184: Is Collagen Good For Eczema, Psoriasis + Other Skin Rashes?

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Have you wondered if collagen could be helpful for your rashes and skin health?

I’ve been asked if collagen is good for eczema or psoriasis more times than I can count.

Recently I got a ton of requests from our community about collagen so I figured it was time to do a deep dive into the pros and cons of using collagen.

To be fair, collagen isn’t good for everyone (and I talk more about that in this article).

But for many, they might find that it could give an extra boost to their health AND skin on their journey. I personally take collagen daily and recommend it to clients.

So here are my thoughts on all things collagen!

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In this episode:

  • What is collagen + where is it found naturally in food?
  • Do vegan or plant-based sources of collagen exist?
  • Topical steroids + collagen production in your body
  • Thoughts on topical collagen for thinned skin
  • How to add collagen to your daily diet
  • What to look for when buying a collagen supplement
  • Who should avoid collagen supplements

Quotes:

There’s no such thing as vegan collagen, nor plant-based sources of collagen because it’s only made in animals + fish.

It’s still unclear if collagen supplements can help skin that’s been thinned from topical steroid use.

Collagen powder and a smoothie

Is Collagen Good For Eczema, Psoriasis + Other Skin Rashes? (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Welcome back to episode #184 of the Healthy Skin Show!

In today’s episode, I want to talk about whether collagen is a supplement you should consider on your skin rash journey!

I’ve personally used collagen for several years in my own regimen.

And even my husband takes it daily to help with joint health (since he wrecked his knees and shoulders as a teen from lots of skateboarding) based on some research I’ve read here.

From a skin perspective, collagen is important.

We know that the use of topical steroids thin the skin and impact your body’s collagen production.

I get asked quite frequently if collagen supplements could be helpful and the answer depends on a few factors.

While generally collagen can be really helpful, there are also some downsides that make it a no-go for certain people.

I’ll dive into this more in a few moments so you can decide for yourself if collagen is a good fit for your protocol.

Foods with collagen

What Is Collagen + Where Is It Found?

Collagen makes up approximately 30% of the protein in your body.(1)

It’s a combination of several amino acids including “glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and arginine.”(1)

There are different types of collagen — the ones most helpful for skin, gut + joint health are Types 1 and 3.

In order for your body to make collagen, you must have these amino acids available along with Vitamin C (since it’s a critical co-factor).(2)

Dietary sources of collagen include:

  • Bone broth
  • Gelatin
  • Collagen peptide supplements
  • Bone marrow
  • Canned salmon with the skin + bones (yes, the cans that contain the skin + bones are much more nutritious and easily disintegrate when you mix them up so you will not choke on or get stabbed by a bone)

Collagen peptide supplements typically are derived from cow, chicken or fish (marine) sources.

When purchasing a collagen peptide supplement, sourcing is crucial.

Look for grass-fed, pasture-raised land animals.

Fish should be from wild-caught sources.

The reason is that collagen is derived from the skin, connective tissue, and bones which can harbor heavy metals and pollutants from inferior sources.

Now you might ask me — “But Jen, aren’t there any vegan collagen sources? I didn’t see any on your list.”

To be clear — there is no such thing as vegan collagen.

Collagen is not made by plants which is why the list I’ve just shared doesn’t offer up any plant-based options.

Vegan collagen supplements do not contain any actual collagen.

They only contain the various nutrients that makeup collagen.

This brings up an important point — any articles that recommend plant-based food sources as being “collagen-rich” are inaccurate and misleading.

I love plant-based foods, but I have to be honest here…

These articles are highly confusing leading people to think that they are potentially eating collagen in a plant-based food because it contains a single nutrient the body needs to make collagen. In reality, these sources should never be described as “collagen-rich” since they literally contain NO collagen.

One final point about collagen, any collagen (be it from a supplement or food source) isn’t absorbed as collagen itself.

Your body breaks down collagen into the smallest units of amino acids to use as it sees fit. So there’s no guarantee in taking collagen peptides (or even a “vegan collagen” product) that the nutrients will ultimately go towards increasing collagen production in your body.

And that may be especially true if there is a greater need for the nutrients elsewhere.

Topical collagen skincare supplements and products

Can Topical Collagen In Skincare Help?

One issue that impacts our community is that topical steroid use thins your skin due to decreasing collagen production.(3)

Other forms of steroids that may also play a role in reduced collagen production include inhalers, nasal sprays, and oral meds also should be factored into total steroid exposure.(4)

Thinned skin is a shared frustration by many who have used topical steroids.

At this point, it’s not exactly clear if collagen supplementation can increase collagen production in these cases. Though research does show some promise in improving skin in “healthy individuals”, I wasn’t able to find any research on those with thinned skin due to topical steroid exposure using collagen supplementation to improve skin thickness.(5)

So what about the use of topical collagen?

There are topical products with added collagen on the market… could they help improve collagen in the skin?

And can topical collagen be absorbed through the skin?

For this answer, I turned to a friend of the Healthy Skin Show — Rachael Pontillo — who is an expert in skincare ingredients and formulation.

[Check out Rachael’s other episodes on the show HERE.]

Rachael shared that — “Applying collagen topically in cosmetics — such as serums, creams, lotions, and masks — with the intention of increasing collagen production in the skin is not nearly as effective as the product companies that market “anti-aging” collagen cosmetics would have you believe. 

“The first main reason is that cosmetics can only affect the epidermal layers of the skin. 

“Collagen, however, is formed by cells called fibroblasts that are located in the reticular dermis, which is the deeper of the two layers of the dermis, which cosmetics and aesthetic treatments do not have the ability to reach. 

“Aside from that, collagen itself is too large of a molecule to penetrate through the epidermis, even when it is broken down by hydrolysis; and even if it were to penetrate, there is no evidence to show dermal bioavailability. 

“For these reasons, the best way to support healthy collagen production for cosmetic purposes is to make sure that enough of the micronutrients (amino acids, Vitamin C, etc) are available from the blood; through diet and supplementation.”

That said, there may be a therapeutic use in medical practice for topical collagen and wound healing. But that is not the same as using cosmetic products that contain collagen.

Collagen powder

Ways To Add Collagen To Your Diet For Your Skin

I typically recommend total daily protein intake should be between 70 to 80 grams per day if you’re struggling with chronic rashes or health problems. I’ve talked about that before on the podcast HERE to better understand how to do that.

Collagen supplementation can be helpful in achieving this daily protein goal, but collagen cannot and should not be used alone to make up the bulk of your protein intake.

The reason is that collagen isn’t a complete protein source meaning that it doesn’t have a complete spectrum of amino acids that your body needs.

It’s great as a supplement, but it’s inappropriate as a protein source to heavily lean on.

I typically recommend between 10 to 15 grams/day of collagen to clients based on what appears to be effective in the research.

This means that a powder form of collagen (or collagen peptides) will likely offer more benefits than what can be minimally be packed into a pill.

Plus, it’s easy to add to your daily diet! Here are some creative ideas:

  • Collagen peptides can dissolve completely in both hot and cold liquids without altering the consistency of the beverage (ie. coffee, tea)
  • You can add collagen to baked goods to help increase protein content
  • As a personal example, I add 2-3 scoops to my gluten-free pancake mix
  • Add to protein shakes to increase total protein intake to hit your target
  • I add a scoop to my oatmeal before cooking it
  • You can mix it into yogurt or pudding or apple sauce
  • Add to store-bought boxed broths or broth made from bullion cubes (for this option since it’s hot, you could add gelatin instead)
  • Add to lattes (ie. golden or matcha lattes), hot cocoa, or mochas

As you can see, collagen peptides are incredibly versatile!

Most collagen peptide powders are completely tasteless including those made from bovine and marine sources — unless the company has made a product with a specific added flavor.

The personal brands that I use and recommend are Vital Proteins, Great Lakes Gelatin (they specifically make a collagen product), and Thrive Market.

Woman trying to avoid collagen

When Should You Avoid Collagen?

While collagen is generally helpful there are certain instances when supplementing collagen might NOT be a good idea.

The first is if you struggle with kidney disease and you’ve been advised to limit protein intake by your doctor.(6)

Secondly, if you have an alpha-gal allergy — an allergy to mammalian protein — you’d need to limit your collagen (gelatin + protein) sources to chicken (fowl) and marine sources.

And finally — collagen supplements would be contraindicated for those struggling with histamine overload.

Collagen, collagen-rich sources, gelatin + protein powders are naturally high in histamines.

If you find that you are triggered by high histamine foods or barely get relief after taking one (or more) antihistamines daily, you probably want to avoid collagen.

Some of my clients — especially those dealing with histamine-triggered eczema, rosasea + chronic hives — need to reduce their exposure to dietary histamines while working on hidden histamine triggers like gut dysbiosis, estrogen dominance, poor DAO production, or mold exposure.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t ever enjoy bone broth or add a collagen peptide supplement to your daily life, but until you’ve resolved what’s driving histamine levels higher, adding in collagen will likely make things worse.

Got questions or thoughts on using collagen? Leave them below so we can keep the conversation going!!

So if you’ve found this episode insightful, I ask that you share this information with someone you know who could benefit from adding collagen into their regimen OR someone who probably should be avoiding it due to their histamine issues.

Sharing is crucial for our community to become more informed so that everyone can make the best possible decisions to support their health and skin.

Thank you so much for turning in and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode!

Woman looking at reference books in library

REFERENCES

  1. https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Collagen.aspx
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507709/
  3. https://www.jwatch.org/jd200302260000004/2003/02/26/topical-steroids-disturb-collagen-synthesis
  4. https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/erj/11/1/139.full.pdf
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6835901/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5962279/

There’s no such thing as vegan collagen, nor plant-based sources of collagen because it’s only made in animals + fish.