Ask the Pharmacist: Clearing up confusion about the types of collagen

Suzy Cohen
With a myriad of benefits, collagen can have a positive impact on one’s health and wellness.

We as humans make our own collagen naturally by utilizing amino acids. Those amino acids (aka peptides) are the smaller particles that come from protein we eat.

We then string together all kinds of proteins that we need for our bodies. One of these proteins is collagen and we make it from glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and alanine.

Topical collagen peptides, like those sold in face creams, wound healing ointments and facial serums have a lot of clinical research to support their use in the dermal layer.

Orally bioavailable collagen is not sold as a dietary supplement, although many people think it is. In other words, if you’re buying a “collagen supplement,” what you’re really taking are the 4 peptides that your body uses to string collagen together. Collagen itself will not survive through the stomach acid after you take it, so therefore it is not sold as a dietary supplement. You can boost collagen production in the body by taking dietary supplements of collagen peptides, as well as vitamin C which is required as a cofactor to drive the reaction. 

There are patented, proprietary forms of collagen peptides that are clinically studied for benefits in the skin, and those can (and should) be taken orally. So, become well informed when supplementing with collagen. They are not all created equal. Some types of collagen are derived from cow hide, and some from fish scales and there are other sources too. Some types of collagen work for joints, some work for wrinkles.

If you have brittle nails, thinning hair, fine lines, a loss of muscle mass, joint, tendon or ligament problems or even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it’s likely that you’re low in collagen, and probably several different types of collagen, but it’s hard to say. It’s not a given. Those issues could also be caused by a food allergens, various diseases, a deficiency in B vitamins or thyroid hormone, estrogen, testosterone or DHEA.

Most women who take collagen are taking it for its beauty aspects. Keep in mind that there are only a few specific types of very tiny peptides that are recognized by your fibroblast cells in the dermal layer of your skin. If, and only if recognized, are your cells capable of being provoked to increase their own collagen metabolism. Of the 5 types of collagen, only Type I and III are useful in terms of beautifying your skin, hair and nails. Type II is for tendons, joints and ligaments.

Making enough collagen (or being young!) will significantly increase your skin’s moisture, resulting in noticeably firmer and smoother skin. In addition, the oral intake of collagen peptides supports healthy joints, flexibility, and cartilage. I take my own collagen peptides and suggest that you research the vast array of products on the market today to make sure it has the type you desire. If you’d like to read the more fascinating and longer version of this article, sign up for my free newsletter at

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit