Where does collagen come from? Why is it so popular? And how do you shop for a good collagen powder? You've got questions—and we've got answers. Plus, the 4 best collagen peptide powders to buy, from a registered dietitian nutritionist.
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We've talked before about how H.O.T. collagen is right now. The industry is expected to grow a little over 6% in the next few years, with a projected industry value of $7.5 billion by 2027, according to Grand View Research.

Collagen is the "it" ingredient these days. After all, it's now a regular add-in to items like smoothies and smoothie bowls at your gym café or neighborhood smoothie shop. Even big smoothie chains, like Smoothie King and Jamba Juice, have developed new smoothies with collagen for athletes, weekend warriors and whoever else wants to reap the benefits of collagen. (Here are the 10 best foods to eat for a collagen boost.)

A composite of 5 collagen bottles on a designed background
Credit: Courtesy of Merchants

But where does collagen come from, why should you pay it any attention, and how do you shop for collagen powder? You've got questions—and we've got answers. Read on!

The Different Types of Collagen

Collagen brings strength, structure and elasticity to our connective tissues, tendons, ligaments, bones and skin. But as we age, our body becomes less efficient at producing collagen. Our inefficiency starts in our 20s, and by 40 we're losing about 1% a year. Around age 80, your collagen is about 75% that of a young adult's. (Here are 10 healthy eating changes to make when you turn 50.)

There are five main types of collagen. Type I is the most common and is in skin, bone, teeth, tendons, ligaments, organs, etc. Type II is in cartilage. Type III is found mostly in the skin, muscle and blood vessels. Type IV is in the epithelial tissue layers, which cover body surfaces and line body cavities. Type V is one of the main elements of cell surfaces and the placenta. From a supplement standpoint, though, you'll mostly find Types I, II and III.

Collagen powder can be extracted from a few different sources, with the most common being bovine (cattle), porcine (pigs), ovine (sheep), chicken and fish (usually labeled "marine" collagen).

There are also so-called vegan collagen supplements on the market, and they don't actually contain collagen (collagen is inherently not vegan). Instead, these products are comprised of other ingredients said to stimulate collagen production. (If you're looking to boost your protein intake without animal products, try these 10 best vegan proteins.)

What to Look for When Buying Collagen Powders

1. Look for "collagen peptides" or "hydrolyzed collagen."

Often you'll see collagen powders labeled as such, and these terms are pretty much synonyms. Collagen peptides are hydrolyzed collagen, and that means that the collagen has been broken down into smaller units so that it's more easily digestible. Another easy way to tell what you're getting is to see if the instructions say you can dissolve the powder in hot or cold water. If the powder is easy to mix in either temperature, then it's been fully hydrolyzed.

Hydrolyzed collagen has been shown to have great anti-aging benefits. In the skin, its role is twofold: it provides the building blocks for collagen and elastin fibers to form, and it stimulates the production of new collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid, per a study published in 2015 in The Open Nutraceuticals Journal.

2. Check the collagen type.

What's most common is Type I, II and III—and sometimes they're found together in a powder supplement, other times they're solo or the product has a combo of two of them.

If you're taking collagen for the anti-aging benefits, look for type I, or a combo of type I and type III. Both are found in the skin and support skin health (think: improved skin hydration, firmness and texture, as well as fewer wrinkles, per a review study in 2019 in the journal Molecules).

If you're interested in collagen for its joint-health benefits and some pain relief, look for type II. Remember, this is the collagen found in cartilage. That said, other forms can be helpful, too: type I was shown to help people with osteoarthritis, per a review study published in October 2020 in the journal Rheumatology and Therapy.

The 4 Best Collagen Powders

So even though you now know what to look for, you might just prefer a recommendation. We've got you!

We rounded up a list of top-sellers that are also third-party verified for quality. Because collagen protein powders are considered supplements, they aren't closely regulated by the government. There are third-party verifying companies, such as NSF and USP, that test for quality. When it comes to collagen, though, we found that NSF seems to be the only player. USP didn't have any collagen products listed as tested by them on their website.

1. Vital Proteins Original Collagen Peptide

Vital Proteins Original Collagen Peptides
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Vital Proteins

Vital Proteins is the leader in the collagen powder market, and rightfully so with such a diverse product line. But their OG—Original Collagen Peptides—is their bestseller for a reason: one scoop gives you 18 grams collagen as well as hyaluronic acid and vitamin C. It's also soluble in hot or cold liquids. Need more convincing? The accolades for this product are hard to beat: Rated "Best Choice" on Amazon, endorsed by Jennifer Aniston and NSF-certified.

2. Bubs Naturals Collagen Protein 20 Stick Packs

Bubs Naturals Collagen Protein 20 Stick Packs
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Ideal for on-the-go living or travel, each of Bubs' single-serve stick packs delivers 18 grams collagen protein. There's just one ingredient—bovine collagen—and nothing more added. Bubs is also third-party tested and verified by NSF.

3. Momentous Collagen Peptides Powder

Momentous Collagen Peptides Powder
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Calling athletes and weekend warriors alike … Momentous as a brand is designed for athletes. Their collagen peptides powder specifically delivers two types of proprietary collagen—one targets your joints, the other is good for hair, skin and nails. It also includes vitamin C, which is a major plus as C helps boost collagen absorption.

4. Vital Proteins Collagen Beauty Glow

Vital Proteins Collagen Beauty Glow
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Vital Proteins

If healthier skin, nails and/or hair is your goal, the Collagen Beauty Glow from Vital Proteins is a great choice. Not only do you get collagen peptides, but there's also hyaluronic acid, biotin, vitamin C and probiotics added to the powder. It comes in three flavors—Lavender Lemon, Tropical Hibiscus and Strawberry Lemon—in a canister or single-serve stick packs. And remember, Vital Proteins' products are NSF-certified.