Health Skin

Can drinking collagen improve skin? Ask The Kit

“I feel like I’ve tried everything to get my skin to glow like the internet says it should. Creams, cleanses, facials, a whole lot of shiny primers and glittering highlighter sticks. Recently, I’ve fallen down a beauty hole reading about celebrities who drink collagen. Hard to argue with how they look. Is there anything to this?” — Curious about ingestibles (and not the cannabis kind!)

Ah, nutraceuticals! Beauty ingestibles! Every fashion and beauty writer and editor has a bunch of bells and alarms go off when these subjects come up.

But, as you point out, Curious, all the Hollywood types do seem to be doing it: Gwyneth Paltrow was out early and loud on collagen supplements and tonics of various kinds (she’s big on marine-sourced collagen). Her stories about it are carefully worded “What collagen might do for your skin.” Kourtney Kardashian’s Poosh lifestyle website headline is less careful, if more vague. It reads: “Collagen is a vibe” that Kourtney enjoys mixed into warm water after she says a morning prayer. Jennifer Aniston last year became the chief creative officer for Vital Proteins collagen supplement. And Khloe Kardashian is the global spokesperson for Dose & Co. collagen supplements. Collagen is the surging winner in the supplement biz: Fast Company, citing numerous studies, pegs the global collagen market to hit more than $8 billion by 2025. Of course celebs are in on the action; this is the bitcoin of beauty.

You might think I’m being dismissive here, running down American wellness celebrities. Fact is, I’m as intrigued as you are and was disappointed to find out that Goop (Paltrow’s beauty brand) collagen products are not available here. This is because Health Canada has some stringent testing requirements around beauty and supplement ingredients and claims of efficacy. More on that regulatory bump later; let’s cut to the what the heck collagen even is part.

Collagen is such a buzzword, bandied about so often in the beauty world that I had to back up and get down to the basics. I called my naturopath, who has completely renovated my gut, to my eternal gratitude. John Dempster is a naturopathic doctor with advanced fellowships in functional, regenerative and anti-aging medicine.

“There is indeed a lot of noise out there about collagen,” says Dempster. Collagen, he says, “is the most abundant protein in our bodies.” There are six types of collagen identified in the body, “with type 1 mainly used by our body to produce a number of different tissues: muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, GI tract, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues.” As we age, he says, production of collagen slows.

So taking it in supplement form makes sense? Like most NDs, Dempster says look to your diet first: collagen is chiefly derived from bovine or marine sources, though some plants (berries and vegetables) have trace sources. He is a proponent of making his own bone broth.

Taking supplements is something he discusses with patients individually, “cutting through the noise and getting some filters on stuff they are reading from sources that are widely entertaining, but light on facts.” Trying to slow down aging from the inside out, there is some clout in that department, some science it can slow down visible signs on skin, hair and nails. “But I don’t make any claims taking collagen is going to prevent wrinkles on skin.”

Collagen, he says, “does wonderful things all over the body.” But remember, he adds, our ability to extract and absorb nutrients also slows with age. And since “collagen is so widely used in the body that if you eat it (or take a supplement), it is going to go first where you need it most. That may not be your glowing face, at least not at first.”

But as any good health-care provider will caution, Dempster ends his lesson by saying, “Always check with your family doctor before starting any new supplements.”

So to get more backup on the safety of this ingestible collagen thing, I reached out to dermatologist Dr. Sandy Skotnicki to check in on the medical research around this subject. She flipped over a recent review of the literature on collagen supplementation in randomized controlled trials in humans, which she accompanied with this summary statement: “In the studies looking at anti-aging, patients received 3 grams of collagen tripeptide for 4-12 weeks. Results showed promising short- and long-term results with increase in skin elasticity, hydration and dermal collagen density. It was safe with no reported adverse events.”

And because we wanted to get some good Cancon in here beside all the American lifestyle gurus in the burgeoning collagen field, I had a conversation with Calgary-based Avalon Lukacs, CEO of Aura Inner Beauty, a collection of liquid collagen, omega drops and restorative powders, vitamins and bioactives.

Lukacs spoke at length about the process of research, testing and gaining approval for supplements in this country. She points to the unique Natural Health Products Ingredients Database, run by Health Canada, which allows consumers to access benefits, warnings and clinical studies. “This is something the FDA does not have (in the U.S.),” she says.

Aura’s marine collagen is wild caught in Canada (from cod, haddock and pollock — love that level of detail!). It comes in coconut, wildberry hibiscus and passion fruit flavours. It is combined with palm-free glycerin and potassium sorbate (from mountain ash berries) and contains vitamin C.

I haven’t been using it long so I can’t give a testimonial here, but I’m happy to give a Canadian entrepreneur’s fully tested, natural product a whirl; it has a sophisticated, subtle, pleasant taste to add to a morning smoothie (or just mixed into warm water, when I feel the need to channel Kourtney K’s “vibe”).

So bottom line is kind of what Gwyneth said: it may help. Remember what Dempster says: there are natural sources to get your collagen, too. I knew there was a reason I was happy about the slight fall chill in the air this past weekend: time to put some (organic) chicken bones and veggies into the pot (or fish bones, if that’s your diet preference). Simmering a broth all day will always be cosy and hey, it may also — help — keep the wrinkles away!

Send your pressing fashion and beauty questions to Leanne at

Shop the advice

As always, check with your doctor before starting any new supplement routines. Here are some fun — and a couple of Canadian — options for ingestible collagen in powdered, liquid and infused formulas, in both bovine and marine sources

Aura Inner Beauty Collagen Dietary Supplement in wildberry hibiscus, $68,

Aura Inner Beauty Collagen Drops in wildberry hibiscus, $68,

This Canadian brand of collagen is a liquid elixir dietary supplement made from wild-caught (in Canada) marine collagen.

Vital Proteins Bovine Collagen Peptides, $36,

Vital Proteins Bovine Collagen Peptides, $56,

This is the company Jen Aniston signed on as CCO for. Single ingredient powders can be added to hot or cold drinks and shakes. This is the bovine; marine is also available.

Landish Pure Canadian Marine Collagen, $50,

Landish Pure Canadian Hydrolyzed Marine Collagen, $50,

Landish is another Canadian collagen startup. Its supplements are sourced sustainably from wild-caught fish from the North Atlantic off Nova Scotia and made only from the skin and scales (byproducts).

Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Collagen, $45,

Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth Collagen, $45,

OK, so it takes a moment to digest the concept of beef bone broth and chocolate, but this is a respected company and apparently this combo is very popular! Also available in Keto formats and straight collagen powders.

Flow Collagen Infused Water, $50 (12-pack),

Flow Collagen Infused Water, $50 (12-pack),

Get 10 grams of grass-fed bovine collagen with no sugar in natural source alkaline water. Six flavours, including Meyer lemon, pomegranate, blood orange, watermelon, cucumber and grapefruit.

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