If you’re a skincare fanatic, you already know how vital collagen is for maintaining that smooth and radiant appearance we’re all after. You’ve also probably noticed that the market is flooded with this key beauty ingredient which shows up in everything from lotions, coffee creamers, gummies, shampoos and more.
Unfortunately, for those following a vegan diet, this skincare powerhouse has been off the table as it’s made from animal sources like beef and fish. Until recently that is. The good news is that thanks to bio-engineering, scientists have managed to create genuine vegan collagen.
The not-as-happy news is that it’s not widely produced and only available in topical form. Although you may have seen products that link the words vegan and collagen, most of the supplements out there are what’s known as collagen “promoters.” In other words, they contain ingredients that may help your body to produce collagen, but they don’t contain the genuine article.
We’ll dive deeper into real vegan collagen versus collagen promoters and their potential benefits shortly, but first let’s refresh our skincare IQ with a little review.
Made from dense, flexible fibers, collagen is kind of like the glue that holds the tissue in our body together. Not only is it vital for our skin, but it’s also indispensable for healthy hair, nails, bones, tendons and cartilage.
When we’re young, our bodies are super efficient at making their own collagen, which gives us that supple, plump skin and flexibility we’d all love to maintain forever. But as time inevitably marches on, collagen and its production begin to break down, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin.
In fact, starting in our mid-twenties we lose 1% of our collagen a year. For women, the loss of collagen is even more extreme during menopause, when the body loses 30% in the first five years and another 2% every year after. Yikes.
Is it any wonder that collagen has become one of the buzziest ingredients around? In the last decade, non-vegetarian supplements have soared in popularity due to collagen’s proven effectiveness at reducing wrinkles and in aiding with joint and bone health when ingested.
One very important thing to keep in mind with topical animal collagen, however, is that its molecules are actually too large to penetrate the skin. So while it does have humectant qualities that help to temporarily reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, it does nothing to change the actual structure of the skin.
So what is vegan collagen, and how does it stack up in comparison? Here’s what you need to know.
What Is Vegan Collagen?
Vegan collagen is made by genetically modifying yeast and bacteria. To produce it, four human genes and a digestive enzyme called pepsin are added to the microbes. The result is a molecule with the exact structure of human collagen.
However, at this time, vegan collagen is not widely available and only exists in topical form.
Is Genuine Vegan Collagen Effective?
Being that genetically engineered vegan collagen is so new to the skincare scene, the jury is still out on how effective it is. While there are conflicting opinions about its molecular size and ability to penetrate the skin, it does seem to have the same moisturizing benefits as topical animal collagen and can at least temporarily reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban, “Even if it’s not penetrable, it still has the humectant benefits, and in this case, it’s more a result of the structure of collagen, not the size.”
Vegan Collagen Promoters
While wider production of genuine vegan collagen looks promising for the future, there’s a total void when it comes to a digestible form available now.
So what’s a plant-based beauty fanatic to do while waiting for genuine vegan collagen to come into its own? Many are turning to what are referred to as vegan collagen boosters. Available in powder, liquid and pill form, these supplements contain no actual collagen but rather the building blocks that may promote its production.
Often you’ll find ingredients such as Vitamin C, zinc, silica and amino acids – all of which are essential to the production of collagen in the body. But are these boosters effective?
Are Vegan Collagen Boosters Effective?
With scientific studies lacking, the proof of vegan collagen boosters lies in the plant-based pudding, so to speak. While some people seem to see genuine results, others users claim that their skin didn’t change at all.
So are we talking about a placebo effect here, or is there more to it? First of all, it’s important to keep in mind that just because you’re ingesting the ingredients for collagen production doesn’t necessarily mean that your body will make more of it.
Factors such as age, your lifestyle, poor digestion or even the specific formulations of these supplements could affect the results you see. Rice bran, for example, can block the absorption of vitamin C and other ingredients and could render some products ineffective.
If you do decide to try a vegan collagen booster, you may have to wait several months before the results start showing up. Whether you see a major shift in your skin or not, adding vitamins and minerals to your diet certainly won’t harm your skin and could contribute to a better sense of well-being overall.
A Few of Our Favorite Vegan Collagen and Collagen Boosting Products
As you can see, there are no specific guarantees when it comes to trying vegan collagen or collagen boosters. But if you want to fight the good fight against the loss of collagen, then it could be worth giving these products a try.
Of course, you may want to consult with a dietician or doctor beforehand to make sure you’re not getting too much of any specific vitamin. Also, it’s important to keep in mind that lifestyle choices and your overall diet are vital to the health of your skin. We’ll talk more about that a little later in this article.
For now, here are a few of our favorite vegan collagen and collagen-boosting products to help pamper your skin from the inside and out.
Cutting age skincare company Algneist has engineered their own version of vegan collagen that contains all the amino acids present in animal collagen. And according to a 28-day clinical trial, their liquid collagen yielded a 160% increase in skin elasticity around the neck area alone.
Other products in their line that also contain their vegan collagen include Genius Sleeping Collagen, Genius Liquid Collagen for Lips and a body milk and hand cream. A treat for the whole body!
For a more economical choice, you can try Truly’s topical version of vegan collagen that also contains known collagen boosters retinol and vitamin C to help you fight the appearance of fine lines and uneven skin texture.
We like that this collagen-boosting elixir is completely organic and contains superfoods and adaptogens like goji berry, prickly pear and blue pea flower. It also contains no rice bran solubles that could potentially block the absorption of micronutrients.
Another plus? It will seriously up the yummy factor of your morning smoothie or latte!
As we health and beauty fanatics are starting to find out, gut health is closely linked to our overall well-being, and that includes your skin. This fermented collagen booster supports natural collagen production, fights free radicals with antioxidants like acai and also gives you a healthy dose of probiotics.
It’s the total skin care package!
Ora Aloe Gorgeous organic powder can be added to your morning smoothies or coffee and helps to boost collagen production with aloe vera, a polysaccharide that plays an important role in bringing amino acids together to create larger, longer collagen strands.
Other collagen-boosting ingredients include silica from bamboo, Vitamin C from cherries and vitamin E from sunflowers.
Need to get your greens on too? This organic collagen booster from Sun Warrior contains wheatgrass, kale, spirulina and special ingredient hyaluronic acid and more. It also comes in an array of flavors like salted caramel and piña colada in case you’re tired of plain old vanilla.
Rather take your collagen booster in an easy-to-swallow pill? This vegan and non-GMO formula from Future Kind contains plant proteins like G-lysine, L-lysine, and L-Proline, as well as other collagen boosters like silica, zinc, vitamin A and E and biotin.
Even if you don’t have time to blend your morning smoothie, you can get your collagen boosters on the go!
Related: Why is Retinol Serum So Popular?
Better Skin Through Lifestyle Choices
Creams and supplements may give your skin a boost, but let’s not forget that the most important ingredients for healthy skin and collagen retention are your lifestyle and diet. Here are a few tips for taking care of that skin you’re in.
Drink More Water
Collagen is 60% water. 60% water!! In fact, if you remove water from collagen, it dramatically affects the tensile force of the protein. And that leads to saggy skin and wrinkles. So if you want to keep your collagen and skin in good shape, up your intake of H2O.
Cut Your Sugar Intake
Most of us love a sweet treat now and then, but sugar actually destroys the elastin fibers in collagen by a process known as glycation. Antioxidants do help to combat the process, but overdoing it with the sugary stuff means that you can’t eliminate the harmful end products that sweets produce.
And that, unfortunately, can make you age more rapidly.
Go Easy With Alcohol
Alcohol produces free radicals in your body that, in turn, poke little holes in your collagen fibers. Yikes! No to mention that alcohol is also dehydrating. Double whammy. To keep skin healthier, keep your party beverages to fewer rounds and (again) supplement with extra water.
Be Careful of the Sun
Yes, the sun is a good source of vitamin D, but continual basking causes the production of collagen destroying enzymes. You’ve heard it before, and we’ll say it again, limit your time and use sunscreen!
Be Sure to Catch Your Zs
Believe it or not, a lack of sleep can have a huge effect on your skin. When we’re not sleeping enough, it leads to the production of cortisol which produces another compound called metalloproteinases.
This enemy to your skin causes collagen and elastin breakdown, which in the end leads to tired-looking, wrinkly skin.
Eat the Right Foods
While vegan collagen may give your body and skin an added boost, the best way to get your vitamins and minerals is through a healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Here are just a few of the vitamins, minerals and other compounds that are important to help you produce collagen and provide you with antioxidants to fight off free radicals:
Vitamin C is one of the most important compounds to help your body produce collagen and help prevent and repair from sun damage. Foods rich in vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruits
- Bell peppers
- Brussel Sprouts
This mineral helps to activate proteins that are vital for collagen synthesis. Foods rich in zinc include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews)
- Dark chocolate
Copper helps to activate an enzyme called lysyl oxidase, which is also essential to collagen production. Foods rich in copper include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Shiitake mushrooms
- Cooked Swiss chard
- Dark chocolate
You can’t build collagen without the proteins from amino acids. The most abundant ones contained in collagen are glycine, lysine and proline. Foods rich in these amino acids include:
- Black beans
- Kidney beans
- Other legumes
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Chia seeds
We all want our youthful glow and supple skin to last forever – or at least as long as possible. One of the ways to do that is to protect and promote your production of collagen. Although vegan college only exists in topical forms, for now, we suspect the rise of the plant-based lifestyle could lead to an ingestible form in the not-so-distant future.
In the meantime, collagen boosters could help you increase collagen production and also increase your overall sense of well-being. Though it’s important to keep in mind that results can vary widely among users.
Still, when all is said and done, it’s your diet and lifestyle that probably make the biggest impact when it comes to producing and maintaining collagen. So be sure to eat well, drink plenty of water and get your rest. Your skin will thank you for it!
You might also be interested: 6 Benefits Of Sea Moss Gel [And How To Make Your Own]
Vegan Collagen Supplements:
- Algenist Genius Liquid Collagen
- Truly Vegan Collagen Anti-Aging Face Serum
- Glow Getter Collagen Blend
- Beauty Chef Collagen Inner Beauty Boost
- Ora Organic Aloe Gorgeous Collagen Boosting Powder
- Sunwarrior Plant-Based Beauty Greens
- Future Kind Vegan Collagen Booster