Marine Collagen

Currently, one of the hottest products on the skincare scene is marine collagen: a powder, liquid, tablet, or capsule taken orally that is said to boost the appearance of the skin. But does it really work? Read on to find out.

What is collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It’s found in the skin, muscles, bones, and connective tissue, and essentially helps hold the entire body together. Collagen is what gives our skin its structure and elasticity.

As we age, collagen production naturally declines. At the same time, environmental factors like sun exposure and smoking can negatively impact collagen renewal and breakdown.

Declining collagen leads to some of the characteristic signs of ageing, including joint pain, muscle weakness, and the wrinkling of the skin. This is why many cosmetic therapies use collagen as an ingredient to combat the signs of ageing.

What is marine collagen?

Marine collagen is a substance derived from the skin, bones, and scales of fish. It comes in lots of different forms and is usually designed to be swallowed, although sometimes it’s added to face creams or serums.

Marine collagen may be a good option for people who want to try collagen products but can’t use other types such as bovine or porcine collagen (these types are derived from cows and pigs).

Normally these products contain hydrolysed marine collagen – this means that it has been broken down to make it easier for the body to absorb.

Does marine collagen work?

Many doctors and scientists have their reservations about taking collagen as an oral supplement, as it isn’t clear how this could benefit the skin and other parts of the body.

Some believe that the stomach would break down the collagen before it could reach the skin. Others question why collagen supplements would have a different effect to simply eating protein. As explained in this Nedoctor article: “The gut reaction would be why would ingesting collagen peptides be any different to eating quality protein in your diet?”

Before more research is done into how oral collagen is absorbed by the body, we won’t know for sure how effective it can be. Having said that, some limited clinical studies examining its effect on the skin, joints, and other parts of the body have had promising results so far.

Marine collagen benefits

Improved skin
The main potential health benefit associated with marine collagen is improved skin – people who take it report reduced dryness and wrinkling, and improved elasticity. Several studies have been carried out looking at the effects of oral collagen supplements on the skin, and have come back with positive results.

This 2019 review of eleven different studies (looking at a total of 805 participants) concluded: “Preliminary results are promising for the short and long-term use of oral collagen supplements for wound healing and skin aging. Oral collagen supplements also increase skin elasticity, hydration, and dermal collagen density.”

This suggests that it’s possible to improve the appearance of ageing skin by taking collagen orally. Make sure to always read the label before taking collagen and speak to a pharmacist for advice. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied, balance diet and healthy lifestyle.

Improved joint health
Collagen is vital for the health of the muscles, bones, and connective tissue, which can be why – as it declines with age – we may experience more pain and stiffness in our joints.

Several different studies have been carried out which suggest that taking oral collagen supplements can help with this problem. This review of 41 studies found that collagen supplements may have beneficial effects for people with osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis where the cartilage around the joints breaks down).

However, the review also concluded that “there is still room for progress in terms of laboratory and clinical research before any definitive conclusion can be made”.

Other benefits
Some other benefits associated with marine collagen include improved bone and muscle strength, better heart health and stronger nails and hair.

Marine collagen supplements

If you’re interested in trying marine collagen, you should be able to find plenty of products in health food shops and high street pharmacies. It’s best to buy this kind of product from an established retailer with a registered pharmacy number, as this way you can be sure that it’s safe to take.

Marine collagen comes in lots of different forms, and is sometimes mixed with other complementary vitamins or minerals, like vitamin C. It often comes as a powder or a liquid to be mixed into drinks or smoothies, or as a tablet or a capsule.

Some marine collagen supplements will be clearly labelled as such, but others might come under a different name and might simply say “collagen” on the front of the pack. It’s a good idea to check the ingredient list and look for the word “marine” if you don’t want to take another type of collagen e.g. bovine or porcine.