For an expert opinion, I consulted Margit Juhász, MD, dermatology resident at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Juhász is an author of a 2019 Journal of Drugs in Dermatology study on the topic.
What is the theory behind collagen supplements for skin health?
Collagen is the most abundant component of the skin’s extracellular matrix; with age, collagen content decreases. Extracting and denaturing animal collagen from various sources creates collagen hydrolysates (CHs) which are highly water-soluble and can be consumed orally. CHs are further degraded into collagen dipeptides and tripeptides. CHs induce collagen synthesis and work as antioxidants, while collagen dipeptides stimulate cell proliferation, promote hyaluronic acid production, and increase skin’s water content.
Is there any proof that collagen supplements work?
The current literature supports the use of oral collagen supplements for wound healing and skin aging by increasing skin elasticity, hydration and dermal collagen density. In the future it will be interesting to see if collagen supplements have any bearing for the treatment of skin barrier diseases, such as atopic dermatitis.
How should dermatologists counsel their patients who ask about collagen supplements?
It is important that dermatologists emphasize to patients that although preliminary results on oral collagen use are promising, current studies are limited. In addition, content of collagen supplements is not regulated and, therefore, there is always a possibility of impurities and/or unlisted ingredients. So far, there are no reported adverse events associated with oral collagen use.
Further Reading on Collagen Supplementation
Nutraceutical supplementation has been shown to have effects on skin. The aim of this article is to establish the acceptability and feasibility of modifying dietary routines to include use of a collagen peptide-based nutraceutical drink (Skinade®, Bottled Science Ltd, London, UK) in order to improve skin quality. Several studies have shown the effects of this nutraceutical drink, which targets the skin as a whole organ by addressing overall skin health through the product’s formulation and mechanism of action. Aesthetic professionals have noted improvements in skin appearance and texture, as well as skin healing, after daily intake of the drink, which is derived from ingredients known to improve skin health and ameliorate the effects of skin aging. Maintenance of collagen levels through aesthetic procedures and topical skincare application can produce localized reductions in signs of aging. Dermatologists should be aware of the potential benefits of nutraceuticals used in conjunction with these other aesthetic treatments.
The field of nutritional sciences has advanced beyond research of the role of individual nutrients, supplements and diet in disease to the multi-disciplinary practice of adjuvant medical nutrition therapy (MNT). Nutrition research is often that of association rather than cause and effect, yet there are compellingly strong relationships between diet and disease severity and incidence of a number of dermatological conditions. MNT is a tailored, evidence-based, comprehensive nutrition intervention strategy delivered by a physician and registered dietitian to a subset of dermatology patients who may benefit from nutrition intervention. With shorter clinical interaction times and patients requesting nutrition information, a collaborative approach may spur clinically meaningful nutritional changes with advice beyond the often quoted “eat better, lose weight, and exercise.” This review provides a comprehensive overview of the latest Dermatology Medical Nutrition Therapy (D-MNT) recommendations and advocates an evidence-based, collaborative approach to dermatological patient care.
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