It used to be that only the people in your spin class walked around drinking fancy water — like vitamin water for nutrients or coconut water for electrolytes. But now, it seems like everyone and their mother is carrying around collagen water. You know collagen’s got something to do with skincare, but what exactly is it doing in your water bottle?
“Collagen water is essentially water with dissolved collagen,” says Dr. Melanie Palm, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Art of Skin MD in San Diego, CA. Collagen is a protein that the human body naturally produces that helps build your hair, skin, bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, Dr. Palm explains. As for why both your workout buddies and hair stylist are now drinking the stuff, it’s because humans don’t have an unlimited supply — and supplementation can help with that. It’s gotten more popular over the last few years as celebs like Kourtney Kardashian have started collaborating with supplement brands to bring collagen drinks to drugstores near you. According to a 2018 review published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, collagen's use across the beverage, food, and health industries will be worth over $6.6 billion by 2025.
It’s not just skin that collagen is needed for. “As we age, the amount of collagen we produce decreases, resulting in weak connective tissue, wrinkles, poor joint health, and drier and sagging skin,” Dr. Palm tells Bustle. “If an individual is looking to increase their protein intake or promote healthy joints, collagen water could be a good option,” she notes, adding that it’s more portable than the powder supplements that you might mix into a smoothie.
We only include products that have been independently selected by Bustle's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
Collagen Water Benefits
For all the hype about collagen supplements, it’s useful to sort out what it can actually do for you. You might be interested in integrating more protein into your diet if you’ve recently started hitting up those boot camp classes at your gym again. Collagen water might also make you feel fuller for longer, Dr. Palm says, which can help you get through those early morning workouts without those “when can I eat breakfast already” hunger pangs.
But that’s not what most people talk about when they talk about collagen. Usually, folks focus on the potential skincare aspects of collagen intake: it’s often suggested that collagen can help people avoid wrinkles, or keep their skin looking more “youthful.”
In reality, you can’t really pick and choose what collagen will help your body with the most. According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, people can get some benefits from ingesting collagen supplements, but the body decides how that works based on your individual needs. “As collagen supplements get broken down by the gut into elementary parts called amino acids, it is at our body’s discretion how it chooses to use those ‘building blocks,’” Dr. Palm explains. “Collagen taken orally could end up helping to build muscle, bone, or skin.”
Ultimately, giving your body extra raw materials to help keep your skin healthy doesn’t make collagen a catch-all for changing your skin’s appearance. “As for other widely-claimed benefits, like keeping skin plump and youthful, there’s still not enough definitive data to confirm this,” Dr. Palm tells Bustle.
Collagen Water Risks
If chugging protein outside of the context of a shake seems strange, you can rest assured that it’s typically not harmful. “In general, drinking collagen water is safe,” Dr. Palm says. But that doesn’t mean you should grab the first bottle labeled with collagen that you see on the shelf. Dr. Palm notes that some brands may contain flavorings or sugar, which you might or might not want in your gym drink. Plus, like every other supplement, Dr. Palm points out that collagen water isn’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so it’s up to you to find brands you trust.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you’ll want to proceed with caution. Dr. Palm says that the collagen in collagen water usually comes from bovine or marine animals. There are plant-based collagen-boosting options out there, but if a supplement is geared toward straight-up ingesting dissolved collagen, it’ll be made from animal-derived sources unless otherwise noted. And people with kidney issues may want to avoid collagen water altogether, Dr. Palm tells Bustle. “Those with kidney failure need to avoid excessive protein in their diet,” she explains. “A physician should be consulted first, but they probably should not be drinking collagen water due to their underlying health condition.”
No matter your health status, Dr. Palm doesn’t advise making collagen water your main source of hydration. “Too much of anything can theoretically be a bad thing,” she points out.
Collagen Water Vs. Liquid Collagen
Collagen water is a separate (ish) thing from liquid collagen. Collagen in liquid form might be something you most associate with a cosmetic surgeon’s syringe, or one of those little vials with a dropper. And sure enough, some liquid collagen can be dispensed directly into your skin or onto your food. But unless a syringe is involved, liquid collagen that's marketed to be consumed orally can be taken in a drink — aka, as collagen water.
Collagen water or liquid collagen aren’t the only ways to get your amino acid fix — there are also powders and tablets available. However, liquid forms of the protein might be more effective because of how the body breaks it down. The most direct way to give your body the benefits of collagen, then, might well be to fill up your comically oversize water bottle with the stuff.
Avila Rodríguez, MI. (2018) Collagen: A review on its sources and potential cosmetic applications. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29144022/.
Anderson, K.L. (2020) Clinical Evidence of the Anti-Aging Effects of a Collagen Peptide Nutraceutical Drink on the Skin. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, https://jddonline.com/articles/dermatology/S1545961620S0002X.
Dr. Melanie Palm, M.D., board-certified dermatologist, Art of Skin MD