Liquid collagen is a supplement that contains collagen proteins suspended in a liquid, such as purified water. Some research suggests that collagen supplements may benefit the health of the hair, skin, nails, and joints.

However, most research does not focus specifically on liquid collagen. There are also some risks to be aware of when considering a collagen supplement.

This article discusses what collagen and liquid collagen are, types of liquid collagen available, benefits and risks associated with collagen supplementation, and dietary sources of collagen.

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Collagen is a type of protein that gives structure to tissues such as the skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, organs, teeth, muscles, and blood vessels. Collagen accounts for 33% of the body’s total protein mass.

Scientists have identified 28 different types of collagen in human tissues. The most abundant is known as type I, which makes up over 90% of collagen in the body. The skin contains collagen types I, II, and III, which give skin its strength and elasticity.

Some people take collagen as a dietary supplement. Drinking liquid collagen is one way of doing this. These products contain collagen proteins that are hydrolyzed, or broken down into smaller blocks. These smaller blocks, or peptides, are easier for the body to absorb.

Many liquid collagen supplements have purified water as their liquid component, though some include juices or other liquids. Companies sell liquid collagen in pre-made drinks, often in the form of individual shots, vials, or smoothies.

The collagen in liquid collagen products can come from different sources. It is useful to know the differences before thinking about buying a supplement.

Beef tissues are the most common source of collagen in supplements because of how well the body can absorb bovine collagen. Collagen from pigs is also easy to absorb, as it is similar to human collagen. Other products may contain collagen from:

  • sheep
  • chicken, duck, or rabbit skin
  • fish or marine invertebrates (such as jellyfish or sponges)

In the cosmetic industry, marine collagen is one of the most popular types, as it causes less inflammation than animal sources and is less likely to contain contaminants, according to a 2020 review.

There is a lack of research that looks specifically at liquid collagen. However, according to a 2020 review, collagen supplementation in general may:

  • slow the formation of lines and wrinkles
  • improve skin’s ability to absorb and maintain moisture
  • reduce skin pigmentation or darkening
  • improve skin elasticity and firmness
  • encourage skin cell rejuvenation
  • improve skin texture
  • improve skin density and thickness
  • improve wound healing time
  • reduce cellulite and skin waviness
  • improve joint and bone health
  • improve nail strength and growth

In a 2018 placebo-controlled trial, participants who drank a liquid supplement containing hydrolyzed fish collagen daily for 90 days experienced an improvement in skin structure, elasticity, and hydration.

In the same trial, participants who consumed the liquid collagen supplement experienced roughly a 43% reduction in joint pain and a 39% improvement in joint mobility. However, the supplement also contained other ingredients, such as amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, making it unclear if the collagen was responsible for the changes.

In a small 2017 study, 25 females who took 2.5 grams (g) of specific bioactive collagen peptides once a day for 24 weeks experienced a:

  • 12% increase in nail growth
  • 42% decrease in nail breakage
  • improvement in nail brittleness 4 weeks after treatment
  • improvement in nail appearance 4 weeks after treatment

Furthermore, researchers in a 2020 study concluded that taking 2.5 g of bioactive collagen peptides daily for 16 weeks increased hair cell growth by 31% and increased hair thickness significantly. However, these tests involved specific peptides, not the products people can find in stores.

Overall, early research on the benefits of collagen supplements for skin, hair, and nails is promising, but more research on the benefits of specific liquid collagen products is necessary to prove they are just as effective.

Many people tolerate collagen supplements well. However, it is best to speak with a doctor whenever beginning a new supplement to check that it is safe, and to use the supplement according to the doctor’s or product label’s instructions.

Some people may experience an allergic reaction to collagen supplements. For example, if someone has a shellfish allergy and consumes marine collagen, they could experience a severe reaction, or anaphylaxis.

If a person develops swelling in the face, mouth or throat after taking collagen, call 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department immediately.

If a person experiences any other new symptoms after taking a collagen supplement, they should stop taking it and consult a doctor.

In addition to allergic reactions, there are some other potential risks to taking liquid collagen.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements as food products, rather than as medicines. This means supplement companies are not required to prove the safety or effectiveness of collagen supplements.

At best, this can mean that some products may not work. However, there have also been cases where companies have sold collagen powder from unsafe sources that was contaminated with toxic substances such as cadmium or mercury.

In other cases, companies have mixed prescription drugs into beauty supplements in order to achieve the desired effect. This can be highly dangerous.

Some supplements may inaccurately list their ingredients, which can mean people who avoid certain animal products for ethical, dietary, or religious reasons could end up taking something to which they object.

Additionally, liquid collagen supplements sometimes contain vitamins, minerals, or herbs. These may be safe in moderate amounts, but some may interact with a person’s medications and underlying conditions. Some can also cause toxicity at high doses, such as iron.

People can avoid these risks by only purchasing collagen supplements that have undergone third party testing to ensure they are pure and come from safe collagen sources. A doctor can inform someone whether a particular supplement’s ingredients will be suitable for them.

The best sources of collagen come from animal products that people generally do not eat, such as animal skin, bone, cartilage, and scales. A few foods do contain collagen in lower levels, though. These include:

  • beef, chicken, and pork
  • eggs
  • dairy products
  • bone broths or bone products

Some marine plants and animals also contain collagen, such as:

  • algae
  • seaweed
  • cod
  • salmon
  • jellyfish
  • octopuses
  • urchins
  • muscles and oysters

Vitamin C also helps the body to synthesize collagen. People can get more vitamin C by eating foods such as:

  • citrus fruits
  • berries
  • bell peppers
  • kiwi

Liquid collagen is a type of collagen supplement that may improve skin, nail, and hair health. It consists of collagen peptides suspended in a liquid.

It is important to consider the type and source of collagen before choosing a product, and to choose brands that test all their products with a third party to ensure quality and purity. Always discuss any new supplements with a doctor.