy of the supplement based on participants’ ability to extend their knees.  After 120 days of supplementation, subjects in the UC-II group exhibited a statistically significant improvement in average knee extension compared to placebo.

Healthy Origins recommends that adults take one vegetarian capsule daily, preferably on an empty stomach at bedtime.

Best Marine: Further Food Premium Marine Collagen Peptides

Further Food Marine Collagen is made from the skin of wild-caught cod from the North Atlantic. Collagen from fish skin is a preferred choice for marine-based collagen as it is easier to extract the collagen from the soft skin as opposed to hard scales. For marine collagen, ideal products will use wild fish and utilize third-party testing to examine the presence of heavy metals and other potential contaminants.

Further Food does not use harsh enzymes or heat to extract the collagen, keeping all of the beneficial properties intact. If quality of manufacturing is a concern, Further Food’s marine collagen peptides are made in facilities that are NSF cGMP-certified. The product is helpful for a variety of diets, as it is paleo and keto-friendly. As a bonus, consumers can feel good about packaging as the collagen is packaged in 100 percent Post-Consumer Recycled jars.

Best for Skin: Besha Natural Collagen Peptides

Collagen supports the elasticity and structure of skin and over time, as collagen levels naturally decrease, the skin’s propensity to wrinkle increases. Type I and III collagen are the main forms of collagen in the skin. Some evidence suggests that taking collagen may have a modest positive effect on skin through hydration, elasticity, and skin volume.

Besha, a German-made product, is a top pick for skin by Consumer Labs. The collagen used in Besha is Verisol, a form of bioactive collagen peptides that have been used in research studies examining collagen’s effect on skin elasticity. Of note, Verisol is derived from pigs, so if you have dietary restrictions, you may want to pick a collagen derived from fish or cow instead.

What to Look for in Collagen Supplements

Quality:

When looking for a collagen supplement, go for quality and do your research. Products that use bovine collagen should be using grass-fed cows. The product website should give you information about sourcing, such as farm location and any other certifications. For marine collagen, ideal products will use wild fish and utilize third-party testing for heavy metals and other potential contaminants. 

Ingredients: 

Collagen supplements may contain additional ingredients, including flavors, sweeteners, or added nutrients. Always check the ingredient list to ensure that all of the ingredients are safe for your individual needs. Try to keep added sugars to a minimum and avoid artificial flavors and preservatives.

Labels: 

Non-GMO

A Non-GMO Project Certificate of Verification demonstrates that an individual product is Non-GMO Project Verified. The definition of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) is “plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs.” GMO Crops are engineered to withstand the application of toxic herbicides which might have negative health effects. 

Third-Party Certification

Shoppers might see labels such as “CL, Labdoor, NSF, or USP”. These labels indicate that a company has undergone voluntary third-party testing of their products to check for purity, potency, and quality. These third-party companies will also test for heavy metals and other contaminants. 

FAQs

What is the best collagen supplement for skin?

Collagen helps skin cells adhere to one another and also gives the skin strength and elasticity. Collagen production naturally decreases with age and is also affected by factors like diet, smoking, alcohol intake, and UV exposure. There is not enough research to determine the best type of collagen supplement to support healthy skin.

Research to support the use of supplemental collagen is still new, and only a few small studies have demonstrated its effectiveness. Knowing that vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can benefit the skin, it might be wise to purchase a collagen supplement that includes vitamin C. In addition to vitamin C, products that add hyaluronic acid might boost skin support.

How do collagen supplements help skin, hair and nails?

The research to support collagen supplementation for hair, skin, and nails is still too new to say definitively how it works and if it works. Collagen is the main structural protein of connective tissues such as bone, skin, cartilage, and tendons.

Most simply, it is thought that by consuming collagen peptides from animal sources, levels of collagen in the blood will increase and support various parts of the body such as hair, skin, nails, and even the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract. The jury is still out on whether or not oral collagen consumption will be of benefit and more research needs to be done.

What Experts Say

“Collagen may benefit muscle mass, arthritis pain, and skin elasticity. In alternative medicine, it is also used to repair the gut lining, although there isn’t a ton of clinical research to support this as of now. Try sipping on bone broth, nature’s collagen source, or add collagen supplements to your oatmeal, smoothies, or coffee to up your protein intake in the morning—just make sure this isn’t your only protein source, as it is not a complete protein.” —Leah Baum, MS, RDN

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

As a Registered Dietitian, Sydney Greene takes supplement recommendations seriously. Every product has been researched and vetted against clinical research, product reviews, and third-party testing websites. These are products she would not only feel comfortable recommending to my clients, but she would take them herself if needed.

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Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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