Is Collagen Powder a Bandwagon I Should Jump On? My Nails Say “Yes”

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I’ve learned over the years to take beauty and wellness trends with a grain of salt. So, I was hesitant to buy into the somewhat expensive Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides ($25 per container, depending on size) trend that has become even more popular over the years. But since entrepreneur Ingrid Nilsen and YouTube Influencer Lauren Elizabeth have both incorporated this particular brand of collagen peptides into their morning routines by adding it to their coffee, I splurged on a 10oz container one winter break figuring worst case, I can pretend the white powder is just sugar. While collagen peptides meant adding another step in my morning routine, I was convinced by both Ingrid and Lauren that the product could improve the state of my brittle nails.

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What even is collagen?

For those unfamiliar, collagen is naturally found in our connective tissues, tendons, ligaments and bones. It gives these body parts strength and elasticity, but as we age or consume a diet lacking in protein-rich foods, iron, and vitamin C, these benefits wane. Collagen actually makes up 25 to 35% of all protein in humans, and 80% of our skin

Collagen Peptides Original photo by Elizabeth Berry

Mia Drummey, Bentley University ‘22, who runs a makeup, skincare, and style Instagram account @justmiajames, has posted about using Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides. She tells Her Campus that she decided to try collagen after seeing posts about these supplements all over her Instagram feed and conducting background research on the product. Although she’s only 20 years old, she states, “I figured, why not start taking collagen peptides now while I’m still young with the hopes of supplementing the potential loss of my body’s natural collagen?” That being said, she thinks that older collagen users will be more likely to notice results since they’re replenishing collagen that’s been lost, rather than acting proactively.

Mia also prefers Vital Proteins collagen peptides over other brands because their supplements are sourced from grass-fed, free-range cows. Adding 1-2 scoops of collagen peptides into your daily routine gives you an extra “boost,” and helps support healthier nails, thicker hair, and skin elasticity

But does adding a scoop of collagen peptides, whether you choose Vital Proteins or another popular band such as Ancient Nutrition, actually make a difference?  

How collagen improves nail health

As I mentioned, I take skincare in particular with a grain of salt due to my history with acne, so I wasn’t really convinced that collagen would greatly improve my skin. Nonetheless, my nails have historically been brittle and short, so I thought taking collagen supplements might be more promising in that department.

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In her most recent weekly newsletter, registered dietitian and trainer Rachael DeVaux explains that collagen is “made up of amino acids, with a particularly high content of glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline.” She's also a big fan of the unflavored collagen peptides, and notices a  dramatic difference in the appearance of her hair, skin, and nails when she is consistent in taking 10-20 grams a day. This process is akin to drinking water and taking oral medications for fighting acne before you apply makeup. Basically, for external results, you need to look within, as well! How deep for the beauty industry.

So, how do you use it?

If you consume a diet lacking in collagen or want an extra boost to plump your skin and help to improve your nail and hair health, then adding 1-2 scoops of your collagen powder of choice may be worth it. As I mentioned earlier, there are a plethora of ways you can include peptides into your diet. The powder is easily soluble in hot or cold liquids and can be added to coffee or tea, smoothies, salad dressings or desserts. I’ve only tried the original, unflavored version, but Vital Proteins offers a variety of more exciting flavors, including dark chocolate blackberry, vanilla and mixed berry. 

Latte in mug Photo by Christiana Rivers from Unsplash

Mia tries to take one serving of collagen peptides a day, and will typically add it to hot tea, coffee or hot chocolate. I find that adding one scoop to my morning cup of coffee is the easiest way, because the powder immediately dissolves, as if by magic. This has become a ritual for me, but I’ve also added collagen to peanut butter cookies, overnight oats, and smoothies. Mia also likes to experiment and has added the supplement to her post-workout smoothies for an extra boost of protein, or even in a healthy pancake batter. “Since it’s a flavorless powder, it’s super versatile and easy to incorporate into your everyday routine,” she explains.

Beyond edible collagen powder, there are also collagen-infused skincare products, ranging from eye cream to nail polish remover. So, if you'd prefer to incorporate collagen into your routine without having to add it to your breakfast or snack, there are other options.

DeVaux also explains in a blog post on collagen peptides that you can prevent the loss of collagen in your body by limiting damaging environmental factors including cigarette smoke and high amounts of alcohol, and consuming the proper nutrients, such as Vitamin C-rich foods, which will promote collagen products in your body. 

Related: 4 Reasons Your Hair Isn’t Growing, According to an Expert

Most importantly, is it worth it?

Disclaimer: I'm no expert, but I will say that from my own experience, incorporating collagen peptides into my daily routine has improved my nail health. Collagen supplements can increase nail strength and make both your nails and hair grow longer. I observed my nails grow longer when consuming collagen peptides, giving them that perfect shape for an at-home manicure. But it’s important to remember that supplements like this usually aren’t FDA approved – meaning that their claims aren't scientifically backed up or regulated, another reason to scoop with caution.

Collagen can help improve skin elasticity, reduce joint pain and wrinkles, and of course, potentially improve nail health. Even so, remember that there is still more scientific research to be done on the benefits of collagen, and paying $25 or more for a container may not be worth it depending on your skincare desires. I’m happy with the appearances of my nails, and I just bought another container the other day, but appearances aren’t everything. Sometimes, you need to look within first.