Collagen Peptides: A Comprehensive Guide to Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects

Written by: Christine VanDoren, nutritionist

Fact checked by: SaVanna Shoemaker, MS, RDN, LD

Collagen Peptides: A Comprehensive Guide to Benefits, Uses, and Side Effects

Collagen peptides are extremely small, almost tiny, pieces of protein. They come from animal collagen, which is found in skin and connective tissue. Animals and humans produce collagen naturally, and it’s one of many important materials that create cartilage, bone, and skin.

Breaking down entire collagen proteins into small pieces creates collagen peptides. When eaten or taken orally, collagen peptides have been known to build up in human cartilage and skin. This may help to improve skin and joint health.

Many people use collagen peptides for their aging benefits, especially regarding skin. It’s also been known to help those dealing with occasional joint discomfort. Peptides have the potential to improve brittle nails and increase muscle strength as well. Many doctors and scientists are further testing collagen peptides for other benefits. 

Collagen peptides are completely separate from other collagens, such as collagen type I and II (native) or gelatin. 

The Science Behind Collagen Peptides

Most collagen peptides, also known as hydrolyzed collagen, are sourced from the connective tissues and hide in and on cows. Marine collagen is typically sourced from fish. 

In the past, cow farms used to throw away their cattle hides as they were considered a byproduct or waste product. This has changed. Since collagen levels are so high in cowskin and valuable for consumers who want to use collagen peptides in their wellness routine, ranchers now upcycle their hides. 

While turning this former byproduct into a high-quality health product is fairly new, many different cultures have always believed in eating or otherwise using all parts of the cow. This includes nutrient-rich organ meat and connective tissues. 

Modern Americans mostly eat just the muscle meat of animals. This is unfortunate because muscle meat is lacking in certain nutritional components in comparison to other parts of the animal, like the liver or skin. That’s why many consumers are finding other ways to incorporate important amino acids into their diet, and that includes amino-rich collagen. 

One of many upsides to using valuable collagen peptides is getting important amino acids that trigger your body to produce more collagen. This may support stronger skin, hair, joints, and nails. Using all parts of the cow also supports more sustainable farming practices in the United States.

When looking for the right collagen product, make sure to consider manufacturers who source cowhides from free-roaming, humanely-treated, grass-fed, and high-quality herds. Such farms can be found both within the United States as well as in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay. 

What is the process of turning cowhide, a cow’s connective tissue, into an odorless, silky, and tasteless substance you can completely dissolve in a smoothie? 

  1. Ranchers or farmers thoroughly clean the cowhides and use an alkaline solution (sodium hydroxide or lye) to remove any excess fat.
  2. They soak the cowhide in water and acetic acid or vinegar at 190 degrees F°.
  3. Collagen separates from the hide.
  4. Farmers employ a series of evaporation and milling techniques that produce pure collagen protein powder.

Fish collagen comes from an abundant supply of fish and other marine sources. Unfortunately, around 60% of fish byproducts are considered waste and thrown away. This includes fish skin, which is rich in collagen.

Collagen can be extracted from the skin of the fish and utilized rather than wasted. Collagen can also be found in the scales, fins, and bones as well. The terms “marine collagen” and “fish collagen” are typically used interchangeably, although marine collagen can indicate freshwater fish, shellfish, and jellyfish instead.

Do you have a preference for wild-caught or farm-raised fish? Collagen from farm-raised fish may include antibiotics and traces of pesticides. Collagen from wild-caught fish means a lower mercury content and more valuable nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids. 

Our bodies absorb fish collagen quickly, and it enters the bloodstream at a higher rate.

The potential benefits of collagen peptides for your body include maintaining hydrated skin and helping your joints. Don’t forget that because collagen makes up so many critical parts of our bodies, having healthy levels is considered essential for maintaining good health. 

Scientists continue to study and debate the benefits of collagen supplements and powder. This includes more studies into other, less understood benefits like maintaining healthy blood sugar levels as well as blood pressure in older adults.

Collagen Peptides Benefits

Skin Health

As people age, skin care becomes more important. Collagen peptides and supplements may improve skin hydration and elasticity, especially in older skin. Many people also use collagen to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Hair and Nail Health

Men aren’t the only people who lose hair as they get older. In fact, many women want ways to combat hair thinning that comes with age. In one study, a group of women with thinning hair took daily collagen supplements and saw noticeable increases in their hair's thickness, quantity, and scalp coverage. 

Collagen might also help people whose nails seem to break easily or who can’t grow their nails as fast anymore. One promising study showed that after a month of daily collagen supplements, a group of female participants showed fewer broken or chipped nails and faster growth.

Joint Health

In addition to skin, hair, and nail concerns, many adults suffer from joint issues as they get older. This is because our body's natural collagen production decreases as we age.

Some doctors recommend taking regular collagen powder in smoothies or other liquids to help your joints out. This helps promote healthy aging and reduce occasional joint discomfort. 

Other Potential Benefits

Although this discussion has focused mostly on women and how collagen peptides can help them, some men might also benefit. Taking collagen peptide supplements during a 3-month strength training program has been shown to increase muscle mass and strength in men.

Collagen might also have cardiovascular benefits. Collagen peptides have been shown to help maintain the shape and strength of arteries and blood vessels. A healthy amount of collagen is essential for strong arteries.

Understanding Potential Side Effects

It’s wise to learn about various safety concerns when taking any supplements, including collagen peptides. Specifically, you may see an increase in bloating if you take too much collagen. It’s always best to check with a doctor before taking collagen supplements for this and other concerns. Additionally, collagen may react poorly with certain medications, such as blood thinners, and may increase the risk of bleeding.

Who should be cautious when taking collagen peptides? If you suffer from or are at risk for diabetes or prediabetes, you should be particularly cautious about taking collagen peptides. Some studies have suggested that collagen peptides may have a mild effect on blood sugar levels, so be sure to talk with your doctor if you take collagen and monitor your blood sugar levels closely.

Choosing the Right Collagen Peptide Product

Consider many factors when selecting a collagen peptide supplement. Look for products that don’t have artificial additives. Instead, choose peptides that have added beneficial ingredients like minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. 

Collagen peptides with added hyaluronic acid can support skin health even more effectively. You should also consider your budget and choose a product with the appropriate price and value that works for you.

Top-rated collagen peptide brands and products that you could try include Vital Proteins Original Collagen Peptide, Bubs Naturals Collagen Peptides Travel, Momentous Collagen Peptides Powder, and Vital Proteins Beauty Collagen.

How to Use Collagen Peptides

Everyone is different, but an average safe and effective dose means taking 2.5 to 15 grams of hydrolyzed collagen peptides every day.

Recommended ways to consume collagen peptides include taking one to two tablespoons of collagen powder per day. This powder can be mixed into smoothies, shakes, coffee, or tea. It can also be used as an ingredient in your favorite baked goods or soups.

However, it’s important to note that recognizable benefits of collagen have only been demonstrated with consistent use over several weeks and months. For many people, it will take at least four weeks of daily use to begin noticing the effects of collagen supplementation. Still, these results are often worth the wait.


Collagen is a vital component in your skin, joints, and muscles, as well as other body parts. Taking collagen peptides gives your natural collagen stores a boost and may help improve the health of your skin and joints. 

Collagen peptides boast several health benefits and very few known side effects or risks.

You may consider adding this to your wellness routine to help grow muscle mass,  reduce occasional joint discomfort, and minimize the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and skin dryness.

Other benefits of collagen supplements include their general safety, ease of use, and reported success with different health goals.

Please seek medical advice before starting a collagen peptide regimen.


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