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Best Collagen Supplements of 2021, According to a Dietitian

Written by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

Published on June 10, 2021

Collagen supplements are incredibly popular these days, but how do you choose the best one for you? The answer depends on your individual health goals and preferences.

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Best Collagen Supplements of 2021, According to a Dietitian

Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body, making up 1/3 of our total body protein.

If you’ve been thinking about taking collagen and feel overwhelmed with the number of products out there, I will help narrow down the choices and simplify the process.

Our Top Collagen Picks

What to Look for in a Collagen Supplement

While our body can make collagen, it doesn’t always make enough. This is particularly the case as we get older.

Collagen supplements come in many forms but are generally powders or capsules.

The types of collagen, source of collagen, ingredients present, and pricing can vary significantly between brands.

Collagen is taken for several reasons: skin, hair, nails, joint health, exercise recovery, gut health, or weight loss.

However, there is no scientific evidence for the claims on gut health or weight loss. Therefore, I did not include these claims in this review.

When you look at collagen products, you will see a few different items on the bottle, such as:

  • Type of collagen in the supplement (I, II, III, IV, V)
  • Source of collagen (bovine, chicken, porcine, marine)
  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Vitamin C
  • Dose of collagen
  • Possible third-party certification
  • Form of collagen: powder or pills

The important thing before you purchase a collagen supplement is to know your primary reason for taking it.

For example, if you are looking for a collagen product to strengthen your skin and nails, a product focusing more on joint health likely won’t really help you.

Most people take collagen supplements in powder form, but they can also be taken in pill form.

Doing a bit of research before you head to the store can save you time and make it easier to choose the type of collagen that best fits your needs.

How to Choose the Best Collagen Supplement for You

To help you choose the best collagen for you when you go to the store, here are seven things you need to look for.

1. The Type of Collagen Present

While there are 28 types of collagen, there are 3 main types that are most commonly found in supplements – Types I, II, and III. They all serve a slightly different purpose:

Type I: most commonly found in skin, bone, teeth, tendons, ligaments, vascular system, and organs. May be involved in bone and skin health.

Type II: gives strength and elasticity to joints by supporting cartilage

Type III: a major structural component in the large blood vessels, uterus, and bowel. It helps facilitate blood clotting and is involved in wound healing.

Some collagen supplements only contain one type of collagen, while others may contain multiple types.

2. Collagen Source

Collagen is derived from animals or fish, not plants. The most common collagen sources are bovine (cow), porcine (pig), chicken, or marine (fish).

Some collagen supplements contain a combination of these sources, while others contain only one. If you don’t eat meat, a marine collagen supplement from fish may be a good choice for you. Unfortunately, there is currently no vegan collagen on the market.

3. Hydrolyzed Collagen

This is a form of collagen most commonly used in supplements because it is broken down to be absorbed more readily.

4. Vitamin C

It’s also ideal for your collagen to contain vitamin C as an ingredient, as it helps to boost collagen production.

5. Dose

Look for the recommended dose and serving size of protein in grams. Collagen products can contain anywhere from 2.5–20 grams of protein per serving size.

The ideal dose can vary depending on your daily protein needs and what you are taking it for. (For optimal dose, see the FAQ section below.)

6. Product Claims

Knowing what the product is intended to do helps select what’s best for you.

For example, if you are seeking a collagen product for weight loss, search for this claim on the label. Keep in mind, however, that a claim does not always guarantee a certain result.

7. Third-Party Testing

There are several types of third-party testing for supplements that help ensure purity, potency, and quality.

Some common seals of approval to look for include Consumer Labs, US Pharmacopeia (USP), and NSF International. This is a type of “guarantee” of the quality of the product.

This quality seal of approval for a product is a plus, as dietary supplements are not monitored with the same level of scrutiny from the FDA as medications are.

Taking all of these aspects into consideration, I pulled together a list of what to look for when choosing a collagen supplement for a particular health benefit.

I will also provide specific product suggestions that match my criteria for each category.

Best Collagen for General Health

Some people may want to take a collagen supplement for general health purposes.

They may not have a specific concern, but they know collagen may provide benefits.

For general health, collagen may help with healthy aging, physical wellness, skin, muscles, and joints.

Your collagen supplements should be in the form of hydrolyzed collagen peptides, which are more broken down and more easily absorbed in the body.

While collagen is safe for most people, those who have food allergies, pregnant, or breastfeeding should consult with their doctor before starting.

For general health, I would suggest Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides

Best for General Health
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:4.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:4.0
  • Brand Transparency:5.0

Overall Rating:

4.3

Pros

  • Provides multiple collagen types
  • Contains nutrients that may improve absorption
  • Third-party tested (NSF-certified)
  • Higher end of protein per serving

Cons

  • More expensive than some other collagen products
  • Product returns not guaranteed

Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides are one of the most popular collagen supplements on the market.

It is an unflavored powder that you can easily mix in with your favorite hot beverage, such as coffee, tea, or a smoothie.

I take Vital Proteins daily and mix it in my morning coffee or smoothie. It is essentially tasteless, which makes it easier to mix into things.

The hydrolyzed collagen peptides in this product are highly absorbable. The collagen is also sourced from grass-fed cows (bovine) with no hormones or pesticides.

Vital Proteins contain collagen types I and III.

This product provides 20 grams of collagen peptides per serving.

Vital Proteins contain 2 additional ingredients – vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, which can help improve the production and absorption of collagen.

Not every collagen product contains these nutrients, which helps set it apart.

Vital Proteins are also processed in an NSF-certified facility. NSF stands for National Sanitation Foundation, a third-party company that tests and approves the safety and quality ingredients contained in products.

This product’s health claims are that it supports overall health and wellness, promotes collagen production and a youthful appearance.

A 2019 randomized controlled trial showed improved skin hydration and appearance in those taking 2.5 grams of collagen plus vitamin C daily.

The Bottom Line: Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides is a solid choice for a general collagen supplement. It contains multiple types of collagen that are hydrolyzed for easy absorption.

Best Collagen for Hair, Skin, and Nails

One of the most popular reasons for taking collagen is to promote strong hair, skin, and nails. Out of all the health claims for collagen, these are the claims backed by the most research.

For example, a 2019 systematic review showed promise for collagen in improving skin hydration and elasticity and reducing skin aging.

If your main goal is to strengthen your hair, skin, and nails, I would suggest Live Conscious Collagen Peptides.

Live Conscious Collagen Peptides

Best for Hair, Skin, and Nails
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:4.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:4.0
  • Brand Transparency:5.0

Overall Rating:

4.3

Pros

  • Third-party tested and GMP-certified
  • Lifetime return policy
  • Contains essential amino acids that may provide additional benefit

Cons

  • Does not contain additional nutrients that may improve absorption
  • Customer reports of serving scoop size being inaccurate

Live Conscious Collagen Peptides are a hydrolyzed collagen powder containing both Type I and III collagen to support skin health.

It also contains several amino acids (protein-building blocks) that support tissue building and repair. The types of collagen present and amino acids may also help speed wound healing.

Live Conscious Collagen is a bovine sourced collagen supplement made from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows. It is non-GMO and free of additives and fillers.

It is also third-party tested and produced in a facility with good manufacturing practices (GMP-certified). GMP certification ensures a product is produced under safe, well-monitored conditions.

The health claims for this product are that it replenishes hair, skin, and nails and has anti-aging powers.

Collagen has been studied for its potential anti-aging skin properties. Additionally, it may also help reduce or prevent thinning hair.

This product contains 11 grams of collagen peptides per serving.

The Bottom Line: Live Conscious Collagen Peptides are a good choice for someone who is looking specifically to improve their skin, hair, and nail health. The unflavored powder can be conveniently mixed with your favorite beverage and is essentially tasteless.

Best Collagen for Muscles and Joints

Another primary health claim for collagen products is for joint health and muscle recovery after exercise.

A 2006 research review showed evidence that hydrolyzed collagen may help manage pain and improve range of motion in those with osteoarthritis.

Furthermore, a 2008 randomized trial has shown collagen to be effective for reducing joint pain in athletes and facilitating muscle recovery.

If you’re looking to improve joint pain, muscle strength, and flexibility, I would suggest Codeage Multi Collagen Peptide Powder.

Codeage Multi Collagen Peptide Powder

Best for Muscles & Joints
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:4.0
  • Ingredient Safety:3.0
  • Value for the Price:4.0
  • Brand Transparency:4.0

Overall Rating:

3.8

Pros

  • Contains multiple types of collagen
  • Third-party tested, GMP-certified
  • Contains added beneficial amino acids

Cons

  • Multiple sources of collagen may increase risk for allergens
  • Only 30-day return policy

Codeage Multi Collagen Peptide Powder contains 5 different sources of collagen, which may give you the best of both worlds as far as the number of benefits (in the world of collagen, that is!):

  • Grass-fed cows
  • Fish: wild-caught cod and snapper
  • Organic beef bone broth
  • Organic chicken bone broth
  • Eggshell membranes

Codeage also contains 18 amino acids to help provide additional protein and benefits for joints and recovery.

The amino acid leucine present specifically may aid in muscle recovery.

The health claims for this product are that it can support cartilage and protect your joints.

This product contains 9 grams of collagen peptides per serving.

The Bottom Line: Codeage Multi Collagen Powder is a convenient supplement that may support joint health, muscle recovery, and flexibility. If you have an allergy to eggs, do not take this product.

Best Marine Collagen

If you are a vegetarian or want to limit your meat intake, marine collagen may be the best choice for you.

Marine collagen supplements contain collagen sourced from fish.

Studies show that marine collagen may be just as effective as animal-based collagen in improving skin health and supporting healthy aging.

If you want to reap the potential benefits of collagen without consuming animal products, I would suggest Further Food collagen.

Further Food Marine Collagen Peptides

Best Marine Collagen
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:4.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:4.0
  • Brand Transparency:5.0

Overall Rating:

4.3

Pros

  • Contains 3 types of collagen
  • Third-party seal of approval (NSF)
  • Sustainably sourced

Cons

  • May contain allergens from processing- milk, tree nuts, gluten, peanuts, soy, egg
  • More expensive than bovine or chicken-derived products

Further Food collagen is sustainably sourced from wild-caught cod from the North Atlantic. It is GMO, antibiotic, hormone, and sugar-free.

This powder is unflavored and can be easily mixed with your morning coffee or smoothie.

The health claims for this product are that it supports superior beauty and provides gut and joint benefits.

This product 6.6 grams of collagen peptides per serving, which is less than most other bovine and chicken-derived collagen supplements.

However, it is typical for marine collagens to contain less protein than animal-based products.

The Bottom Line: If you are vegetarian, marine-based collagen such as Further Food would be a good choice for you. However, those who have food allergies should check the label for possible cross-contamination from processing.

Best Collagen Pill

If you don’t like adding powder to your morning coffee every day, a collagen pill may be more convenient for you.

It’s important to note that while taking a pill may be more convenient, collagen in pill form generally contains significantly less collagen peptides per serving.

Therefore, you may have to swallow multiple pills daily to get in the same amount from a single powder serving.

Otherwise, collagen pills typically contain similar ingredients as powders – different types of collagen, enzymes, or amino acids.

Based on my research, I would recommend Vital Vitamins Multi Collagen Complex.

Vital Vitamins Multi Collagen Complex

Best Collagen Pill
Rating Breakdown
  • Support for Claims:4.0
  • Ingredient Safety:4.0
  • Value for the Price:4.0
  • Brand Transparency:5.0

Overall Rating:

4.3

Pros

  • Contains 5 types of collagen
  • GMP-Lab verified for good manufacturing practices
  • Sustainably sourced

Cons

  • Not third-party tested
  • Contains significantly less collagen per serving as powder forms

Vital Vitamins Multi Collagen Complex contains hydrolyzed collagen peptides for easy absorption.

It contains 5 types of collagen derived from 4 different sources - bovine, chicken broth, fish, and eggshell membranes.

Collagen types I, II, III, V, and X are present. The collagen sources are pasture-raised and grass-fed and also contain marine collagen.

Because this product contains multiple types of collagen, it may provide multiple benefits from each type.

Vital Vitamins Multi Collagen Complex also contains a digestive enzyme blend called DigeSEB that is intended to improve the absorption of the product.

The health claims for this product are that it tones, rejuvenates, helps hip joints, promotes vitality, and has anti-aging properties.

This product contains 1.6 grams of collagen peptides per serving.

Per the manufacturer's instructions, you can take up to 2 servings per day, equaling 3.2 grams of collagen per day.

The Bottom Line: If you prefer the convenience of taking collagen in pill form, Vital Vitamins Multi Collagen is a good choice. If you can tolerate taking multiple pills, I would suggest taking the higher end of the serving size to get the most benefit.

Frequently Asked Questions About Collagen Supplements

What are some of the benefits of collagen?

While we are still learning about the potential benefits of collagen, but it is clear it has several.

These include skin, hair, and nail health, joint and muscle health, and general well-being.

The research on collagen for weight loss and gut health is still lacking.

What is the optimal dosage for collagen supplements?

There is not currently an optimal dose for collagen set forth by the FDA. Collagen supplement doses range from 2.5-20 grams of collagen per serving.

The optimal dose is dependent on your protein needs and reasons for taking it.

Which type of collagen is best: I, II, or III?

The best strain depends on your health concern. Each one plays a different role.

A product with several different strains may be optimal to get a variety of effects.

Does collagen need to be refrigerated?

Typically, collagen supplements are to be stored at room temperature in a dry, cool location. They do not need to be refrigerated.

When is the best time to take collagen?

There is not a recommended best time to take collagen.

The best time to take it is at a time you will remember every day or the time you will have your favorite beverage to mix it in with.

It can be taken with or without food.

Are there any side effects to taking collagen?

While rare, mild side effects may occur.

Those who have food allergies to fish, shellfish, or eggs may be more at risk for allergic reactions and should avoid collagen products from these sources.

Other reported side effects include a bad aftertaste in the mouth or digestive upset such as heartburn or bloating.

I don’t want to take a supplement all the time. Is collagen also found in food?

A few foods contain collagen directly, while a few others contain nutrients that support collagen production in the body.

Fish, chicken, bone broth, and egg whites naturally contain collagen in varying amounts.

Plant-based foods such as citrus fruits, berries, garlic, tropical fruits, and leafy greens contain vitamin C and other nutrients that help improve collagen production and absorption in the body.

However, only consuming plant-based foods without a supplement may make it more difficult to get enough collagen.

Who should avoid collagen supplements?

While collagen is generally safe for most people, those that have allergies to any of collagen’s sources, such as shellfish, fish, or eggs, should not take it.

Those who are vegetarian should choose marine-based collagen, and those who are vegan should focus on plant-based food sources in their diet to increase collagen production.

Is collagen safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding?

If you are pregnant, trying to conceive, or breastfeeding, check with your doctor prior to starting a collagen supplement.

Most collagen supplements have not been researched specifically in pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Is collagen safe for kids?

A proper dose for collagen in kids has not yet been established. Always check with your child’s pediatrician prior to starting them on any supplement, including collagen.

I have been taking collagen, but I don’t notice a difference in how I feel. How long does it take to see results?

If you don’t feel a difference right away, this is normal.

When starting any new supplement, it can take up to 6–8 weeks of taking it daily to see any results.

Make sure you are taking the recommended dose, and if you are taking a powder, you are mixing it with at least 8–12 ounces of water for maximum absorption.

Other tips for taking collagen supplements?

Do some research to determine which product may be best for you based on your needs.

Be patient and know that taking it consistently every day will increase your chances of getting the maximum benefits.

If you experience any physical side effects after taking collagen, such as bloating or heartburn, consult with your doctor to see if another product would work better for you.

The Bottom Line

Collagen peptide supplements are generally safe and possess many possible health benefits.

Although there is still a lot to learn about the optimal dose and specific types of collagen, the potential benefits of taking collagen supplements generally outweigh any risks in most cases.

Before choosing a product, always know your specific goal and research the best product for your health goals.

Taking the right product will increase your chances of seeing results.

As with any dietary supplement, it is always best to speak with your doctor before to make sure it is right for you.

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