Skin-care enthusiasts and wellness fanatics have been adding a scoop of collagen peptides to their coffee, taking collagen supplements along with their morning vitamins, and now, drinking collagen water, thanks to the latest social media trend. Followers of the trend claim the drink encourages healthy hair, skin, joints, and bones.
Collagen is mostly known for its purported skin benefits, so it’s a common buzzword in the beauty industry. The protein gives skin its structure, accounting for 75 percent of skin’s dry weight, according to a review published in January 2019 in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. But it’s also a key player in the structure of joints and bones, so collagen is popular among those with stiff joints.
The body produces collagen naturally, and the importance of natural collagen is well understood. There isn’t a lot of evidence surrounding collagen supplements, such as collagen water, but it may have benefits, according to the few studies that have been done.
Here’s what you need to know about collagen water.
What Is Collagen Water?
The name “collagen water” succinctly sums up its two main ingredients — collagen and water.
Various terms are associated with collagen. Collagen peptides, also known as hydrolyzed collagen, are made up of shorter chains of amino acids. This is the form of collagen usually used in collagen water. “Collagen water is a blend of water and collagen peptides, which are proteins that are derived from animal bones and skin,” says Jeffrey Gladd, MD, an integrative physician in Columbia City, Indiana, and the founder of Gladd Integrative Medicine.
Homemade collagen water requires just the two ingredients, but store-bought varieties may contain small amounts of fruit juices and plant extracts for flavor. Despite the simple ingredients, collagen water is usually a rich source of protein. Some collagen water products contain as many as 10 grams (g) of protein per bottle, making it a suitable post-workout drink to fuel muscles and rehydrate.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, and health-conscious shoppers have caught on. According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, online searches for collagen have steadily increased since 2014, with many turning to collagen supplements as the next fountain of youth. While there’s no quick fix for the effects of aging, such as the appearance of wrinkles, loss of muscle mass, and changes in joint and bone health, taking collagen may help.
“Most notably, collagen appears to be most effective for addressing signs of aging skin and improving symptoms related to osteoarthritis,” Dr. Gladd says, noting that collagen may smooth wrinkles, enhance elasticity, and relieve joint pain.
Taking collagen in the form of collagen water, a liquid collagen, has the added benefit of keeping you hydrated.
Does Collagen Water Provide Health Benefits?
The popularity of collagen can be attributed to creams and moisturizers claiming to boost the natural collagen levels in skin. There’s very little research supporting these statements, though, and most dermatologists are skeptical of topical collagen. Ingesting collagen, however, has been studied more — and the existing, though minimal, research is promising.
Oral collagen supplements increase skin elasticity, hydration, and collagen density in the dermal layers, according to the aforementioned review in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. No adverse events were recorded, so researchers concluded that taking collagen is generally safe. “Further studies are needed to confirm these preliminary findings and to determine optimal dosing regimens,” notes Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and the founder of Hadley King Dermatology.
Collagen levels in skin naturally dip over time, contributing to the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles. Since collagen contributes to skin elasticity, the natural loss of collagen with age can lead to skin sagging. In older adults who were hospitalized, oral collagen peptides reduced skin vulnerability and prevented skin tears, per a study published in April 2020 in Advances in Wound Care. Researchers also found that the collagen supplement significantly increased skin hydration and elasticity.
The potential health benefits of collagen aren’t simply related to beauty. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, and it usually affects joints and bones in the hands, hips, and knees, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Collagen supplementation has been shown to improve osteoarthritis by significantly improving symptoms in a patient standardized survey, specifically in perceived stiffness, in a March 2019 meta-analysis published in International Orthopedics. These promising studies notwithstanding, a review published in the February 2022 Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology noted that popular claims about oral collagen in general are stronger than what current scientific literature proves these supplements can actually do.
Health Risks of Collagen Water
Collagen water is a supplement, so experts advise treating it as you would other supplements. Namely, talk to your healthcare team before trying one, says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This is especially important if you’re managing a health condition or are on medication.
Keep in mind that the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements, including collagen supplements mixed into water.
Nonetheless, collagen water is relatively low risk, experts say.
“There are very few known risks of taking collagen supplements,” Gladd explains, adding that shoppers should be aware of the potential contamination of heavy metals, such as arsenic, cadmium, and lead. He also recommends purchasing collagen water from reputable brands that conduct third-party testing to ensure the highest safety and quality.
Collagen water may contain other ingredients, such as added sugar and artificial sweeteners, that nutritionally speaking it’s prudent to be mindful of.
How to Mix Collagen Powder With Water
If you’d like to try collagen water and you want to have more control over the ingredients, you can make it yourself at home. This route is likely more affordable, too. Two popular products are Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides, which contain 14 servings for $27, and Orgain Grass Fed Pasture Raised Collagen Peptides, which contain 45 servings for $23.
“Collagen water can easily be prepared at home by simply mixing a scoop of your favorite collagen powder into a glass of water,” Gladd says. “Collagen powders can also be mixed into other beverages, such as coffee, tea, juice, and smoothies.”
To mix collagen powder with water and other liquids, follow the instructions on the package for the appropriate powder-to-liquid ratio. Most come with a scoop to simplify the process.
Takeaway: Is Collagen Water a Worthwhile Wellness Trend?
“The jury is still out on whether collagen will concentrate in the skin when we consume it,” Dr. King says. “Some preliminary findings are promising, although these studies tend to be small and short term.”
Overall, the current research on using collagen for improving skin health and reducing aging effects is still preliminary, and more research is needed to determine who might benefit and which types of collagen would be most helpful. At the same time, studies have generally not shown adverse effects.
That said, because collagen water is simply protein peptides and water, it could theoretically be used to support your hydration and protein needs.
If you’re interested in trying collagen water, first talk to your healthcare team to find out if it’s safe and may be beneficial for your long-term health goals.