Welcome back to collagen week … the week that’s like Shark Week … except no shark attacks, or big budget (or any budget). Earlier in the week we talked about the sources of collagen, types of it, and how much you should be aiming for in a day. Today is way more exciting though. We are going to be comparing the actual products on the shelves in Japan (pictures included!) so you know what you’re looking at when you’re shopping and can make an informed decision on which product is right for your needs.
First, before you set off shopping, let’s briefly talk about what all you might find in a can of collagen (besides, well, collagen).
- Hyaluronic Acid: This is a humectant (it is very useful and ubiquitous in topical skincare) and is naturally present in the body as a joint cushion and lubricant. While it works well topically, I haven’t seen solid proof (yet) that as a supplement it helps either arthritis or skin. Side note, hyaluronic acid produced for medicine generally comes from rooster combs, i.e. it is not a vegan product (though if you’re shopping for collagen, you aren’t shopping vegan anyway, are you?). It can also be made by bacteria in a lab.
- Placenta: You know what a placenta is (right?!), and this extract is generally sourced from pigs for collagen products (in the guide, you may see products where the collagen is sourced from fish, but has a placenta extract as well; that comes from pigs). Placentas are nutrient dense and include stem cells, estrogen, iron, B6 and are, in crunchier circles at least, thought to help treat and/or prevent post partum depression in women. You may have some ick factor from the thought of using this ingredient, but there is some evidence now showing reduction of transdermal water loss and UVB-induced wrinkle formation, lowered levels of the collagen degrading mRNA, and improved wound healing.
- Ceramides: these are a natural lipid found in the body, and they help keep the skin hydrated. Like collagen, your body produces less and less as you age. This is a good ingredient to find in your topical skincare products, but I haven’t (yet) seen substantial evidence that oral supplementation is beneficial.
- Coenzyme Q10, or CoQ10: at risk of sounding like a broken record, CoQ10 is an antioxidant found naturally in your body, and one your body produces less and less of as you age. Primarily it’s in the outer layers of your skin and helps protect deeper layers of your skin from UVA. This ingredient is also widely found in topical skincare products (and has been heavily researched in this application). Evidence for supplementation with CoQ10 is promising, showing results of both increased levels of CoQ10 within the skin than topical applications alone (and perhaps even better than topical applications), and reduction of wrinkles that are already present.
You will see when looking through the shopping guide that different products will offer many more “bonus” actives than what I’ve mentioned here. Everything from glucosamine to probiotics to amino acids to antioxidants may be found in a collagen supplement. I’ve tried to line out what I can so you can pick and choose to find the best fit for you.
Additionally, you may see the words “low molecular weight” (or LMW) noted for both collagen and hyaluronic acid. This means the molecules are smaller, so potentially more readily absorbed (and used) by the body. You will see this mentioned in topical skincare particularly, as it’s thought that molecules that are too large will not be absorbed by the skin (Hada Labo’s premium line of hyaluronic acid lotion is a good example: it promises five different molecular weights of HA, in the hopes that it will be absorbed better than one).
So anyway … on to the shopping list! You should be able to find these at most any drugstore (Drugstore Mori, Matsumoto Kiyoshi, Drugstore 11, Don Quixote and even grocery and convenience stores), though you will likely not find every brand here at every store. Amazon.jp is another good source for collagen. Prices are what I personally found at a variety of sources, but keep in mind that they will vary slightly between stores, depending on the shop and any sale prices they may be offering.
So that’s it! I hope this helps you select a collagen or two to try out. If you already use a collagen supplement, which one do you use?
If you’re stateside, I was able to find most of the collagen supplements listed above on amazon. You will notice that some of the prices are very close to what you would pay in Japan (like Shiseido’s The Collagen) and others will be noticeably higher. If you shop through these links, be aware they are affiliate links (you won’t pay extra, but I’ll earn a small commission).