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What on Earth is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body responsible for structure, stability, and strength, especially within the dermal layers. And those signs of natural aging that we think about – wrinkles, saggy skin, joint pain – are all due to the slowing of collagen production.
To date, 28 types of collagen have been identified existing throughout the body, but only type I, II and III make up for 80-90% of all collagen production. If you’re thinking of consuming collagen as a beauty or performance supplement, it’s derived from animals or skin, and even animal cartilage (hence the rising trend in bone broth).
So that leaves the question – is there one type of collagen that’s better for your skin?
Which Collagen Types are Better for Skin?
The main types of collagen each serve a specific function, categorized not by where they’re sourced (chicken, beef, fish, etc.), but by their molecular makeup.
Here’s a quick overview of the main types of collagen worth noting:
- Type I collagen is a key component of your skin that gives it elasticity and is found in muscles, bones, blood vessels, and tendons.
- Type II collagen is found primarily in cartilage supporting joints.
- Type III collagen makes up organs, skin, heart tissue and blood vessels – so it’s vital for internal organ functions and skin.
For skin and beauty (i.e. anti-aging), type I collagen is considered to be the best. But currently, there’s a debate about whether taking a specific ‘type’ of collagen can directly help with the issue you’re trying to treat.
The other debate is whether eating collagen, regardless of the type, increases your body’s own levels or whether your body will start producing more of it.
But more on that later…
For now, let’s take a glance at the different animal sources of collagen and break down which is better for skin and beauty.
Which Collagen Sources are Better for Skin and Beauty?
1. Piscine Collagen (Marine)
As you would have guessed from the name, marine collagen is sourced from fish, particularly its scales and skin. It’s a source of Type I collagen, the collagen essential for skin elasticity and firmness, as well as for strengthening hair and brittle nails.
Sources say that it’s marine collagen that is the most superior when it comes to collagen types for skin!
What does the research say?
This study prepared elastin peptides from marine and ‘mammalian’ sources and found that they induce collagen formation and stimulated proliferation of human skin fibroblasts! A fibroblast is a type of cell that’s responsible for making the extracellular matrix and collagen.
So, if you’re choosing which type of collagen is best for boosting collagen production, then Type I is for you.
2. Fowl (Chicken) Collagen
Chicken collagen peptides (find out about peptides below) are known to be most effective for supporting cartilage. For this reason, Type 2 collagen supplements are usually derived from chicken.
What does the research say?
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that supplementation with a collagen Type II reduced knee pain in subjects. Findings suggest that collagen may be a useful supplement for athletes with a recurring joint injury.
If your sole focus is on skin improvement, then remember Type II collagen peptides are better for cartilage loss.
3. Collagen/Bovine (Cow/Beef)
Bovine collagen consists of Type I and Type III collagen. Bovine collagen peptides are extracted from cow hides once the cows are harvested for their meat. The skin is treated to extract collagen protein and the proteins are hydrolyzed, which breaks down the collagen proteins into more easily digestible amino acids.
When shopping around, the ethical option is to look for bovine peptides sourced from grass-fed beef (as opposed to a diet of grains).
What does the research say?
When it comes to the research, this 2017 study demonstrated that orally taking collagen peptides from bovine bone could actually improve the laxity of aged skin by increasing skin collagen content and the ratio of Type I to Type III collagen, but it had no effect on moisture retention of skin.
The study determined that collagen peptides from bovine bone are a ‘potential’ dietary supplement for use against aging skin. That’s not bad news at all!
4. Porcine (Pig) Collagen
Pig collagen (Type III) is found primarily in pork skin. It’s cheap to make this product primarily because pork is abundant but when it comes to the bottom line of what will work for your skin, it’s actually Type I – marine collagen that you want to look into.
Is There a Vegan Sourced Collagen?
Yes! If you’re vegan you can find plant-based supplements on the market that don’t actually have collagen but are created by using genetically modified yeast and bacteria.
These vegan supplements support collagen production using a combination of amino acids, minerals and vitamins.
With the different types of collagen sources in mind, we’re going to break down the different ways you can consume it, along with better health and beauty collagen shopping tips.
Is Gelatin a Type of Collagen?
Oftentimes you might see collagen and gelatin used interchangeably, but while they come from the same sources – skin, bones, and tissue – they’re not the same thing.
Collagen is largely found in connective tissue and skin, so when these parts are cooked the collagen breaks down and forms something called gelatin. You can find a more detailed breakdown in this guide “What is Collagen for Skin, Hair and Beauty Guide”.
How is Hydrolyzed Collagen Different?
Hydrolysis is a process of breaking down a hydrogen bond. Gelatin is only partially hydrolyzed collagen, and when you take the hydrolysis further to break down the collagen into smaller units of protein, that’s known as hydrolyzed collagen.
Gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen are both made from animal collagen and have the same amino acid profile but their structure and properties are different. Hydrolyzed collagen is easier to digest and dissolves in both hot and cold water, whereas gelatin only dissolves in hot water.
How is Collagen Peptides Different?
Have you ever looked at a collagen supplement and noticed ‘hydrolyzed peptides’ on the label? Don’t get confused, because collagen peptides and hydrolyzed collagen are two names referring to the same type of collagen product.
Both are created from breaking down full-length collagen into smaller, easier to digest bits through the process of hydrolysis. The reason it’s broken down is that in its natural state, collagen is composed of larger molecules, therefore giving our biology a harder time to absorb.
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The Bottom Line: Do the Different Types of Collagen Matter?
So. Some research suggests that ingesting marine (fish) collagen, or Type I, will be the most beneficial for improving the elasticity of our skin while improving wrinkles and fine lines, as it is more absorbent than the other sources of collagen.
However, much of this research is preliminary, meaning the studies are either short in duration or not yet replicated by follow-up experiments.
According to Nick Bitz, MD, a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor and collagen expert, has said that rather than looking at collagen types, you’re better off looking to see if you’re getting hydrolyzed collagen. That way the collagen will be better absorbed and therefore more effective.
And there are studies to support the idea that oral supplements consisting of hydrolyzed collagen improve skin. This 2015 study found that oral supplements consisting of hydrolyzed collagen, hyaluronic acid, and essential vitamins and minerals, lead to a significant improvement in elasticity, hydration and wrinkle depth.
Nevertheless, in our opinion, you can take supplements in addition to using SPF, eating a healthy diet (hopefully I’m not sounding like your GP), exercising, getting plenty of shut-eye and caring for the collagen you’ve got!
Important Takeaways on The Types of Collagen
- For glowing skin, hydrolyzed Types I and III collagen is recommended.
- For healthy joints, Type II collagen is said to support cartilage and joint lubrication.
- Collagen Types I and III support tendons and ligaments.
- Collagen peptides, also known as hydrolyzed collagen, are broken down short chains of amino acids that come from full-length collagen. They’re better absorbed than full-length collagen and gelatin.
So, now that you’re armed with all this knowledge of the different types of collagen, slap on a hat, some sunscreen, but keep your eyes and ears open for further scientific studies around ingesting collagen for skin!
All photos courtesy from JKStock on Shutterstock