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You may have spotted bright and colorful bags labeled NeoCell Beauty Bursts, ReserveAge Fruit Chews or Resvitale Collagen near the vitamins at your local drugstore. These gummy chews look a lot like Starburst and are a part of a growing ingestible collagen trend, which has women and men taking supplements in hopes of reversing physical signs of aging, such as wrinkles and sagging skin. The chewies are generally made with other skin moisturizing and repairing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C and glycerin. But do these fruit and chocolate-flavored collagen candies really work?
Well, let's start by explaining exactly what collagen is.
Collagen is a protein that accounts for 30 percent of the human body's protein. As part of our connective tissue, it helps to regenerate new cells and promote firmness and suppleness.
According to Jessica Weiser, a board-certified dermatologist at New York Dermatology Group, collagen production is greatest during childhood and teens, then plateaus in our 20s and 30s and finally declines with age.
Weiser says the primary factors that contribute to collagen loss are hormones and sun/environmental damage to the skin. She explains, "As estrogen levels wane, especially after menopause, collagen levels decline leading to accelerated loss of structural integrity of the skin and increased skin laxity and wrinkling. Sun exposure, cigarette smoke, pollution and other sources of free radicals promote collagen breakdown and further worsen these effects."
Traditionally, people have used topical treatments containing retinoids (vitamin A derivatives), vitamin C and copper peptides to boost collagen production. Weiser points out that there are also skin procedures that can further aid in collagen synthesis such as deeper level chemical peels and fractionated laser treatments.
"Collagen that is ingested orally is known to be absorbed by the body," says Weiser. "These collagen molecules are exposed to the acidic environment of the stomach, which break proteins down into fragments and their component amino acids, so the body is absorbing amino acids or smaller protein fragments of collagen and not the intact protein structure."
While there was a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study on oral supplements containing collagen published in October 2014 that showed promising results among elderly women and another trial reported that same year on Pure Gold Collagen supplements, Weiser still believes these products "do not have a proven biologic mechanism of action."
She adds, "They have not been subject to randomized controlled trials, and therefore we are not certain of their skin-specific benefits at this point in time."
Not to mention, the dermatologist notes that in general these supplements are well tolerated but there are some side effects to be aware of. Collagen candies that contain shellfish and other marine sources (such as shark cartilage) may cause allergic reactions. "Rare cases of elevated calcium levels in susceptible patients have been reported from excess collage supplementation," says Weiser.
The bottom line on chewable collagen candy: Consult your doctor before relying solely on these ingestible supplements to better the appearance and feel of your skin. You can never go wrong with wearing sunscreen religiously, incorporating skincare products formulated with super-hydrating hyaluronic acid and eating healthy, well-balanced meals.