What Is Collagen?

Last Update: June 18, 2024

In your quest for youthful-looking skin or healthy joints, you’ve likely come across a common ingredient: collagen

Aside from being a popular ingredient in many supplements, beauty products, and even your morning coffee, collagen is a structural protein that makes up about a third of the protein in the human body. Upping your body’s natural collagen supply isn’t quite as simple as just adding it — whether internally or topically — to your daily routine, though; it’s important to understand the benefits of collagen, how you can ensure you’re getting enough, and, most importantly, what, exactly, collagen is. 

Read on for answers to all your most common questions about the benefits of collagen, plus some of the best collagen supplements at Thrive Market.  

What Does Collagen Do? 

Think of collagen as the “glue” that holds our bodies together. It is a protein molecule, made up of amino acids, that forms connective fibers and provides structural support for skin, bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Collagen also plays an important role in hair and nail growth and strength.

Unfortunately, our natural collagen production declines as we get older, leading to visible signs of aging like wrinkles, joint pain, thinning hair, and weaker bones. A source of protein, collagen can be a nourishing addition to smoothies, coffee, soups, or broths. It can also be mixed into baked goods, marshmallows, or taken as a pill supplement. You can also check out Thrive Market Collagen which can be easily added to smoothies and lattes!

Do Collagen Supplements Work? 

Because of this inevitable decline in your body’s natural collagen production, many people seek out the health benefits of collagen through supplementation. These collagen supplements contain amino acids and peptides that your body needs to maintain its own collagen supply and to create new collagen. 

Where Does Collagen Come From?

Collagen supplements typically come from animal protein sources, such as connective tissue, bones, skin, and joints. Two of the most common collagen supplements are bovine collagen and marine collagen. 

For vegetarians or vegans, plant-based collagen supporting supplements also exist; these are made from amino acids sourced from plants that support your body to help it create more collagen naturally. 

What Are Collagen Peptides? 

When you’re shopping for a collagen supplement, you may notice that many labels use the phrase “collagen peptides”. This simply refers to the way the whole collagen is broken down into smaller pieces of protein.

What Is Hydrolyzed Collagen? 

Hydrolyzed collagen is a type of collagen that has a lower molecular weight than others, which may make it easier to absorb into the bloodstream than other types. Hydrolyzed collagen comes from the same sources, including bovine and marine collagen. 

The Potential Benefits of Collagen

You can add more collagen to your diet through supplements or collagen-rich foods. Some of the health benefits of collagen may include: 

  • Improved skin elasticity. Collagen gives skin its plumpness and elasticity. Studies show that over time, collagen supplements helped to improve the appearance of hydration and elasticity in subjects’ skin*. 
  • Joint support. Adequate collagen is essential for maintaining healthy joints and preventing joint deterioration, which may help treat or prevent joint pain*. 
  • Hair and nails support. Collagen is a key component of your hair and nails; some studies suggest that collagen supplements may promote faster hair growth and prevent fingernail breakage*.
  • Reduced inflammation. Some research suggests collagen’s amino acids, like glycine, have anti-inflammatory effects that may aid joint and muscle recovery.

Types of Collagen Supplements

If you’re looking to supplement your body’s collagen levels, you have a few popular options:

  • Collagen powders and pills. Powdered or capsule forms of hydrolyzed collagen peptides from bovine collagen (cow), marine collagen (fish), or poultry sources. 
  • Blended collagen protein powders. Less processed forms of collagen protein that contain larger, unhydrolyzed molecules.
  • Bone broth protein. Made by simmering down bones and connective tissues to extract collagen.
  • Collagen gummies. Collagen peptides formed into flavored gummy form, often using gelatin. 
  • Collagen liquids. Flavored liquid collagen supplements containing hydrolyzed collagen peptides.

Getting Collagen from Foods

While collagen peptides offer a concentrated collagen boost, you can also find this vital protein in many common foods, including:

How to Use Collagen 

From adding a scoop to your morning smoothie to creating a spiced butter to spread on toast, these recipes will show you a few great ways to use collagen in your routine.

Iced Vanilla Matcha Latte With Collagen Recipe
Your favorite matcha gets a boost of collagen in this refreshing iced beverage recipe. 

Cinnamon Collagen Compound Butter Recipe
With just three ingredients, you can make this spiced butter that’s a perfect collagen-infused addition to hot beverages, baked goods, or on top of toast. 

Collagen Mug Muffin Recipe
All it takes is a minute in the microwave to make this wholesome collagen mug cake that tastes just like a banana nut muffin. 

Gluten-Free Edible Cookie Dough Recipe 
Free of gluten (and raw eggs), this edible cookie dough makes a sweet treat that helps to supplement your collagen intake. 

MCT Oil Coffee Gummies Recipe
Combine paleo-friendly MCT oil and collagen-filled gelatin with this homemade gummy recipe that’s perfect for on-the-go snacking. 

Pomegranate-Collagen Drink Recipe
When hot summer weather strikes, this refreshing, fruity beverage makes it easy to get your daily dose of collagen while also staying hydrated. 

Coconut Chai Latte With Collagen Recipe
Swap your morning coffee for this creamy, spicy chai latte that’s sweetened with natural honey. 

Blueberry Watermelon Collagen Smoothie Recipe
Lots of people add a scoop of collagen powder to their morning smoothie. This recipe makes it easy (and delicious) with antioxidant-rich fruits and hydrating coconut water. 

Activated Charcoal Lemonade Recipe With Collagen
Get the benefits of both activated charcoal and collagen with this collagen lemonade with charcoal ice cubes. 

Read more about collagen: 

Collagen vs. Gelatin
Can You Get Collagen from Plants? A Plant-Based Collagen Explainer
From Breakfast to Dessert, 3 Ways to Add More Collagen to Your Diet
Collagen Recipes With Our Two New Flavors
Get the Scoop on Collagen, Plus 2 Easy Recipes
Thinking About Adding Collagen to Your Diet? Here’s a Delicious Way to Do It

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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Amy Roberts

Amy Roberts is Thrive Market's Senior Editorial Writer. She is based in Los Angeles via Pittsburgh, PA.

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