Nearly seven years ago, when chef Marco Canora opened Brodo, the bone broth takeout window in Manhattan’s East Village that sparked a wellness movement, I was slow to fall in line. Something about sipping a clear, meaty elixir didn’t resonate with me the way that my daily green juice did. And yet everyone from Jennifer Aniston to Tom Brady was soon raving about the collagen-rich panacea.
“Collagen is really critical to our health because it makes up 30% of all of the protein in our bodies,” explains Josh Axe, D.N.M., a clinical nutritionist and author of 2019’s The Collagen Diet, who notes that production of the multitasking amino-acid chains starts to decline around age 25. “By the time you’re in your mid-50s, your body is producing 50 percent less collagen,” Axe continues. The way to help replenish those reserves, he says, is to consume it—whether by simmering bones into a savory stock or reaching for the new collagen powders now flooding the supplement market. Promising everything from thicker hair and stronger nails to plumper skin, collagen powders are on track to reach $7.5 billion by 2027. The sector is led by brands such as the Chicago-based Vital Proteins, which became Instagram famous when it partnered with Kourtney Kardashian on an organic blueberry-and-lemon–flavored powder sourced from pasture-raised cows in Brazil.
“Do you ingest collagen and look in the mirror and give yourself a thumbs up? No, it doesn’t work like that,” admits Bobbi Brown, the beauty mogul and founder of wellness brand Evolution_18, whose collagen-based offerings are carried at Walmart. But real, perceptible benefits can often be achieved in a few months, Brown is quick to add. “Inside-out beauty is more important than ever,” agrees One Ocean Beauty’s Marcella Cacci, who launched her marine-based skin-care line in 2018 with a five-piece lineup that includes complexion-boosting collagen supplements that deploy skin-healthy vitamins found in tomatoes and pomegranate extract.
It’s certainly an appealing premise—if not entirely in line with our increasingly plant-oriented diets. “It’s almost impossible to find the quality of the collagen you are using or exactly where it came from,” Brooke Russell, Ph.D., a vice president of operations at ECM Biosurgery, says of the powders, which are sourced from the bones, skin, or connective tissue of animals like cows or fish. “Most of the time, you don’t really know what is in there.” New York City-based dermatologist Pat Wexler, M.D., isn’t entirely sold either. “There are no negative side effects—but there is a lot more research to be done,” says Wexler, cautioning that many of the studies have been paid for by the companies producing the supplements.
Linda Ellison, Ph.D., a former public health systems managing director at the United Nations, spent three years working with scientists to optimize a healing bone broth recipe that she inherited from her grandmother. Ellison had planned to launch her first product, a beauty supplement, from her California-based biotech company, Kaü, last fall. But when the coronavirus hit, she decided to fast-track Life, a more potent formula initially developed for intensive-care units. “At this level of concentration, it triggers the rapid production of immune-system cells”—cells that might resemble those you have in your early 20s, Ellison says. “It’s like the difference between getting a bag at Forever 21 and buying a Chanel purse,” she adds with a laugh. Since the flavorless powder can strengthen your immune system, it has a number of happy side effects, she says: “You’re sleeping better, you’re less anxious, you have better mental focus, and your metabolism spikes”; that a brighter complexion comes with the territory is an added bonus.
Below, the 11 best collagen powders and supplements to stock up on now.
Originally published on Vogue.com
Read Next: Do Collagen Supplements Actually Work?