When celebrities tweet about a miraculous product to us mere humans, suddenly, it transcends mere cult favoritism and transforms into the elixir of life.
From coconut oil to vitamin C serum, “influencers” have sanctioned an insane amount of products in the wellness world. Some health trends—like juicing (though we prefer more nutritious smoothie-ing)—have caught on more than others.
One product topping many health trend lists for 2017 is liquid collagen. When you hear the word “collagen,” you may immediately think of injectables meant to defy aging, but the drinkable kind is actually becoming more and more mainstream as an at-home wellness routine. The supplement’s popularity began in Asia but has reached “it” status as the secret to glowing skin, flexible joints, and healthy digestion.
Collagen, based on the Greek word kolla meaning “glue,” is aptly named. It is the most prolific natural protein in our bodies—the adhesive that keeps our joints together and our skin elastic. Found in our bones, muscles, and tissues, it breaks down as we age. By the time the average woman turns 50, she has lost half of her collagen. Outwardly, this results in sagging skin, weak nails, and brittle hair; inwardly, it results in joint pain and body stiffness.
But are the health benefits of collagen supplements really worth the hype? According to glowing reviews from celebs and strangers on the internet, yes. According to me and science? Despite the affordable price tag, if you're just looking for a little beauty and health boost, you might be better off spending your $15 somewhere else.
Before adding it to your regimen, read on for the low-down on my experiment with RejuviCare, a “delicious grape flavor” of liquid collagen.
The Taste: D
This grade is subjective, as I tried one with an artificial grape flavor. If you’re like the majority of the population, one taste and you’ll wonder what exactly is delicious about this “delicious grape flavor.” Admittedly, it got better as my gag reflex acclimated, but, man, they should’ve left out the word “delicious.” That said, there are plenty of non-flavored varieties that may be more palatable (the traditional powder forms are, supposedly, not so bad).
The Cost: B
Unlike a lot of supplements, you’re not gambling a lot when you opt to try RejuviCare or similar liquid collagen brands. You can find it on Amazon for less than $15; I bought mine at GMC for $13. On the flip side, though, one bottle only lasts thirty-two days. So if you’re fully committed to integrating this into your lifestyle long term, it could cost upward of $350 a year depending on which brand you use (most 16-ounce bottles are in the $20 to $40 range).
The Convenience: C
You’re supposed to drink liquid collagen once a night, around bedtime. I stored it on my bathroom sink—next to my other nightly rituals—to be the last thing I drank before I tucked in. I thought this would be easy, but I was wrong. I missed the small print where it says “Refrigerate after opening.” Going downstairs every night before I’m about to hit the hay to chug stuff that tastes like baby Tylenol was a bit of a deterrent, but I was actually able to remember to drink it (thanks, in part, to the large note on my mirror that says “REMEMBER YOUR COLLAGEN”).
Note: The liquid form is allegedly more potent, but pills might be more practical. Collagen is sold in pill and powder form, too.
The Results: D-
As I took the supplement, I was expecting—well, I was expecting something to happen. There were claims that it could boost energy, so I waited. Nope, nada. Then there were the digestive claims—but my stomach felt more or less the same (granted, I didn’t exactly have any digestion problems to begin with). Another claim I heard was super-supple joints? At first, I thought they maybe felt less creaky, but I think I’m going to chalk that up to the placebo effect.
The funny part? I hadn’t had a pimple since I was pregnant, which was more than a year ago (before you hate me, you should know I spent a decade of my life as a pimple gladiator before my face decided to make peace). On day four, a zit appeared on my chin. I can’t blame the collagen for sure, but this was the opposite of what I was expecting. On the beauty side, I was hoping for a bit of a glow at the very least.
Final Review (and Some Scientific Facts)
While the hype might be real, the results weren’t—at least for me. In fact, I’ve seen better results just by being vigilant about drinking the recommended daily amount of water. More interestingly, I found out that drinking collagen doesn’t even increase collagen circulation or production in your body.
Sarah Greenfield, a registered dietitian and expert coach in digestive health, says, “Basically, collagen is a protein, and when ingested, your body breaks it down into its simplest form, amino acids, and then rebuilds it for things the body needs [such as energy and muscle repair]. So collagen intake does not always equal more circulating collagen in the body.” Simply put, collagen supplements won’t go from your gut to your hair, nails, and skin. It’s just not how the human body works.
But collagen supplements can benefit those with digestive issues. “I work with a lot of patients that have dysbiosis, or leaky gut, and collagen can help fill in some of the gaps in the inflamed intestinal lining,” Greenfield says. “This helps decrease gut permeability or helps keep food particles in the gut that can get into the blood stream and cause problems.” She adds, “It’s also an easily digested protein, so people with low levels of digestive enzymes can process collagen easier than other proteins.”
However, for collagen to really make a difference in digestion, it takes a couple weeks to sink in, Greenfield says. Plus, “It will be harder to notice a change in intestinal inflammation on its own and is best when it’s combined with other interventions.” So, it’s a supplement that’s best used supplementing other supplements. Gotcha.
While starlets and health gurus give collagen supplements an enthusiastic A+ for effort, according to science, when it comes to effectiveness, this isn’t a cure-all. And for an average person without intestinal issues, there’s definitely room for improvement.