Collagen, often dubbed the “elixir of youth,” is responsible for making you look young. If there is a single ingredient that your body produces that keeps your skin radiant, elastic, and wrinkle-free, it’s collagen. But at around age 40, your body begins to reduce production of the important protein, and by 60 the decline is dramatic.
Because of this, age-defiers around the world are constantly searching for new ways to boost collagen levels and repair past collagen damage—by rubbing it on their skin, injecting it into their pores, or (if you can believe this) drinking it. In beer.
We’ve Heard about Drinking Collagen: But in Beer?
The practice of drinking collagen is huge in Asia, with companies like Shiseido and Kinbi selling collagen supplements in mini bottles. Japanese alcohol distributor Suntory launched a collagen beer last month, called “Precious”, targeting women. It has five percent alcohol and two grams of collagen per can. The tag line? “Guys can tell if a girl is taking collagen or not.” The beer is only available in Hokkaido, so unfortunately the team here at Charlotte’s Book hasn’t tried it yet. What we have tried are collagen supplements and a collagen boosting diet. Did we see results? Sort of. But before we get our hands on “Precious”, we turned to our Charlotte’s Book beauty and wellness experts to investigate.
Many collagen supplements are made from fish or an animal in the bovine family. Once ingested, collagen drink proponents say the protein fragments are broken down and absorbed in the bloodstream, where they can remain for up to two weeks. Your body, thinking these fragments mean collagen breakdown, ends up producing more collagen. It’s similar to what happens with big tissue injury.
Related Read: Internal Affairs: The Collagen Boosting Diet
From the Experts: Not So Fast
Dr. Robert Anolik, a board certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the NYU School of Medicine, is a skeptic. “There are wonderful strategies that we have as board certified dermatologists for building and supporting collagen in the skin,” he says, “but rubbing collagen on the surface or consuming it is not one of them.” Lotions containing collagen are for the most part ineffective because proteins that size are too large to be absorbed into your skin. But what about ingesting it?
Dr. Marnie Nussbaum, a board certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at Cornell Medical Center, says more clinical studies need to be done to convince her that collagen can be ingested to have the desired effect of anti-aging. Even though some study groups have noticed improvement in their skin, she says it’s anecdotal and not scientific. “When collagen gets into your digestive system, it gets broken down,” she says, “There is no real evidence that it then goes from your bloodstream to your skin. Collagen is a protein, and your body cannot tell the difference between proteins.”
The Real Fountain of Youth
There are scientifically proven ways to help delay the decline of your body’s collagen production. Dr. Nussbaum recommends using a retinoid (topical treatment) at night (do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding). She also recommends applying an SPF of at least 30 every day with the big reminder that nothing is waterproof, even if it says so. Dr. Anolik says: “A healthy diet with normal amounts of protein is what’s needed for your skin to have sufficient building blocks for collagen production.” And some of the best things a woman can do to stop their collagen from depleting is avoiding the sun and cigarettes (of course).
Related Read: #AskCharlotte: Are Dermal Fillers Reversible?
Potential Side Effects & Alternatives
If you want to have all your bases covered, and give collagen drinks a try despite the naysayers, we actually recommend Reserveage Nutrition Collagen Booster, $30. These capsules contain a couple of collagen ceramides, (lipids that help retain hydration), hyaluronic acid, (a natural fluid that adds moisture and volume to the skin), resveratrol, (a powerful antioxidant) and chondroitin, (a molecule found in connective tissue). Just make sure you don’t have any allergies, says Dr. Anolik. “Years ago, when collagen was a primary method of skin filling (as opposed to hyaluronic acids like Juvederm and Restylane) people needed skin testing to be sure there was no allergy to the bovine elements in collagen.”
You’ve been forewarned. If you’re feeling daring, make sure you check with your doctor before heading to the pharmacy—or jumping on a plane to Hokkaido.