Eating extra collagen protein can smooth wrinkles, hydrate skin, and support joint health[*][*]. But obtaining enough collagen through diet alone is difficult, which is why supplementation is a successful strategy.
Unfortunately, many collagen protein supplements on the market contain unnecessary ingredients and calories that can derail your health goals.
The secret is to take a fair and balanced look at the most popular collagen protein powders available today so you can make an informed decision. Keep reading to learn about the best and worst collagen protein, tips to buy safe and healthy collagen supplements, and more.
The 4 Best Collagen Supplements on the Market Today
#1: Perfect Keto Collagen Protein
Unlike most collagen protein powders on the market, Perfect Keto Collagen is specifically formulated to support ketosis with added MCT fatty acids.
- Low-carb and keto-friendly
- Grass-fed collagen
- Free of unnecessary additives and gluten-free
- Four flavor options
- Some people who are accustomed to non-grass-fed collagen protein find the price expensive.
What people are saying about Perfect Keto Collagen Protein:
- “Tastes great, and it’s awesome that I recognize every ingredient in the label. The fact that they packed a prebiotic, MCT oil, and collagen protein into one product saves me time and money. I use it in my morning smoothie or rocket fuel latte every day!”
- “The way I love it best is blended up with some heavy cream and/or whipped cream and a little cinnamon and nutmeg added. If you don’t want to go nuts using all your cream (as it does get expensive), you can just add a little cream (about 1/4-1/3 cup) and top the rest with cold water and it still tastes excellent. My only con is the cost. It’s a little expensive for how fast you go through it.”
- “Amazing flavor, I’ve always used protein shakes, so the price is average but the consistency of this product and the quality of flavor is amazing. I’ve never been able to mix a protein powder in coffee or water and for it to dissolve so fast. The coffee with this is amazing. Gets me all the energy to play with my 11-month-old and help with the weight loss”
#2: Neocell Super Collagen
Neocell is a popular brand with a best-selling collagen supplement that contains a blend of type 1 and type 3 hydrolyzed collagen peptides.
- In a test by the Clean Label Project, Neocell’s product had among the lowest levels of heavy metals of 30 products tested.
- May contain traces of sulfite residues
- The recommended serving size of 6.6 grams may not be optimal for results, according to results from most studies of collagen supplements.
What People Are Saying About Neocell Super Collagen:
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- “I’ve been taking this product for about 4 months, 4 containers of powder, and I’m amazed how great my nails are and my cellulite is reduced.”
- “A bit challenging to dissolve, so I used warm to very warm juice, water, or healthy smoothie WARMED. THEN…..stir stir STIR…..USE WITH Biotin that combination ROCKS! I love the healthiness of my hair I will continue to purchase the liquid biotin with the collagen to pump up my hair thickness, growth, and HEALTH!”
#3: Vital Proteins Original Collagen Peptides
- Contains hyaluronic acid and vitamin C
- Available in smaller container sizes for tighter budgets
- 10 g recommended serving size is optimal according to most research
- The collagen types used in the product are unspecified
- Some users have stated the taste and mixability have room for improvement
What People Are Saying About Unflavored Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides:
- A workout friend told me about this and how it’s good for your joints/workout recovery. I’ve been using it daily for 7 months and my fingernails are very strong and harder to cut with nail clippers AND my thinning hair has been growing back on top fuller as well as in length. Wow, I was not expecting that! I’m happy.
- “It does have a taste – it isn’t strong but I tried it with plain water and it needs some flavor to cover the taste. I don’t want to add it to my coffee and like drinking it cold. I found that flavored carbonated water like LaCroix is just enough to cover the taste, but it does not dissolve quickly in cold liquid. I was mixing it and leaving it to sit on the counter until the lumps were gone, which could take as long as an hour. Some of the photos I have seen in the comments show lumps and I think they didn’t let it sit long enough to dissolve.”
#4: Imedeen Prime Renewal
Imedeen Prime Renewal is different from the other collagen products listed here. It contains a blend of collagen proteins that include marine collagen, and collagen cofactors including vitamin C.
But what really sets it apart is the fact that it’s been used in several studies with positive results, particularly for women’s skin appearance[*]. That’s not to say other products are necessarily less beneficial, but positive scientific research results attached to a proprietary product are still impressive.
- Backed by independent studies
- Contains collagen cofactors shown to aid collagen synthesis
- The recommended dose is lower than the 10-gram average dose used in most successful studies of collagen supplements.
- It’s very expensive — for the price, you could easily purchase the other ingredients (cofactors) to take separately, double the collagen dose for better effects, and have extra money leftover.
What People Are Saying About Imedeen Prime Renewal:
- “I’ve been taking this for 1 1/2 months now and have actually noticed a difference in my skin’s hydration everywhere and a diminishing of fine lines. The first month I didn’t notice too much but had always planned to give the product 4 months, so I’d say give this product a few months before you expect to notice a difference. Some reviewers had mentioned that they gained weight, so I was concerned about that when I started taking it but I’m happy to report that is not the case for me.”
- “My daughter is at uni she came home and asked me what I was using on my face as the dryness has gone. Worked for me. Not cheap but the effects for me were visible in as little as a week.”
- “I took this product consistently for five months. This product caused weight gain for me. I gained 15 pounds in 5 months. This product was the only different thing I was taking/doing during that time. Everything else remained the same (diet, exercise). When I figured out that this is what was causing the weight gain (I googled “Imedeen weight gain”), I stopped taking them immediately. It has now been almost 3 weeks since I discontinued them and I can honestly say that I feel much lighter and I can see the dramatic difference in how my clothes fit now. I still have some pounds to lose but I will not take these ever again. I do not recommend them. I realize that everybody is different and not everyone will react in the way my body did, but you will have to try them and see for yourself if you choose to take the risk. On a positive note, during the time I was taking this product, I received countless compliments on how young I looked. So, they were helping me in that respect, and that is why I gave this product 2 stars, but it’s not worth the weight gain it caused me. This is my personal experience. I hope others will have a better experience.”
The Worst Collagen Protein Supplements to Avoid
#1: Sports Research Collagen Peptides Powder
Sports Research collagen peptides have an excellent Amazon track record according to their ratings and reviews.
However, ReviewMeta, an Amazon review analyzer that searches for fake reviews and other shady behavior, begs to differ. According to their analysis of Sports Research’s Amazon reviews, up to 81% of the product’s 14,000+ reviews are untrustworthy.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to gauge the validity of the 50,000+ ratings, but Review Meta’s report card for the product gives failing grades for the rating trends, phrase repetition, overlapping review history, reviewer participation, and warning scores for deleted reviews and suspicious reviewers.
(In contrast, Perfect Keto collagen protein receives a “Pass” grade, with 1% or less of reviews deemed potentially untrustworthy.)
#2: Bulletproof Collagen Protein
Bulletproof, the company behind bulletproof coffee and the Bulletproof Diet, offers a collagen protein supplement.
Unfortunately, an independent analysis by the Clean Label Project found that the Bulletproof product exceeded the safe limits of cadmium and lead, a reminder that consumers have to be extremely cautious with their purchases.
According to the white paper, which tested products available from Amazon.com, 13% of collagen supplements failed to meet safety standards.
#3: Best Naturals Multiple Collagen Peptides
Best Naturals Multiple Collagen Peptides is a low-budget collagen protein sold through Wal-Mart and other retailers.
The concept of blending 4-5 different collagen sources into a single product is novel and could be a good idea–although there’s currently no research to give a definitive answer–but the execution of this product may leave something to be desired.
Reviewers comment that the taste and texture are extremely unpleasant, which are not signs of good quality.
And while the low price may tempt people on a budget, one serious red flag is that the manufacturer doesn’t list the origins of any of the ingredients.
Another red flag is that the label contains two misspellings, “Hydrolized” and “Colagen.” The label also states that the product contains “No Lactase,” which is probably true but also appears to be a typo. Most likely the maker meant to reassure potential purchasers that it was free of lactose, not the enzyme that breaks down milk sugar.
How Does Collagen Protein Work?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. Your skin, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues are primarily made up of collagen[*].
Collagen, in other words, is the glue that holds your cells, organs, and limbs together. And as it happens, your limbs and organs need lots of glue.
Unfortunately, collagen production declines with age. So does the ability for your body to repair collagen damage. This phenomenon is largely to blame for wrinkles, fine lines, reduced skin elasticity, cellulite, and other cosmetic complaints. It’s also likely related to the reasons why supplementing collagen has measurable anti-aging effects on skin, joint pain, and joint health[*][*].
Like all proteins, collagen is composed of amino acids — the fundamental building blocks that assemble to form larger proteins that create tissues. But compared to other types of tissue, like muscle fibers, collagen contains fewer essential, but more non-essential, amino acids.
You need both types of aminos, but the difference is that you can synthesize non-essential aminos if your diet is low in them, whereas you must consume essential amino acids or develop deficiencies.
And that’s where collagen dietary supplements, also called hydrolyzed collagen or collagen hydrolysate, come in.
Take the non-essential amino acid glycine — it’s partly responsible for the benefits of collagen supplementation. The collagen content of glycine is far higher than other proteins.
Your body can synthesize about 3 grams of glycine per day, but that’s not nearly enough to support bountiful collagen production. According to some research, you need closer to 10 grams of glycine per day to support optimal rates of collagen synthesis[*].
Collagen protein supplements also contain high levels of proline, hydroxyproline, alanine, and arginine, all of which appear to account for their numerous benefits[*].
What to Look for in a Collagen Supplement
When shopping for collagen, direct your search towards products labeled “hydrolyzed collagen”, “collagen peptides”, “hydrolyzed collagen peptides” — or any similar variation. They all mean the same thing.
Unlike gelatin, hydrolyzed collagen and related products are made through a process called hydrolysis that breaks down long-chain collagen proteins from animal products into di-peptides and tri-peptides that mix (in cold water) and absorb more efficiently in your gut[*].
An interesting fact: a kilogram of raw connective tissue makes only 12 grams of collagen peptides powder[*]. That’s a staggeringly tiny 1.2% yield — and it’s the reason why good collagen supplements aren’t exactly dirt cheap.
Gelatin is cheaper than collagen, but it’s made differently. The resulting powder gels instead of mixes when combined with water. It’s perfect for thickening stews, but less backed by research and less digestible. Stick with hydrolyzed collagen for supplementation purposes.
3 Tips to Choose the Best Collagen Powder Supplement
#1: Clean Ingredients
Manufacturers often add sugar, fillers, or artificial flavors to collagen protein powder. Along with the obvious problems associated with sugar, non-nutritive sweeteners, and other artificial additives can have adverse effects on your gut microbiome — negatively impacting the trillions of bacteria that help you digest, fight infection, and produce neurotransmitters[*].
Choose products with natural flavors and healthy, keto-friendly sweeteners like:
- Cocoa powder
- Vanilla bean extract
- Monk fruit extract
Or, if you prefer to keep it simple, opt for a product with collagen as the sole ingredient on the label.
#2: Collagen Sourced From Grass-Fed Cows
Bovine collagen, made from the connective tissue of cows, is the most popular type of collagen on the market with good reason. It’s also the most researched, benefiting — among other things — bone and skin health[*][*].
That said, other studies show some benefits to marine collagen powder for skin and hair, so these may be worth a try. Just stay away from low-quality products made from factory-farmed animals[*].
#3: Reputable Manufacturer
A good review is no longer worth much when it comes to supplements.
However, most trustworthy manufacturers will send you a copy of their third-party heavy metal tests if you request them.
Your best bet is to go with manufacturers you already trust, whose other supplements you’ve tried or who at least have a well-established track record of making pure, authentic, high-quality products.
How to Take Collagen
Take collagen any time, with or without other foods. You can use it in smoothies, coffee, recipes, or just mix it with water.
Whey protein powder is a better choice post-workout, but in a pinch, you can even use collagen as a recovery protein[*].
The most common collagen dose used in studies is approximately 10 grams per serving, but you can use 10-20 grams of collagen multiple times per day for faster results.
However, collagen lacks tryptophan, an indispensable amino acid. As a result, collagen is what’s known as an incomplete protein. Excessive collagen doses can cause tryptophan depletion, which may result in depression or other mood problems[*].
According to one paper, eating up to 36% of your daily protein intake from collagen protein should be safe[*].
As an example, if you follow standard keto with 25% protein and eat 2000 calories (kcal) per day, resulting in a daily total protein intake of 125 grams, that means you’re fine as long as you take 45 grams of collagen protein or less per day.
For best results, your diet should also contain nutrients — known as collagen cofactors — that facilitate collagen synthesis in your body.
There are a handful of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids required for collagen synthesis.
As we already covered, collagen protein powder contains plentiful amounts of the appropriate aminos, which you can think of as the basic building blocks of collagen for your body to use.
The remaining cofactors must come through diet or supplementation. Here are the main ones:
- Vitamin C from fruits or vegetables[*]
- Lysine from meat, fish, or whey protein[*]
- Vitamin A from liver, pastured butter, and fatty fish[*]
- Vitamin E from olive oil, avocados, almonds, hazelnuts, or palm oil[*]
As always, try to get these cofactors through whole foods instead of supplements when possible. Nutrients are from whole food are more bioavailable — a concept some researchers call “food synergy”[*].
Research suggests that consuming 25% or more of your daily calories from protein can help you burn more calories, build lean muscle, and recover from exercise[*][*][*].
Beyond the amount of protein you eat, some protein sources offer unique benefits, like whey protein and collagen protein. But obtaining sufficient amounts of these powerful proteins through diet alone is difficult, which is why protein supplements offer considerable advantages.
Look for bovine, grass-fed, hydrolyzed collagen peptides. Read the label and ingredients list carefully before making your choice, and be sure to opt for a trustworthy manufacturer.