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A Science-Backed Guide To Vegan Collagen That Actually Works (& Is Worth $$$)

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Chances are, you’re either convinced vegan collagen is the holy grail or think it’s a waste of money concocted by the relentless beauty industrial complex. And it *is* an industrial complex: The global cosmetics industry was valued at $532 billion in 2017, and is poised to reach over $800 billion by 2023. Maybe it’s just me, but I have become less interested in subscribing to a heavy consumerist cycle in favor of a sustainable approach to beauty. That means only buying products that absolutely work on me, and my flirtation with vegan collagen ended after 1 bottle of Garden of Life MyKind Organics Collagen Builder. Unlike my iron supplement, nutritional yeast, and hemp seeds (all 3 daily necessities), I just couldn’t tell whether the collagen was working. I wanted us to be together so badly, MyKind!

My interest was piqued again when I listened to the goop podcast of Dr. Julius Few M.D., a celebrity plastic surgeon who could easily moonlight as a young Denzel Washington stunt double. Or even a regular movie star. He listed his favorite healing modality as “arnica (a kind of alpine flower), collagen—from your natural diet or supplements—and sleep.” M.D.s tend to be more cautious about the efficacy of topical and ingested collagen, so I had to do some research. This man’s skin was too good not to.

For another profesh opinion on the collagen question, I turned to Marie Veronique, a French chemist-turned-founder of a cult-favorite clean beauty brand. She approaches her formulations from all lab-tested, chemical point of view. Personally, I also healed my years-long eczema / rosacea from reading her Acne Solutions book. Here’s what she had to say about collagen:

“Collagen is the body’s most abundant protein”

Collagen makes up an astonishing 3/4 of your skin, and your body continues to make new ones and destroy old ones all the time. She likens fibroblasts as the skin’s repairmen cranking out collagen seamlessly until you reach about 35. At that point, fibroblasts tend to slack off.

There’s not enough evidence to show that collagen peptides work

Peptides and collagen peptides claim to work by signaling to these fibroblasts that they should be working harder, but “it’s a long road from applying collagen peptides topically to increasing either collagen volume or collagen production in the dermis.” However, she does use hydrolyzed collagen in her Barrier Repair Serum. And, a light bulb went inside my head. That’s the same form of collagen in my favorite beauty splurge, Divine Biocellulose Sheet Mask by 5yina. We’re getting somewhere!

I Tried A Vegan Collagen Mask & It Changed My Beauty Game Forever

5yina Divine All Seasons Biocellulose Sheet Mask uses hydrolyzed rice extract for firming, plus goji berries, schisandra, peony root, and job’s tears. $85 for a box of 5

Ageless Goddess Alicia Silverstone Proves Vegan Collagen Supplements *Do* Work

Algenist GENIUS Liquid Collagen, $115

Algenist GENIUS Liquid Collagen contains plant collagen (from hydrolyzed soy, corn, and wheat protein) and microalgae oil.

Don’t forget about Retinol

Retinol works better than peptides to send the “correct” signal for making collagen. A study has shown that 4 weeks of 0.1% retinol increased collagen types 1 and 3; 12 weeks of treatment led to reduced wrinkles.

Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment is the most powerful non-prescription retinol you’ll find, and it’s gentle—PD office favorite for a reason!

Vitamin C is essential for collagen-making to be carried out

If retinol is the messenger, Vitamin C is like an ingredient—it has to be present in the skin in order for the collagen making to happen. Veronique recommends eating fresh produce rich in Vitamins C and E, like dark-green veggies, melon, berries, potato, bell peppers, tomato, hazelnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds.

So what if I really want to try some vegan collagen supplements?

Collagen by definition is an animal protein, so vegan collagen supplements are just designed to provide your body with the building blocks. That said, adding said building blocks to a diet rich in Vitamins A, C, and E, along with retinol and topical hydrolyzed collagen, can’t hurt.

Vegan Collagen powderI’m interested in trying out Amazing Protein Glow by Amazing Grass, because their protein powder is hands-down my favorite of all time. I love that they’re sugar-free and sweetened with monk fruit, but taste like the most decadent dessert. It contains plant-based Vitamin B complex and Vitamin C, in addition to 100% of your DV of biotin.

vegan collagen boosterAmazing Grass Organic Collagen Booster is for people who prefer the taste of wheatgrass to chocolate. Those people exist, right?

Sunwarrior Vegan Collagen Powder

Sunwarrior Plant-Based Collagen gets my vote because it contains hyaluronic acid and biotin—many of the very aesthetically appealing, aspirational brands sell vegan collagen without these building blocks, and I’d like to get the bang for my buck! This one also provides crucial minerals like copper, which regulates the production of collagens 1, 2, and 4 and elastin.

Vegan Collagen Gummies by Havasu

Confession: I really wanted to eat those nutritional gummies when I was a kid but my mom never bought them for me! Good thing I can buy my own gummies as a grown woman, thankyouverymuch. Havasu Collagen Gummies contain hydrolyzed vegan collagen 1 and 3 (the important kinds for external appearance, ahem), tons of biotin, Vitamin C, and zinc. It also has a nice price point for those of us who are on a beauty budget.

Have you tried vegan collagen in supplements or skincare? What was it like for you?

Related: Vegan Bone Broth Alternative (Collagen-Boosting Veggie Plate)

Do You Need A Collagen Supplement? Plus, Our Vegan Collagen Picks

Tried-and-True Collagen-Boosting Tips (*And* They’re Crazy Effective)

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Photo: Rafaella Mendes Diniz on Unsplash; Peaceful Dumpling; respective brands

Juhea Kim
Originally from Portland, Oregon, Juhea now lives in NYC with her Oreo cookie cat, Zeus. When she is not writing, she enjoys running in Central Park, yoga, and teaching Barre classes. Follow Juhea on Instagram @peacefuldumpling, Google+ and Pinterest.
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