Do collagen supplements really do everything they claim?

Any true Instagram addict will likely have been fed ads for collagen supplements at one point or another over the past few years. Promising to improve your skin's texture, look, and feel, there are endless brands offering collagen supplements in powder and pill form. But do collagen supplements really do everything they claim to do?

"Collagen is the main structural protein in the skin, giving it strength and shape," dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital, explained to SELF. "Collagen is like the frame of your mattress, while elastin is the springs and hyaluronic acid is the padding," he added. It weakens as we age, and many people look to supplements to bring it back to life. 

However, according to Dendy Engelman, M.D., a dermatologist in NY, "Supplements are the Wild West." He continued, "They are not well regulated, so you can pretty much claim a lot of things that aren't substantiated in science or in proof."

Collagen supplements generally don't enter the bloodstream

As explained by Zeichner, "Collagen is broken down into amino acids in your GI tract after being ingested." He continued, "It is unlikely that any whole collagen makes it to your bloodstream." In other words, it is unlikely that supplements do what they claim. "However, amino acids may, and they serve as the building blocks for healthy skin cell functioning. So, ingestible collagen may provide an indirect benefit to the skin," Zeichner points out. 

Zhaoping Li, M.D., director and division chief at the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, agrees with Zeichner to a degree, noting that you're more likely to see the benefits of collagen supplements if you have a collagen deficiency. Zeichner adds that it may not be the collagen in the supplement providing the benefits at all. "It is unclear whether it is the collagen component, or any other ingredient, like an antioxidant, in the supplement that explains the benefit," Zeichner said to SELF.