The last few years have seen a rise in ‘vegan collagen’ supplements – but do these plant-based alternatives actually work? Nutritionist Susie Debice shares the latest findings on how effective vegan collagen supplements are, before we share our pick of the best options on the market…

Can you get collagen from fruits and vegetables?

While you can receive many essential nutrients from plant-based foods, unfortunately this is not necessarily true for collagen. That’s because collagen is a type of protein which is unique to animals and humans. Although many collagen amino acids also exist in plants, not all do. For example, amino acid hydroxyproline doesn’t exist in plant foods.

So, when special cells (fibroblasts) in your body use enzymes to build, repair and renew collagen, you’re going to need a source of all those amino acids. When you go through the menopause, have sports injuries or have compromised ability in your fibroblasts to make collagen, replacing those amino acids can help.

Does vegan collagen exist?

There are botanical extracts that help switch on those enzymes, and these can be found in vegan collagen formulas. Some work by counterbalancing the oxidative stress that breaks down collagen, whether that’s from external sources such as UV rays or whether it comes from internal sources such as sugar, alcohol or stress. So, these vegan collagen formulas are like an oxidative stress formula.

Others might contain mushroom extracts, which may be important for collagen synthesis – the science needs to catch up to confirm this. Other formulas match the amino acids you’d get from an animal or marine source as much as is possible, perhaps using pea, hemp, chickpea or pumpkin seeds.

How do vegan formulas replicate the missing amino acids?

It’s difficult to build new collagen in your body without animal-based hydroxyproline because that’s one of the biggest amino acids in collagen. But without it you’ll still be able to form the 28 types of hydroxyproline-free collagen. Vegan collagen formulations often contain added fermentable vegan food sources, which support the production of those 28 types.

is vegan collagen effective do supplements work

If you’re a vegan, will your skin age faster?

Well, it’s an individual thing, depending on many factors, such as the internal and external sources of the free radicals you are exposed to, how much oestrogen your body produces post-menopause, how much vitamin C you’ve got, how easily your enzymes switch on, and how nutritious your diet is on an ongoing basis.

Is vegan collagen as effective as animal collagen?

Normal collagen powders (from animal sources) have the added advantage of having that hydroxyproline bonded to proline or glycine, which is the signpost for collagen production to the skin. Until a lab can bond hydroxyproline to proline and hydroxyproline to glycine as a peptide, in a vegan-friendly way, then no, the vegan ones won’t be quite as effective. What we’ve got now, though, in vegan formulas is the next best thing. Plus, the formulas will continue to be refined and improved, so in the future they may be just as good.

Best vegan collagen supplements UK

Support your skin from within with these new formulas…

Vegan Protein & Collagen Builder

Raw Beauty Lab Vegan Protein & Collagen Boost (£29.95)

This chocolate-flavoured protein and collagen booster is made from organic plant protein to support healthy metabolism, muscles and joints, as well as building collagen for skin, hair and nails. It contains organic açerola cherry and pomegranate help to boost skin glow and radiance, plus no artificial additives or sweeteners. Plus, the packaging is compostable, with a tree planted for every order!

Ingenious Vegan - 30 Day - Ingenious

Ingenious Vegan Ultimate Vegan Skincare (£60)

Improve your skin, hair and nails as well as rejuvenate joints with this all-natural supplement that boosts collagen synthesis in your skin by up to 80 per cent! It contains astaxanthin, from natural freshwater microalgae, to defend against ageing free radicals. Centella asiatica also increases collagen synthesis.

Rejuvenated Collagen Shots 30 Day Supply

Rejuvenated Collagen Shots (£44.95)

These vegan plant peptides boost collagen levels while soothing inflamed skin. The botanical formula is a vegan amino acid complex to promote collagen synthesis and also alleviate acne, rosacea and eczema. The capsules contain good bacteria to support a healthy digestive system, as well as stinging nettle leaf to reduce sebum, relieve redness and brighten the skin.

Skin Collagen Synergy Make your own collagen

Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Collagen Synergy (£58)

These capsules contain 32 multivitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, E, B2 and B3, plus zinc, MSM, grapeseed and açerola berry.

ANCIENT + BRAVE Radiant Collagyn for Beauty 250g

Ancient + Brave Radiant Collagyn Beauty (£36)

Formulated with rosehip berries and beetroot for a youthful glow, this super-powered plant-based formula contains collagen-specific amino acids (1,000mg L-glycine, 500mg L-proline, 500mg L-hydroxyproline, 250mg L-alanine, 250mg L-arginine), as well as buffered vitamin C to support collagen synthesis and iodine for normal skin function.

Words: Katy Sunnassee | Images: Shutterstock

Related: 5 ways to rebuild collagen and tighten sagging skin