Liquid VS Topical Collagen – What's Better ?

Collagen has been around for centuries but has only recently been gaining tremendous popularity in the beauty and supplement industries. It’s hard to browse the internet and not see a collagen ad pop up which can be overwhelming especially when you’re trying to figure out which one to buy. There are simply too many options!

What’s the best type of collagen? What brand should I buy? Is liquid better than topical? Is topical better than powder? Do collagen pills even work? – I know, these are probably all of the questions going through your mind. Let’s dive into the collagen world and dig a little deeper to help you with your decision-making process. 

What is collagen and why do we need it? 

Collagen is the building block that keeps everything connected such as muscle, tendons, ligaments and of course your skin–in simple terms, it’s the glue that keeps your body together. 

If our body already makes collagen, why do we need extra?

Your body produces collagen naturally, however, your bod's production of collagen declines as early as your mid-20’s. Before you know it your body is losing more collagen than it’s replacing and as a result, your skin starts losing elasticity, vibrancy and hydration. One of the reasons for the decline is the formation of free radicals in your body, which are triggered by external factors such as our environment as well as internal factors such as your diet. In order to keep free radicals from eating into your collagen supplies, you need to fight them off with antioxidants. 

What’s the solution? Yes, you guessed it – supplementing collagen + antioxidants

Topical collagen. 

Topical collagen, often referred to as “anti-aging” serum in the beauty industry, is collagen that is applied to the skin, it comes mostly in serum form but is also available in lotion, cream or ointment from. It’s usually applied to targeted areas and is supposed to be absorbed through the skin. In order to make a better assessment to whether or not this method of using collagen is effective, we first need to look into the characteristics of collagen and how it travels through the body to reach its final destination. 

The objective of using topical collagen is to get the collagen to the second layer of skin called the dermis where most collagen is needed.

But before it can reach the dermis it needs to penetrate through the first layer (or outer layer) of the skin, which is called the epidermis. The epidermis consists of multiple layers for protection and in order to penetrate through the epidermis the molecular weight of the substance needs to be extremely small–it’s like a filter that only allows small particles to go through. Given the fact that collagen’s molecular weight is too large, it unfortunately won’t be able to penetrate through the epidermis and will not reach the final destination, which is the dermis.

Why do people continue to buy topical collagen? 

Topical collagen may have good moisturizing properties which are great but these properties do not contribute to typical collagen related benefits. As consumers, we want to see results and we want them fast. Applying a skin moisturizer with collagen as the main ingredient may appear that it is doing something, but in essence, it’s not replenishing the collagen needs that your body requires for glowing skin. 

Radiate beauty from inside-Out

Unlike the topical, which is an “outside-in” approach, liquids, pills & powders offer the “inside-out” approach through oral ingestion. With this approach, you don't need to worry about skin penetration

Now that we figured out that oral ingestion is the most effective method, we need to determine the most efficient form; collagen pills vs.  collagen powder vs collagen liquid

Collage Pills: very convenient to consume and can be taken in conjunction with other daily vitamin pills. Collagen pills don’t need to be mixed with any beverage, you can simply flush them down with water and no more worries about taste or texture. 

…..so pills it is? Not so fast, there is always a flip side to everything. Generally, capsules hold anywhere from 500mg – 1,000mg of active ingredient which translates to 0.5g – 1g of powder. Clearly there is a limit to the capacity each capsule is able to hold, which can be a problem since collagen is usually consumed anywhere between 5,000mg – 15,000mg, which would equate anywhere from 5 capsules – 15 capsules per day. If taking larger amounts of pills does not present an issue for you then collagen pills might be the way to go, but if you are not a big pill person then you might want to consider the next two options. 

Collagen Powder: can be mixed with your favorite beverage or meal replacement shake. Most collagen powders are sold unflavored without any fillers or additives, thus mixing them with any beverage will not alter the taste. It’s a great way to turn your morning coffee into a functional coffee, by adding a scoop of collagen to it. 

…..ok, I’m sold! Not so fast, let’s look at the potential disadvantages of using collagen powder. First off, it can be inconvenient at times having to mix it with a beverage. Even though most powders generally come unflavored, some of them will have added antioxidant ingredients which is great for the product benefits, but not so great for taste purposes. Some collagen powders may not come in “hydrolyzed” form, which means they are not broken down to smaller molecules, thus they cannot properly be absorbed by the body. If you feel like collagen powder fits your lifestyle then this might be the way to go, but if you are looking for something that is as convenient as taking collagen pills and as versatile as the collagen powder, then you might like the next option. 

Collagen Liquid: Pre-made collagen beverages have been gaining traction in the sports nutrition industry as well as in the beauty industry. They are very convenient, easy to drink on the go and are extremely versatile. You can load a single serving with a variety of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, collagen and compress it all down to a single 2oz shot. The liquid form can always be added to another beverage or simply added to plain water. 

….so what is the disadvantage?  Most of the liquid collagen drinks will come in fruity flavors, which could cause a conflict, especially when you are trying to mix it with coffee. The price point can be a disadvantage, but that will depend on the actual content. A single serving of collagen powder will be far less expensive than a single serving of collagen + vitamins + minerals + antioxidants, thus it wouldn’t be a fair apples to apples comparison. But in general, the single-serving price of powder vs. liquid does vary significantly. 

Final verdict: Liquid collagen it is!!

What should you look for when picking the right liquid collagen?

Just as with many other product categories, not all collagen is created equal. There are different types of collagen associated with different benefits. Type I, which is predominantly present in marine collagen, is loaded with amino acids and it closely resembles the structure of the existing collagen in the body, therefore it’s ideally suited to promote skin collagen. But simply pouring more collagen in the body is not the solution either. The key is to slow down the body's depletion of collagen while replenishing new collagen which is accomplished through the intake of antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, green tea, isoflavones, goji berry, etc.. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals which are the main cause of collagen depletion over time.