The Best Form of Collagen

Woman smiling holding collagen supplement and glass of water

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As we age, our bodies naturally produce less collagen while the existing collagen in the body tends to break down more quickly. This natural decline of collagen leaves many individuals seeking ways to address this issue. Consequently, collagen has become a popular supplement used to promote skin and joint health.

Deciding how to boost your collagen intake can be tricky, though, especially because you can get collagen from food as well as in powder, capsule, and liquid form. Two of the most popular options are liquid collagen and collagen powders, though you can also get collagen from natural food sources as well. Here is what you need to know about collagen including how to choose the best form of collagen for your goals.

What You Need to Know About Collagen

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. So far, there have been nearly 30 different types identified. The types of collagen can be used in different ways by your body, but they primarily assist with supporting the skin, bones, tendons, muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues. The collagen types also have varied molecular compositions and various added cell components that correlate with the location in which they are used in the body.

There are five different types of collagen found in supplements. These include types 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Type 2 is often sought after for joint health, while types 1 and 3 are conducive to skin health. Much of the collagen supplements you’ll find on the market come from marine or grass-fed bovine collagen. Plus, every collagen type has slightly different benefits, making it more suitable for a particular health goal.

Types of Collagen

  • Type 1 accounts for nearly all of your body's collagen. It is in hair, skin, nails, bones, tendons, and your GI lining.
  • Type 2 is less dense and is in elastic cartilage.
  • Type 3 is in blood vessels, skin, and muscles.
  • Type 4 is the collagen located in your skin layers. 
  • Type 5 is also found in your skin as well as your corneas, hair, and placenta tissue. 

Collagen Powders / Peptides

Collagen powders, sometimes called collagen peptides, are versatile and can positively impact health. Containing hydrolyzed collagen, collagen powders have undergone a process that breaks it down into its peptide chains.

Peptides are what form collagen protein, the building blocks of the chain. These peptides are found in high numbers in your body. They help to support joint function and skin health. As you age, your natural collagen production slows down but collagen powder could potentially provide a stabilized form of collagen peptides.

The majority of collagen powders deliver more peptides per serving than liquid forms. Consequentily, powder collagen can be a more efficient way to meet your intake needs.

Powder collagen is often made from bovine collagen. This source contains a lot of type 1 and type 2 collagen, which is an excellent way to promote skin and joint health. Powder collagen also is often more sustainable, thanks to its bulk packaging, but it isn’t ideal for traveling. 

Additionally, the powder is easy to mix with liquid as it has no flavor. You can mix it with water, coffee, or other beverages. Additionally, powders don’t contain artificial flavors or preservatives.

"While there has been some concern that using collagen powder in hot foods, such as coffee or baking with it, research suggests that the collagen proteins maintain their integrity up to 572 degrees Fahrenheit, well above the temperature of coffee or most baking that we do, so using them in hot products should be just fine," says Jen Scheinman, RD, a registered dietitian and nutrition affairs manager for Timeline Nutrition.

  • Versatile, mixes with most liquids

  • Contains more easily digestible peptides per serving than liquid

  • Less likely to have artificial ingredients

  • Often sourced from bovine collagen for joint and skin health

  • Sustainable packaging

  • Bulk size isn’t ideal for traveling

  • Isn’t a quick grab-and-go supplement

Liquid Collagen

Liquid collagen comes in a ready-made drink. In this format, collagen peptides are suspended in a liquid mixture. In some cases, the liquid mixture is purified water. However, you can also use flavored liquids to make collagen drinks. Popular drinks are collagen vials, smoothies, or individual shots.

Because these supplements are easy to take and travel with you they may be your best option if you’re looking for a grab-and-go collagen supplement. But many liquid collagens don’t mix into other beverages, like coffee or a sports drink.

While liquid collagen can come from various sources, most of it is marine based. Invertebrates, such as jellyfish or sponges, are typical sources of marine-sourced collagen. Alternative sources are beef, chicken, sheep, or duck. Liquid collagen from marine sources also has the most benefits for the skin, with fewer benefits for joint health.

Because liquid collagen often contains fewer collagen peptides than powders, your intake needs may not be cost- or time-efficient if you drink more than one pre-made drink daily. Furthermore, while marine collagen may contain fewer contaminates, the drink itself may use artificial colors and flavors, and preservatives to enhance its taste and appearance. 

  • Easy to take

  • Ideal for travel

  • It can be more enjoyable to consume

  • Marine-source collagen is less likely to contain contaminants

  • It may contain artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives

  • It doesn’t have as many collagen peptides per serving

  • More supportive of skin health than joint health

Collagen Capsules

Collagen capsules are collagen powder sealed into a capsule. The capsules have a dissolvable casing, making supplementation simple and quick because there is no need to mix it into a drink Capsules also contain a sufficient dose of collagen peptides, though you may have to take more than one pill.

Capsules are easy to travel with and great for people who want collagen supplementation to fit seamlessly into their routine. In addition, they are flavorless and colorless, meaning they don’t typically contain artificial colors or flavors. 

For individuals who don’t like swallowing pills, collagen capsules aren’t ideal. You should also check the ingredients to determine what the capsules are made of, as some may pose allergy risks. Finally, collagen capsules may not be absorbed as well as powders and liquids, as the exterior of capsules takes time to break down.

"Collagen supplements as a whole have been associated with food allergies depending on what food the supplement is made from," says Jeanette Kimszal, RD, a registered dietitian with Root Nutrition & Education. "People with particular food allergies should stay away from collagen supplements made from [allergic] foods. These supplements have been found to cause heartburn, nausea, bloating, and or a feeling of fullness in some people,"

  • Easy to take

  • Lack of artificial flavors and colors

  • Excellent for travel

  • It may require more than one pill to meet the dosage

  • Capsule ingredients may not be hypoallergenic 

  • Less readily absorbed by the body

Food With Collagen

The human body naturally produces collagen. It is also naturally produced by animals, both marine and non-marine. 

Grass-fed bovine collagen from beef is the most popular non-marine collagen. However, chicken, sheep, and duck are alternative collagen sources. Marine collagen often comes from invertebrates, such as jellyfish and sponges, but fish also produce collagen.

"One con of all collagen forms at this time is the lack of vegan options," says Trista Best, RD, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements. "Because collagen is naturally found in animal products, there are only vegan food recommendations that are said to increase the body's ability to produce collagen. Plant sources that can aid in assisting the body produce collagen at a higher rate include legumes, leafy greens, bell peppers, tropical fruit, and berries,"

The easiest way to consume collagen from food is through bone broths. You can boil beef, chicken, or fish until you have a flavorful liquid rich in collagen. The broth can be consumed as is or used in other dishes. Of course, you must prepare this ahead of time, and it can be challenging to store.

It can also be hard to consume enough collagen through food unless you routinely eat a well-rounded, nutrient-dense diet. While this collagen source is natural, if you normally prioritize consuming organic meat and poultry, you may want to be equally as selective about finding bones from organic animals. However, both non organic and organic will still provide equal amounts of collagen.

  • Natural source of collagen

  • It can make a comforting drink

  • You can use it in a variety of dishes

  • Must be prepared and safely stored

  • Collagen concentrations can vary

How to Choose the Best Form of Collagen

Powdered collagen peptides offer the most benefits if you’re looking for maximum effect from your collagen. Powdered collagen tends to have the highest dose per daily recommendation while being versatile, free from additives, and relatively simple to take.

As a result, powdered collagen is excellent for almost all needs including promoting skin elasticity and joint support. The only drawbacks are that it isn’t highly portable, and you need to mix it with a liquid before consumption. 

For those who want a grab-and-go option, consider a pre-made drink mix or capsule. But, of course, getting your intake from food is the best for sourcing the most natural collagen.

A Word From Verywell

Eating foods with collagen as well as taking collagen supplements may help promote skin and joint health. However, not all collagen is created equal. The form of collagen you choose should align with your goals and lifestyle.

Remember, it is best to check with a healthcare provider before taking any new supplements including collagen. A provider can review your current medications and supplements as well as your medical history and help you determine if collagen supplementation is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What should you mix with collagen powder?

    You can add collagen powder to nearly any liquid-based food. Coffee, smoothies, yogurt, acai bowls, soups, and stews are popular. 

  • What is the best time of day to take collagen?

    It is often best to take collagen on an empty stomach in the morning. However, you can take collagen anytime of day that you want.

  • Can you use a variety of forms of collagen?

    You should always follow the recommendation of your collagen supplement regarding suggested use. Additionally, when using various collagen forms, stay within the daily recommended dosage between the multiple forms. It also is a good idea to talk with a healthcare provider about collagen supplementation to ensure it is right for you.

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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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