A protein that has caused a stir in the beauty and health world of late is collagen. It’s the most abundant protein in our bodies and has, in recent times, been linked with benefits relating to skin health, weight loss, and joint and bone health.
However, with its rise in use, some users of collagen have claimed that it can potentially trigger acne breakouts.
That’s why we put together this guide, to provide a definitive answer to the question: can collagen cause acne?
We look at the science behind the arguments and, crucially, offer advice on what to do if you happen to suffer acne after taking collagen.
What Is Collagen?
A naturally occurring protein within the human body, collagen is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. When collagen is broken down, it in turn produces amino acids which can then be used by the body.
Collagen exists to provide connective tissue in our bodies which consequently provides structure and support for our organs, skin, tendons, ligaments and bones.
Because of the significant role it plays, collagen has in recent years found its way into health supplements. These products are designed to promote better skin elasticity and hydration as well as reduce the appearance of wrinkles. It can also be found in the likes of beauty and anti-aging products.
Collagen is present in all mammals and provides them with the same function. It’s why the collagen found in supplements is often sourced from the skin, bones and cartilage of different animals, which we explain below.
The final product can also come in a variety of forms, like cream and powders. The idea is to supplement our natural collagen production to help our bodies combat a slowdown in function on a cellular level.
The Different Types Of Collagen And Their Benefits
In health supplements, the collagen used is sourced from different types of animals. Some of the most common include bovine (cow), porcine (pig), and marine (fish).
Bovine collagen is sourced from the skin, bones and cartilage of cows. It’s rich in Type I collagen, which looks after the scaffolding within the body, such as our skin, bones, tendons and blood vessel walls.
It’s also rich in Type III collagen which looks after hollow organs like the uterus and bowel, as well as helping with our healing processes. Bovine collagen is also seen as more affordable, though it’s unsuitable for those who experience an allergy to bovine products.
Marine collagen is also a common type, sourced from the skin skin, scales, and bones of fish, often from species like cod or tilapia. It’s a popular choice for its abundance in Type I collagen and for the fact it can be easily absorbed because of the smaller collagen peptides they’re made up of. Complete collagen is tough to absorb in the body, so they’re broken into fragments, called peptides. For those with allergies to land-based animals, marine collagen is ideal.
Porcine collagen is also popular for its richness in Types I and III collagen. It operates in much the same way as bovine collagen but again should be avoided if you have an allergy to pigs or pork.
As for which type of collagen is the best, they each serve their own purpose, but marine collagen is often the preferred choice for its’ ability to be more readily absorbed by the body due to its smaller peptide size.
However, if you’re looking for the benefits offered by Type III collagen, bovine or porcine collagen may be preferred.
The Science Behind Collagen’s Skin Benefits
There has been a significant amount of research into the potential health benefits of collagen supplements. These scientific studies have explored different effects, such as that on skin health, joint pain and function, bone health, and healing and recovery.
Let’s take a look at some of the most significant studies in recent years:
- A study published in the journal Nutrients in October 2019 by Bolke et al found that a particular brand of drinkable collagen supplement significantly boosted skin hydration and density. It also helped with maintaining skin elasticity.
- Other reviews of the scientific studies completed to date, such as that by Barati et al in May 2020 found that collagen supplementation does boost skin texture and health significantly.
- Some studies have also found that collagen supplements could also help improve bone density. As we age, our bones naturally break down, leading to conditions like osteoporosis, so the theory is that collagen supplementation can boost our internal structure and support systems. One study by Konig et al found a group of post-menopausal women who received a daily dosage of 5 milligrams of collagen for 12 months saw an increase of up to 7% in bone mineral density compared to the control group who didn’t take it.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of studies and there are plenty more to read that describe health benefits beyond just skin health and bone density.
So now we understand collagen and how it works, let’s turn to acne. A fairly common skin condition, acne is often characterized by the likes of spots, pimples and whiteheads on the face or body. The condition affects our hair follicles and sebaceous glands. Bacteria can gather and proliferate in these follicles, clogging them up and inflaming them.
If left untreated, these inflamed and clogged pores can become sore and create acne lesions. If the condition persists in this way, it may leave acne scars.
There is no single reason why people develop acne. It’s sometimes attributed to hormones and fluctuations relating to them. It’s also been linked to increased sebum production, sebum being an oily substance produced by our sebaceous glands.
Abnormalities in the shedding of skin cells have also been linked, as well as the presence of certain types of bacteria.
The production of excess sebum, combined with an accumulation of dead skin cells, is one of the main causes of acne, however. This excessive production can be spurred on by puberty, menstrual cycles and stress.
The question then, is can collagen supplements contribute to acne? Let’s take a look.
Can Collagen Really Cause Acne?
So, can collagen cause acne?
It’s a question that’s been raised by individuals who have taken the likes of collagen supplements and have, in turn, developed symptoms of acne.
At present, no scientific studies exist linking collagen to acne. That does not discount the experiences of affected individuals, however. There are reasons why someone could suffer an outbreak.
Issues such as allergies or reactions to different types of collagen could be an issue. There may also be problems with the collagen dietary supplement itself, such as poor quality or contamination.
There can also be issues relating to interactions with other medications, supplements or skin health regimes.
In short, it very much depends on the individual, and that’s why it’s always best to get advice from medical professionals. They can advise you on dosages and the best type of collagen for you. If you have acne prone skin too, it's wise to consult a specialist.
If you do decide to try taking collagen dietary supplements but you’re worried about it causing acne, it’s advisable to start with very low dosages to see if you notice any negative reactions. This way you take a more controlled approach.
Can Collagen Help People With Acne?
We’ve looked at whether collagen can cause acne, but let’s look at the other side of the argument: can collagen help people with acne?
At present, there is little scientific evidence to suggest that taking collagen can help with acne. As we’ve seen above, its purpose is to help with skin health and elasticity. Although acne is a skin condition, it’s affected by glands and follicles.
What To Do If You Get Acne After Drinking Or Taking Collagen Supplements
If you’ve taken a collagen supplement and broken out in acne, understandably you may be feeling upset, frustrated and stressed. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to help better the situation. Here’s a breakdown:
- One of the first things to do is adjust the dosage. It can help to reduce it to the lowest amount possible. This way you can allow your body to get used to the extra amount of collagen provided by the supplement.
- Adjust the type of collagen used in your supplements. You may have a reaction to bovine collagen, for instance, so trying marine collagen could help.
- Continue to follow a healthy diet and lifestyle. Everything from going to bed early to eating nutritious foods can help you overcome acne.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but it consists of some tips which are said to help.
FAQ On Collagen And Acne
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on acne and collagen.
Is Taking Collagen Better Than Taking Calcium Supplements For Acne?
At the time of writing, there is little definitive evidence that collagen is better for acne than calcium supplements. Both serve different purposes in the body. We know that collagen looks after skin health. Calcium looks after bone health.
Can I Take Collagen With Vitamin D Supplements?
Just like with calcium, collagen and vitamin D serve different purposes in the body. As a result, it’s generally considered safe to take vitamin D supplements alongside collagen. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and helps with our immune system too.
How Much Collagen Should I Take On A Daily Basis?
It’s always advised to follow dosage recommendations closely. And if you’re new to collagen, it’s advisable to start with a lower dosage.
As for a daily amount, between 2.5 and 15 grams is considered safe and effective. The dosage you go for should depend on why you’re taking it. It can also vary depending on the type of supplement.
Could I Get Acne Breakouts If I Take Too Much Collagen?
There is no scientific evidence linking excessive collagen intake with acne. Anecdotal stories exist claiming that collagen can cause acne, but this is dependent on the individual and numerous other factors, such as hormones, the supplement types and supplement brand.
- There is no definitive evidence linking collagen to acne. However, this does not discount anecdotal stories of people experiencing outbreaks.
- If you’re concerned about getting acne but want to take collagen, starting on the lowest dosage possible is advisable, though it’s best to get advice from a medical professional.
- There are different types of collagen offering different benefits: bovine, porcine and marine. Due to their smaller collagen peptide size, marine is often the preferred choice