Over the past few years, there's been a lot of hype surrounding ingestible collagen, thanks to its purported hair- and skin-boosting benefits. But most studies on collagen powders and supplements have been done using animal-derived collagen, which makes the job of narrowing down the best vegan collagen powders a tricky one. To find out more, Bustle spoke with board-certified dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey and registered dietitian nutritionist Sharon Palmer. Keep reading to find out what these experts had to say.
First, some science: According to Dr. Bailey, “Collagen is the main support protein for the human body, found in bones, tendons, muscles, and skin.” As we get older, we lose collagen, and that loss is further accelerated with UV exposure. You can’t use a topical cream to replace the collagen you've lost (because collagen molecules are too large to penetrate our skin), but Dr. Bailey says that “medical studies have proven that oral collagen supplements can increase skin collagen, and improve skin elasticity and hydration.”
That said, Palmer cautions that “there is not enough research supporting the benefits of vegan collagen." She recommends vegans focus on getting enough protein from foods like pulses (such as beans, lentils, and peas), soy, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Dr. Bailey agrees that supplements are not a substitute for mindful eating. She points out that most vegan collagen supplements claim they promote collagen production rather than contain collagen, but since there are no known adverse effects from ingesting collagen supplements, there’s no reason not to use them, so long you're only purchasing them from high-quality producers you trust.
With that in mind, you'll find four of the best plant-based collagen supplements ahead, which are all rich in vitamins and minerals, and come highly recommended by fellow vegans.
1. The Overall Best Vegan Collagen Powder
With protein from peas and brown rice, a B-complex blend (made from guava, holy basil, and lemon peel extract), and biotin, wheat grass, and kale, this collagen powder from Amazing Grass provides plenty of nutrients in each scoop, including 15 grams of protein. Remember: Like most vegan collagen powders, this doesn't actually contain collagen, but it does claim to help support the production of collagen.
There are a range of tasty flavors to choose from, including wild berry hibiscus, Tahitian vanilla, and chocolate rose. This supplement is made with stevia instead of sugar, and the powder is plant-based, gluten-free, non-GMO, and USDA certified-organic. You'll get 11.6 ounces, or about 15 servings, in each tub.
2. Runner Up
Sunwarrior's collagen peptide powder is another great, vegan powder that may help support collagen production, but it'll set you back about $15 more dollars (though you do get 17.6 ounces, or about 20 servings, in this tub). It contains biotin, hyaluronic acid, pea protein, tremella mushrooms — all great ingredients for your hair, skin, and nails — as well as vitamin C-rich berries (like sea buckthorn and amla), and superfoods like spinach and kale. The powder comes in a yummy, salted caramel flavor, but it's also sold in Tahitian vanilla, chocolate fudge, and unflavored versions. While it is keto-friendly, non-GMO, and free of soy, dairy, sugar, and gluten, it's not certified organic, in case that's a priority for you.
3. Best For Mixing With Water
This pink lemonade-flavored collagen powder from Vitauthority is made with superfoods like lemon, pomegranate, coconut, tremella mushroom extract, and camu camu fruit. While the first two powders on this list are better for mixing into smoothies, this can be mixed with water for a refreshing, good-for-skin drink anytime, anywhere.
Again, though this doesn't contain collagen, it may help support your body's own collagen production, which in turn can help promote hydrated, glowing skin. This is sugar-free, dairy-free, and non-GMO, and gives you about 30 servings.
4. Best Vegan Collagen Creamer
Add Moon Juice's Collagen Protect vegan creamer to your coffee for added creaminess, and for the skin-boosting benefits that come from its three simple ingredients: silver ear mushroom for vitamin D, rice bran solubles, which are full of essential fatty and amino acids, and hyaluronic acid, a notoriously good-for-skin substance. This is a gluten-free, non-GMO, sugar-free supplement that's sustainably sourced. Side note: If you mix this with water, it can act as a milk substitute in cereal, smoothies, and more.
Dr. Cynthia Bailey, M.D., F.A.A.D., board-certified Dermatologist and CEO and Founder, DrBaileySkinCare.com