Collagen and gelatin are both widely known for their benefits.
Both collagen supplements and gelatin contain a long chain of collagen broken into smaller pieces by hydrolyzation. That said, collagen peptides undergo a complete hydrolyzation process, resulting in tiny chains of amino acids that dissolve quickly in water. Gelatin undergoes a partial process that results in larger collagen molecules that form a thick gel when added to water.
The smaller particle size of dedicated hair and skin supplements allows collagen to be absorbed more efficiently in the gut, bloodstream, and target organs. On the other hand, gelatin has a larger chain of peptides that better line the gut from the inside but is less effective for hair, skin, and nail renewal.
What is collagen?
Collagen constitutes about 25% of our total proteins. 27 different types of collagen have been identified. Type I collagen is the most common collagen found in the skin, hair, nails, tendons, ligaments, bones, and teeth. It is also the most important collagen for promoting hair and skin health. Type II collagen occurs exclusively in cartilage tissue. Type III collagen is found in the lungs, intestinal walls, blood vessels, and skin.
Peptides and amino acids
The sources of collagen vary. The primary source of gelatin is bovine, while collagen powder can be sourced from bovine or fish. Both collagen powders provide the building blocks of collagen - the protein responsible for the strength of our hair, skin, and nails. The collagen found in our body is a very long chain of smaller molecules called amino acids. A chain of amino acids is called a peptide. The amino acids in collagen powder and gelatin are the same (mainly glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline). That said, the size of the peptides is different. The production of collagen powders involves a process called hydrolyzation. In this process, the giant collagen molecules are cut into tiny pieces of 2 or 3 amino acids called peptides using special enzymes and high-pressure steam. The production of cooking gelatin involves heating collagen sources (bovine hide or bone broth). The heating process cuts the collagen into pieces that are usually larger than those found in hydrolyzed collagen. Because collagen supplements undergo more hydrolysis, their peptides (amino acid chains) are lighter and shorter than gelatin. These shorter peptides are absorbed better than the longer peptides found in gelatin and are more efficient.
Collagen vs. gelatin - which is better?
While bone broth or jelly is a good source of collagen, collagen powder is more effective for improving hair and skin health. This is due to the smaller molecular weight of collagen/peptides found in collagen powder. The smaller peptides are absorbed faster and better than the longer peptide chains in cooked gelatin. In addition, because they're so much smaller, our body can absorb the amino acids needed to rebuild and repair hair, skin, nails, and bones.
The shorter collagen peptides provided in collagen powders are more easily absorbed than longer peptide chains found in gelatin. As a result, collagen powder peptides and amino acids can be found in our bloodstream after a few hours.
Collagen supplements for hair and skin health
Basic science research suggests that collagen deficiency in hair follicles leads to premature hair thinning. In a study from 2012, taking marine collagen resulted in improvements in hair volume, hair shine and thickness, skin moisture retention, and skin smoothness. Another 2017 study showed that taking collagen supplements for 6 months improved nail growth and decreased nail breakage.
Collagen powder is easier to use than gelatin
Gelatin is best used to provide a richer, thicker feel when preparing cheesecakes, marshmallows, curry sauces, and soups. The larger collagen molecules found in gelatin make it perfect for cooking. You can even make your gelatin by simmering down bones into bone broth. Gelatin dissolves only in hot liquids and forms a gel. It will not dissolve in cold drinks or smoothies.
Collagen powder is the best choice for people looking to improve their hair and skin most effectively and conveniently. High-quality unflavored collagen powders dissolve completely into hot and cold liquids without becoming lumpy. As a result, you can add it to almost anything, from iced drinks to a steaming mug of coffee or tea.
When should you use gelatin?
Some people take collagen to help their gut lining. Because gelatin powders take longer to digest, it's thought that it's better at coating the small intestine.
How do you take your collagen powder?
Most powders will arrive with a handy little scoop to ensure you're getting the perfect dose. Add a scoop to your smoothie, coffee, or tea. Before blending, make sure you're stirring or shaking it long enough to dissolve the powder.
When should you take your collagen powder?
It is best to have collagen powder blended in with your smoothies or in a cup of coffee in the morning. You can also take it at night with a glass of milk.
Collagen powder vs. collagen gummies for hair regrowth
Collagen gummies are made of gelatin, having all the disadvantages of gelatin. Hair gummies and gelatin supplements will usually contain only a tiny amount of active peptides and a lot of sugar. Thus - not the best idea for most people.
What are the best collagen supplements to help regrow hair?
Building new hair requires a supply of amino acids as a building block. The addition of vitamin C and hyaluronic acid to collagen peptides powder is believed to further promote the process of building new healthier collagen in the hair, skin, and joints.
Collagen supplements from marine sources contain type I marine collagen, meaning it has tiny molecules closely matched to the collagen in our skin. The amino acid profile of marine collagen will usually be better than regular or grass-fed bovine collagen. The best sources of marine collagen will be wild-caught deep-sea fish. This type of collagen you know it's free from additives or contaminants.
- Process for Production of Hydrolysed Collagen from Agriculture Resources: Potential for Further Development. Journal of Applied Sciences, 14: 1319-1323, 2014,
- Enzymatic Hydrolysis of a Collagen Hydrolysate Enhances Postprandial Absorption Rate—A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients 2019, 11, 1064.
- A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2012;5(11):28-34.
- Hair follicle aging is driven by transepidermal elimination of stem cells via COL17A1 proteolysis. Science. 2016 Feb 5;351(6273):aad4395.
- Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2017 Dec;16(4):520-526.
- Oral intake of specific bioactive collagen peptides reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(3):113-9.
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