Vegan collagen - the next big thing?
Have you noticed those beauty ads over the last few years promoting #collagen and elastin drinks & supplements for “healthy looking skin from within“? Millions of women fall for this beauty promise without having a clue that they’re drinking … animal waste!
I’ve always wondered why noone is asking what it is and where it’s coming from! The source is hardly ever mentioned on packaging or in ads, I guess it would scare customers away. But undeniably, collagen has a lot of skin benefits. So let‘s take a closer look where it’s usually coming from. Before we dive into brandnew options suitable for all those vegetarians, vegans and animal lovers out there!
What’s collagen anyway?
A protein found in human and animal skin, bones & joints which is essential for skin firmness, plumpness & elasticity. The human body makes its own collagen but #collagenproduction slows down with age, which is why skin sags and joints get weaker. Collagen is made from amino acids, specifically glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine.
The main collagen sources come from dead animals like beef (= bovine collagen) and fish (= marine collagen). Some collagen supplements come from the bones, skin, and connective tissue of various other animals, including horses, pigs, or rabbits. Yeah, I know. And it’s hard to tell, because it’s rarely declared anywhere.
Collagen is vital to our entire body
In fact, #collagen is one of the most abundant #proteins in our body. It is found in our bones, joints, tendons, hair, and nails. Its cell-repairing properties are scientifically proven. Collagen is crucial for mobile joints, stable bones, healthy muscles, strong ligaments and tendons, smooth skin, glossy hair and healthy finger nails. It is one of the primary structural proteins of connective tissues and also abundant in blood vessels, intervertebral discs, the blood-brain barrier, the cornea and the intestinal wall – a vital component of our whole body!
Regular proteins are used to build muscle tissue and serve as the building blocks of bones, skin, blood, and muscles. Collagen specializes in repairing parts of our body, including the largest organ: #skin.
The issue with our body’s collagen?
When we reach our thirties, our natural collagen production starts slowing down and keeps decreasing as we chronologically age. So, while our bodies continue needing collagen, we aren’t restoring it at the same rate as when we were younger. This can become quite a problem considering collagen is what keeps our teeth, hair, bones, eyelashes, skin, and joints young and at their optimum strength. One way you can regain collagen is through supplementing with bovine or marine collagen. That’s why these supplement drinks are so popular! Bovine collagen versus marine collagen or beef versus fish
Bovine (beef) collagen is a type 1 and 3 collagen product that can come from the skin, muscles, bones or tendons of cows. The hides (skins) are removed from the cattle and their collagen gets extracted. During this process, the proteins are hydrolyzed, which breaks down the collagen proteins into smaller, more digestible amino acids. It is an inexpensive bi-product of cows that would usually get thrown away as waste. Typically used to improve gut and joint health.
Marine (fish) collagen is a relatively new category. It is made from fish skin and contains primarily type 1 collagen. To produce #marinecollagen supplements, fish skin and scales - things that used to be thrown away as waste - are hydrolyzed in the same manner as cattle hides in bovine collagen production. Marine collagen is a good choice for pescatarians or people who avoid beef products. For vegetarians, vegans and people who don’t want to eat animal waste, not so much.
Skin benefits of type 1 and 3 collagen
Because bovine collagen has both of these types of collagens, it offers plenty of health benefits. Type 1 and Type 3 collagen together make up more than 90% of the total collagen in the body. Skin benefits include enhancing skin hydration and strength, improving skin tone, and helping reverse skin-related issues related to #aging.
Vegan collagen versus animal-derived collagen
So, are we still limited to animal-sourced collagen? Well, there’s a silver lining! Collagen can now be made by using genetically modified yeast and bacteria. Still sounds a little disgusting, if you ask me, but ... . Scientists have discovered a way to produce #vegancollagen using a strain of yeast called Pichia pastoris, but supplements aren’t readily available for purchase. The whole process is quite complex. In short, the genetic structure of the yeast or bacteria are enhanced to mimic the exact structure of human collagen.
Important to know: Some manufacturers, most importantly protein powder manufacturers are misleadingly promoting their products as “vegan collagen”. While in fact they contain zero collagen, but ingredients that supposedly support or enhance our body’s own collagen production. Make sure to read the small print.
Vegan collagen has lots of positive aspects
The biggest benefit is that no animals are harmed. Yes, you could argue #animalcollagen is just a by-product from animals that were slaughtered anyway to end on our plate. Many people are animal-lovers and still eat pieces of meat. That doesn’t necessarily mean, they appreciate eating animal waste.
Vegan collagen is also more suitable for people with allergies. The concern over the risk of transmission of illness through animal-sourced collagen is eliminated. Just think of mad cow disease.
It is also more traceable and therefore more safe for consumers as it is produced and controlled in a lab where harmful substances can be removed.
Vegan collagen in natural cosmetics
German natural beauty brand Merme Berlin launched one of the first vegan collagen serums which mimic the effect of the natural human collagen production in the body. The source is a plant based sugar that is fermented and organically processed. Promised effects include firmer looking, plumper and smoother skin. It works exactly like its animal-derived competitors, without the nastyness of animal waste: Enhancing collagen concentration in your skin and stimulating your body’s natural collagen production.
Phyto collagen from algae or jellyfish is also an option for natural skin care production. Oceanwell, a natural skin care brand from Kiel, Germany are forerunners in our industry: They offer a complete product range based on #oceaniccollagen that is vegan. The approach is quite unique: They source their “OceanCollagen” from so-called root mouth jellyfish (Scyphozoa).
And American clean beauty brand Pacifica have just launched a complete new “Vegan Collagen” series that has already stirred some of buzz on social media. They have not yet revealed much about their vegan source, except for the promise that their collagen proteins “are produced through a plant-based fermentation process that uses zero animal inputs”. Maybe it's N-Collagen from bio-tech start-up Geltor, just guessing.
So isn’t that what the world has been waiting for?
I'd say, absolutely! It has been a long time coming. For me as a vegetarian who has led a strict plant-based life for the past 40 years, this is a dream come true! I’m pretty sure #vegancollagen will be a huge trend with thousands of brands jumping on the bandwagon.