Derms Say Hydrolyzed Collagen Is Your Best Bet If You Want Better Skin, Hair, And Nails

Photo credit: Jewelyn Butron
Photo credit: Jewelyn Butron

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Let’s face it: Your skin takes a regular beating during your day-to-day. And, while you probably do the essentials like wearing sunscreen daily and moisturizing, it’s understandable to wonder if you could be doing more. Enter: collagen water.

This buzzy product is popping up all over the place, with claims that it’ll do your skin a solid. But what is collagen water, exactly? “As the name implies, it is a combination of collagen and water,” says Ife J. Rodney, MD, a dermatologist and the founding director of Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics. ICYMI, collagen is a protein naturally produced by your body, and it plays a major role in the structure and function of your skin, cartilage, bones, and connective tissue. But its level declines as you age, resulting in wrinkles and sagging skin, which is where the hype around collagen supplements comes from.

“Collagen is an important component of skin,” says Gary Goldenberg, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. “It gives skin firmness, elasticity, and a youthful appearance.”

Unlike collagen powders, which you can mix in water, smoothies, and drinks, collagen water comes pre-mixed and sometimes have other helpful ingredients, like amino acids, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and zinc.” Basically, it saves you a step in having to add collagen to your beverage and helps you stay hydrated at the same time.

Okay, so what’s the deal with collagen water? And can this actually help out your skin, or is this just expensive water?

Meet the experts: Ife J. Rodney, MD, is experienced in cosmetic, surgical, and medical dermatology. With more than 15 years of experience, she has written many articles and textbook chapters on dermatology. She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Gary Goldberg, MD, is a cosmetic and medical dermatologist. He is also an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Dr. Goldberg serves on the editorial boards of several dermatology journals, including The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

What are the benefits of collagen water?

It’s important to get this out upfront: There’s really not any research on collagen water. However, various collagen water companies claim that their products can do things like boost collagen production in your body, improve your skin’s elasticity, make your hair and nails stronger, and even perk up dull skin. But again, there’s really no data to suggest that will happen.

Collagen itself, though, can do the following for your body, per Dr. Rodney:

  • Create connective tissue found in tendons, cartilage, skin, and muscle.

  • Give connective tissue its strength and elasticity

  • Prevent premature wrinkling and skin sagging

  • Promote a more youthful appearance

  • Help with hydration, giving you younger, fresher-looking skin

Does collagen water really work?

Again, there’s no research to say whether collagen water does or doesn’t deliver on its promises. “Minimal evidence or studies support the effects of taking collagen orally actually working long-term,” Dr. Rodney says. “Overall, we know the importance of collagen and encouraging the body to produce it naturally, but intaking infused water might not have the same effect.”

Collagen molecules are quite large and are found in deeper layers of the skin. Even with hydrolyzed collagen, there’s no guarantee that collagen can be processed through drinking, broken down, and rebuilt as collagen, according to Dr. Rodney.

But Dr. Goldenberg says it’s possible. He conducted research in 2019 that found there’s some evidence that collagen supplements (note: not collagen water specifically) may increase collagen in the skin and improve the skin’s appearance.

It may be possible to boost your skin’s collagen by drinking collagen water, but it’s hard to make a blanket statement about it. “Because supplements aren’t tested by the FDA, it’s difficult to know which supplement will actually work,” Dr. Goldberg says.

Okay, but what about other forms of collagen?

“It really depends on the form and type of collagen used,” Dr. Rodney says. “Hydrolyzed collagen has the best chance of being absorbed into the blood through the walls of the small intestine. This should be either collagen I or III, which are commonly found in hair, skin, and nails.”

But, like any other supplement, “your body can only absorb so much in one go, so taking more than the recommended serving size may be a waste,” she says. Even then, there's no guarantee that it will go straight to your skin. Your body may send it to areas where it’s needed most.

Is it safe to drink collagen water?

Collagen water is considered a pretty low-risk thing to try, although it’s possible to experience some minor side effects. “Too much of a collagen supplement may have mild side effects, such as heartburn, bloating, and nausea,” says Keri Gan, RD, the author of The Small Change Diet.

And Dr. Rodney recommends looking out for additives, flavorings, and additional ingredients to make sure you’re not taking in excess sugar.

Are collagen water and liquid collagen the same thing?

Collagen water is liquid collagen, but liquid collagen is not necessarily collagen water. “By definition, liquid collagen is collagen in a liquid solution, like water, a.k.a. collagen water. But liquid collagen can come in another liquid that contains other hair-, skin-, or muscle-building properties,” says Dr. Rodney.

And one is not necessarily better than the other. “It will depend on factors like potency and source of the collagen,” she adds.

Overall, if you’re interested in trying collagen water, you should be just fine to have at it. Just be aware that it may not do anything for you.

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