Longer tresses, less joint pain or slowing the appearance of wrinkles are real reasons some want to take collagen every day. The collagen supplement market keeps growing as TikTokers spike their A.M. java with collagen powder, and celebrities praise collagen pills for their youthful glow.
So, what is collagen anyway? Collagen is a type of protein that’s stretch-resistant and supportive, making it the perfect framework for connective tissue in tendons, cartilage and bones. And while your body creates collagen on its own, aging postpones its production. According to a 2022 review published in Dermatology Practical and Conceptual, aging impacts connective tissue by reducing skin elasticity and collagen fibers, weakening the skin and making it difficult to retain moisture. Manufacturers source collagen in oral supplements from cattle, pigs and marine life.
But since no one is really up for gnawing on pig cartilage, four common forms make collagen tasty to sip, swallow and eat—powder, capsules, liquid and food. With plenty of options to mix, blend, drink, or eat, we’re here to share the best ways to take your collagen and the pros and cons of each.
1. Collagen Powder
Collagen powders, also known as collagen peptides, are the most popular form of collagen, per Grand View Research. Collagen peptides are hydrolyzed collagen, meaning it has been broken down to make it more digestible.
Juices, smoothies, and plain ol’ water are ideal liquids to combine with collagen powder. Coffee, tea and other hot beverages, maybe not so much. There’s debate on whether to mix collagen powder with hot beverages due to hot temperatures reducing the quality of the supplement. Yet, when developing collagen supplements, these proteins are exposed to high temperatures to be hydrolyzed. According to a 2014 study published in Drug Design, Development and Therapy, mixing collagen with coffee could potentially diminish its effects. However, this was a lab study made in cells and focused specifically on the impact of caffeine. That being said, more research is needed to determine if mixing your collagen powder with hot beverages is a good idea or not.
Collagen powder makes it possible to make your typical drink into a newfound functional beverage. With a simple blend, mix or stir, these powders go virtually undetected in your collagen concoction as it’s flavorless. For people needing hydration help, collagen can be the ticket to drinking more fluid in your day for optimal health. Beyond beverages, collagen mixes well in foods, such as cereals, yogurts, ice creams and spreads. Unflavored collagen powder is undoubtedly the most versatile to add to various foods.
Adding protein powder to your food or drink will likely change its final texture, consistency or flavor, which will vary by brand. Generally, collagen powder dissolves quickly in hot or cold liquids, but some varieties may get clumpy. Using a blender, whisk, frother or shaker bottle may help curb the clumping and make for a smoother swallow. For some, powdered collagen may seem less convenient because you’ll always need a food or beverage vehicle to consume it, and if that doesn’t sound appealing, capsules may work better for your lifestyle.
|Potential for hydration||Less convenient|
|Sustainable packaging (some)||May be expensive|
2. Collagen Capsules
For convenience’s sake, some collagen users prefer taking a simpler form they can stash in a weekly pill box. Collagen pills deliver collagen powder in each capsule.
Convenience is a critical factor in choosing the best way to take collagen, and including collagen in your everyday routine may be more practical with capsules. Plus, if you’re flavor-sensitive, they have no taste and don’t take much time to ingest for even the busiest days. Whether traveling for work or staying home with the kids, capsules can be quick with a few swigs of water.
Because only so much collagen can fit inside certain capsules, the serving size may exceed what you’re comfortable taking daily. Depending on the brand, you may take 3-6 collagen capsules to secure the full dose. And that could also mean you’ll run out of collagen more quickly.
|Portable||Large serving size needed|
|Flavorless||May be expensive|
|Easy to ingest||Less absorbable|
3. Collagen Liquid
Liquid collagen comes in multiple subtypes, such as a concentrated form you can mix with water or a ready-to-drink version you can take like a shot, one tablespoon at a time.
For people who fear or struggle to swallow pills, a liquid option may be your safest bet for taking collagen regularly. Some liquid collagen brands come with a 1mL dropper or have a serving size of 1-2 tablespoons servings for rapid ingestion. Concentrate varieties require blending with water, which could get you closer to reaching your hydration goals.
Liquid collagen often features a variety of ingredients like vitamins, minerals, fruit and herbal extracts, artificial sweeteners and preservatives. If you’re sensitive to any of these, you’ll want to ensure the liquid is safe. Some liquid collagen customers dislike the taste of some varieties, so remember that these unique formulations could bring diverse flavors, for better or worse.
|Portable||Limited amount of collagen per serving|
|Fast ingestion||Potential additives|
|Potential for hydration||May be expensive|
4. Collagen From Food
One primary reason bone broth bombards your social media feeds is that it’s one of the richest food sources of collagen. Beef and pork bone broth will win you the highest collagen levels. Chicken, including the skin, is another food-first method to reap the benefits of hair, skin and nail-supportive nutrient.
Truthfully, supplements can be pricey, especially when one dose is six capsules and you’re running back to the store to restock. Sticking to food sources of collagen can be a realistic approach to consuming collagen in your home, and the people who live with you could also benefit from the collagen-rich foods in your kitchen. It shouldn’t surprise us that collagen-rich eats deliver must-have nutrients such as B vitamins, calcium and vitamin A. That means more nutrients are available to help your body build more collagen—a team effort. Additionally, foods rich in vitamin C, such as berries, bell peppers and broccoli, help your body produce more collagen.
However, good sources of collagen may fall short of supplying the same collagen concentration as oral supplements can. Your prime candidate for your wellness routine may be powder, capsules or liquid if enhancing your skin or joint health is your goal.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most effective way to take collagen?
The effectiveness of collagen supplements is still under research. For now, the most effective mode of ingesting collagen supplements would be whichever is most convenient for you to take consistently.
Is it better to take collagen pills or powder?
The short answer is it depends on your everyday routine. If you hit the gym at 5 a.m. every morning, tossing your collagen capsules in a baggy and going on your way may be suitable. If you have several cups of coffee before hitting your in-home office in the morning, collagen powder may be your go-to option. The question of what’s better for you may have a simple answer, and that’s the type of collagen that complements your lifestyle.
Is it better to take collagen in the morning or at night?
Research isn’t clear whether there’s a better time to drink down or eat up your collagen. According to Vital Proteins, one of fav collagen brands, “Take it when you like!”
Can you take collagen powder with hot drinks?
While collagen powder can easily be mixed with hot drinks, more research is needed to know if higher temperatures can reduce the benefits of collagen powder in your body.
What is the best way to use collagen for better skin?
There’s doubt that topical collagen creams improve your skin health. That said, a 2021 review including 1,125 adults ages 20-70 was published in the International Journal of Dermatology and found beneficial effects of 90 days of collagen supplementation on skin health, including fewer wrinkles and better elasticity. The takeaway is the best way to use collagen could be to take an oral supplement (powder or capsule, for example) routinely.
The Bottom Line
Collagen’s healthy-aging and joint pain-reducing benefits have created a great demand for many collagen supplements on store shelves. While there are many reasons collagen powders, capsules, liquid and food forms can be great additions to your life, you may fare better choosing the kind you can realistically take every day. Before starting any supplement, it’s safe to have a conversation with a trusted medical provider first.