DO YOU HAVE COW BROW? Is there a farmyard lurking in your skin care? Find out here
Turns out your wrinkle fixers might have more in common with your Sunday roast than you’d think. In fact, collagen ingestibles can contain chicken feet, fish scales and pork products. Shocked? Read on…
You’ve downed your green juice, eaten your avo on rye, and snacked on your protein bar, but have you had your skingestible yet? There’s a high chance you have – after all, ingestible beauty solutions are the new buzz in anti-ageing as brands put lotions and potions on the back burner in favour of upscale nutri-cosmetic pills and powders with alluring face-plumping claims.
The big selling point is that these little pills could work quicker and more effectively than anything we’ve been applying topically. Liquid formats, in particular, claim to work as soon as you’ve downed them, as the active ingredients have a higher bioavailabilty. Translation: they can bypass the gut (where active ingredients often get broken down), and are absorbed into the blood stream almost instantly. It’s a dream scenario for generation Zs with a short scroll-and-swipe attention span, and who are fully aware of the ticking timebomb of how much longer their insides will keep them baby-faced, especially when it comes to collagen production.
Collagen (in case you missed the memo) is what keeps skin plump and resilient, and we’ve been chasing our tails from as young as our mid- twenties in a bid to save it.“The word collagen is derived from the Greek word ‘kolla,’ meaning glue, but once we hit 25, it declines by 1% per year,” explains dermatologist Dr Alexis Granite. That may not sound like much but that’s just the natural degradation. Sprinkle in free radicals, exposure to UV rays and poor diet – all of which break down collagen bonds – and it’s a slippery slope to sagsville. No wonder a liquid promising eternal youth (almost) makes us salivate.
These elixirs are yet more enticing when you discover that collagen creams aren’t all that anyway. That’s because collagen molecules are far too large to penetrate the skin – so while they’re excellent at slowing the rate of moisture loss and give skin a semi-permanent bounce, they can’t quadruple your own collagen.
So what exactly is in these pills that claim to do what collagen creams can’t? Well, for a start there’s a reason the formulas for these skingestibles tend to be as closely guarded as Colonel Sanders’ special recipe. How would you feel if we told you that the source of liquid collagen in Imedeen’s new Advanced Beauty Shot, for example, is porcine (ie, from pigs)? Turns out the rest of the farmyard’s fair game, too – cows, fish and chickens hold the key to age prevention as well.
Now here’s where it gets ethically tricky. If you’re a burger-chomping, fully signed-up carnivore, then this news may sit OK with you. But if you’re a vegetarian/flexitarian, pescatarian/vegan (delete as appropriate), then not so much.
Basically out of the 16 different types of collagen our skin is made up of, says Granite, 80-90% are the same types found in our furry friends. Their skin, tendons and cartilage are packed with the stuff, and seeing as the best way to stimulate collagen production is to keep levels topped up, the farmyard has become some cosmetic companies’ go-to collagen resource. Fish aren’t let off the hook either – on the scale of collagen quality, marine life is, in fact, seen as superior to mammals.
“Collagen from chickens, cows and pigs is mainly type II collagen, which is generally used to support healthy joints,” says Dr Joe Cincotta, chemist at skincare brand Time Bomb.“Fish collagen is mainly type I and III collagen, which improves elasticity, reduces fine lines, improves circulation and increases hydration. Plus, it can be absorbed up to 1.5 times more efficiently into the body.”
The fish option is also less likely to cause an adverse reaction. If you’re feeling funny after your meaty skin maintainer, you could be in the 3% of people allergic to bovine collagen. Not that you’ll be able to tell which type you’re ingesting because most tend not to be labelled, unless it’s marine collagen, which brands do like to shout about.“At present, only allergens need to be highlighted on the packaging. The only way to tell the source is to write to the company,” explains Paul Davison, managing director at LQ Supplements.
Collagen-filled face creams follow the ingestibles’ lead.“Ingredient label laws for personal care products do not require the source of collagen to be stated,” Cincotta explains. Although you’ll be pleased to hear that they’re
not allowed to source collagen from any country at risk from BSE.
It’s not just pig’s trotters and cow trachea that could be making up your beauty broth. Topical products have often used animal matter to create luxurious textures, staying power and pigment. It’s less common now, but if you’re worried, eyes back to the label.
Squalene (used in moisturiser) comes from shark liver oil (not to be confused with squalane, which is from olives); carmine, a pigment traditionally found in red lipstick, is crushed insects; hyaluronic acid can be produced from fermented bacteria but is also extracted from rooster combs; and keratin is often from ground hooves, horns and animal hair. You can thankfully get the effects of the latter from a vegan blend of soybeans, corn and wheat, but a vegan-approved symbol on the pack is the only way to know for sure.
On the subject of vegans, when it comes to cranking up your collagen, if you follow a plant-based diet it turns out you’re getting a bit of a raw deal (no pun intended). You can try to do it the plant-based way and up your copper (found in nuts) and proline (found in asparagus, chickpeas and wheat) intake, as both help to boost collagen levels, but proline is most abundant in egg whites, meat and cheese, so again, not great if you’re vegan. Which is why vegetarians fare better. Supplements like Rejuvenated’s Veggiecol combine egg proteins with antioxidants, copper and hyaluronic acid to support skin in the same way that collagen does.
Whichever pill, potion or preparation you use, just make sure you do it with your eyes wide open to the hidden ingredients buried beneath the health claims. The science behind collagen’s ability to prevent ageing before it ravages your youthful visage (or after those pesky wrinkles have started to bed in) is pretty watertight. What’s more, of all the ways to get it into your system, skingestibles are the most efficient. Just be aware that if you’re not careful, one lifestyle choice could knock out another. There’s a lot more to those beauty pills than meets the eye.