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  • Beth Kitchin PhD RDN

Does This Collagen Powder Make Me Look Younger?

Every morning I put a teaspoon of collagen powder into my breakfast smoothie. This isn’t like me, yet I’ve been doing it daily and diligently for about a year. When I start to run low, I quickly order from Amazon Prime so I don’t miss even a day of my wrinkle-fighting magic powder. How did a hard-core evidence-driven science snob like me come to this? It all started when I was working on my weekly segment for Good Day Alabama. I had been getting a few questions from viewers and patients about collagen supplements for arthritis and aging skin, so I decided to dive into the data.

On the surface, taking a collagen supplement for arthritis, wrinkles, or anything else doesn’t make sense. Collagen does cushion our joints and it keeps our skin taut and smooth. The sad reality is that aging does a number on our collagen production, contributing to various undesirable consequences like saggy skin and painful joints. So why doesn’t taking a collagen supplement make sense?

Well, collagen is a protein – or rather of family of proteins - each one doing a different job. When we eat proteins our bodies break them down into individual amino acids that we absorb and then reassemble into whatever protein our DNA directs them to. In other words, just because you eat collagen in food or take a collagen supplement doesn’t mean it reaches your joints or skin as collagen. It’s kind of like going to the store and buying flour, sugar, eggs, and butter and coming home expecting to pull croissants out of your shopping bag.

But my PubMed search revealed there are some high-quality collagen supplements that are absorbed as moderately sized collagen peptides (shorter chains of amino acids) reaching their targets intact. I dived into this data to see if taking these supplements improved skin elasticity and wrinkles. Words like “modest” and “slight improvement” best defined the results. But that was enough for me. I ordered a highly rated collagen powder and started my daily ritual.

After a year has it made a difference? Probably not. But I keep doing it because this daily ritual makes me feel good. There is something to the trendy term “self-care” that’s about emotion, not evidence. And let’s face it, getting old is tough. So I’ll keep up the daily rituals of my life that I’ve constructed with the delusional expectation of aging unscathed. Because while beauty is skin deep, how we see and take care of ourselves runs much deeper.

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