Vegan Collagen-Behind the Mask
There’s no beauty trend as long-lasting as the pursuit of eternal youth. And, for those of us who believe in the legend of wishing upon a shooting star, let’s be sure not to make the same mistake that Goddess of Dawn (EOS) made – ask not for eternal immortality but eternal youth!
From simple eye creams to miracle ointments set to reduce the appearance of stretch marks, the global anti-aging beauty industry has become a billion-dollar market expected to be worth as much as $88 billion by 2026. Among the many skin-enhancing and time-turning remedies launched in the past few years, collagen has become the go-to ingredient for all anti-aging concoctions, including oral supplements and even drinks.
Once nothing more than a by-product of the livestock industry, collagen has found new life as the secret elixir for that eternal youthful glow!
But parallel to the anti-aging trend stands the vegan beauty revolution, a growing industry driven by cruelty-free aspirations and the pursuit of a kinder, more conscious lifestyle through every product we consume and put on our skin.
What happens when both worlds collide?
Well, the recent rise of 100% animal products-free collagen might just give you an idea of what this unlikely marriage could look like. Vegan collagen seems to be exactly the time-stopping solution vegan beauty enthusiasts have been searching for — but are vegan collagen products really what their marketing claims they are?
What is collagen?
The word “collagen” is derived from the Greek word kólla, which means glue! At a high level, collagen is a complex protein of 19 different amino acids, making up a whopping 75% of the dry mass found in our skin. Three ruling aminos – glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline – make up a triple helix (think 1,050 amino acids in each of the three chains that constitute collagen). Our natural collagen does an excellent job of keeping the structure of our internal organs, blood vessels, bones, and ligaments intact, arguably coming out on top as the most important protein produced by our body.
And our bodies do a great job of constantly synthesizing new collagen too: Approximately 3kg of collagen degrade each year as 3kg more are produced to replace them, keeping our ligaments and cartilage supple and our skin irresistibly glowing!
But all good things must come to an end, and as we age, our collagen supply starts declining, manifesting into feared wrinkles and crow’s feet. So, what better way to stretch youthful skin a little longer than to supplement our declining collagen with something else? Animal collagen entered the beauty world as the go-to substitute for our declining collagen supply, derived from the scraps of meat production (bones, ligaments, and cartilage) and repurposed for topical and oral use — just like practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine have been doing for centuries.
Vegan collagen or collagen boosters?
Needless to say, the stomach-churning cocktail of scrap animal tissue and ligaments was nowhere a hit among vegans and vegetarians. This niche had been left out of the collagen revolution for decades, up until a brand-new product launched, ready to give cruelty-free beauty enthusiasts the best of both worlds: Vegan collagen.
There is now an increasing number of independent beauty brands offering vegan collagen supplements as the latest addition to their trend-forward collection, hoping to capture a long-neglected audience with the promise of a plant-based youth elixir. Both vegan collagen supplements and face creams boast the same benefits we’ve come to expect with animal collagen products: Tighter skin, reduced wrinkles, a softer and more youthful appearance.
But how is plant-based collagen made?
If you were to take a closer look at the ingredients list and the wording of a vegan collagen product’s marketing copy, you’ll soon begin to notice a pattern: There is no real collagen, animal-derived or plant-based, in any of these new products — they are simply collagen boosters.
What you’ll find in these vegan collagen products will likely be a mix of bamboo silica, grape seed extract, vitamin A, vitamin E, biotin, zinc, copper and other antioxidant-packed nutrients. These health-promoting ingredients are exactly the necessary nutrients needed to promote natural collagen production, and they can all be sourced from a healthy, micronutrient and antioxidant-rich diet.
For instance, Vitamin C, an essential nutrient in promoting the proper folding of the stable collagen triple-helix conformation needs to be consumed through our diet because humans are unable to synthesize L-ascorbic endogeneously – nothing a simple dash of citrus can’t take care of!
The truth is that there are simply no vegan collagen supplements available to consumers — plant-based collagen is still in the works as the next genetically engineered vegan alternative to watch out for.
The best anti-aging solution is within reach
Collagen boosters can be a convenient option for those who want to turn back time in a cruelty-free way, but they do come with a hefty price tag and with no proof of benefit. The best anti-aging elixir is already within your grasp: A mindful plant-based diet, rich in skin-healthy antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and retinol, perfect for combating the damage caused by oxidative stress. In addition to a diet rich in micronutrient-packed veg, legumes, and fruit, tenets of good health like getting enough sleep, exercising, and following a tobacco and alcohol-free lifestyle still make for the best time-turning advice you could ever get.
It’s boring but real: You won’t find anything in vegan collagen boosters that you can’t already get by incorporating age-old healthy practices into your everyday routine; feeling younger and more vibrant on the inside while boosting skin health at the same time. And if all else fails, why not just embrace your natural skin and learn to love every new line as a sign of growth?