Collagen has a ‘bold future’ in beauty as science soars

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Scientific studies on collagen have traditionally been split between beauty and medicine, but industry has now started to 'join the dots' (Getty Images)
Scientific studies on collagen have traditionally been split between beauty and medicine, but industry has now started to 'join the dots' (Getty Images)

Related tags Collagen Science Collagen Stewardship Alliance Skin health Wound healing Dermatology Aesthetics

Research on the beauty benefits of collagen continues to gain ground, with increasing cross-over interest between topical, ingestible and medical applications sparking fresh promise, says the science and technical director of the Collagen Stewardship Alliance.

Collagen – a structural protein touted for its wealth of beauty benefits, including skin hydration, elasticity and repair – was recently labelled a ‘hero ingredient of the moment’ by Mintel​. And with the global collagen market set to hit €828.6m ($897.5m) by 2023 and beauty products with collagen claims on the rise, it’s no wonder scientific studies and clinical trials continue to gain ground.

A quick scan shows scientific reviews spotlighting the significant future of marine collagen​ because of its sustainability and versatility; studies investigating the wound healing potential of collagen peptides via oral administration​ and when applied topically​; and clinical trials building evidence around collagen supplements​ for improved skin hydration and elasticity.

Collagen science soars across topical, ingestible and medical

“The science has come on leaps and bounds,”​ said Nathan Gray, science and technical director at the Collagen Stewardship Alliance.

Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Europe, Gray said: “If you look at the number of studies, say in 2010 compared to now; it’s night and day – it really is.”

Between 2014-2017, he said there was a huge wave of studies conducted by companies working in collagen wanting to back up ingredients with clinical data, for example, and these efforts were continuing today.

Current scientific interest in collagen, however, had started to take on a much more collective approach across topical, ingestible and medical applications.

“Traditionally, you’ve seen the beauty industry and the ingestible and topical applications of collagen on one side, and then the more medicalised findings on the other side – wound healing, for example. And they’ve both been developing but very separately,”​ he said.

Fast-forward to today, and he said scientific advances in both beauty and medicine had seen industry “starting to join the dots” ​on collagen benefits.

Aesthetic beauty promising for collagen science

The shared middle ground for collagen between beauty and medicine, Gray said, was the aesthetic world – taking collagen’s role “full circle”.

“Right at the beginning, as collagen got big in the West, it was really all about collagen fillers; where Botox is now seen as the main player, collagen was before.”

And new approaches and applications of collagen for aesthetic improvements, including concepts relating to skin scarring and wound healing, he said, presented “a really great area in beauty for the development of science moving forward.”

“…You’ve definitely got the ingestible side which is huge and really growing because of the way things are being formulated, and the improvement in the ingredients means they’re so much easier to put into food and the ingredients are more bioavailable than ever before (…) But the same is happening on the medical side and cosmetics side. All of that, when you bundle it together, is an interesting area with a bold future,”​ Gray said.

Collagen market ‘still at very early stages’

Speaking in a webinar organised by the Collagen Stewardship Alliance last month, the chair of the alliance Asma Ishaq said collagen had not yet reached its market potential, which was “exciting”.

“We’re still at its very early stages and the market has so much more potential to grow (…) There’s just a huge market still that exists,” ​Ishaq said.

Gray agreed: “Collagen has a bright future and there’s definitely potential in all of those areas discussed – ingestible, topical and medical. ...Collagen has been used in surgery for a long time, even for things like stents in heart surgery, and the applications in surgical and medical keep growing. There are all those sorts of applications where, in theory, collagen is going to become more and more interesting as these areas come together more.”

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