From bone broth cafes popping up on NYC street corners to major department stores filling shelves with vitamin supplements, ingesting collagen seems to be “the next big thing” in beauty, and plenty of consumers — and companies — are jumping on the bandwagon.
The reasoning isn’t completely off — after all, the practice of eating for better skin isn’t new. Health experts have praised the benefits of certain superfoods, like salmon or blueberries, for years. Can bone broth be thought of in a similar way? We asked RealSelf experts more about this “hot” trend:
You’re wondering: What does collagen have to do with my skin health?
The collagen in our skin degrades with time, causing us to look older. “When our collagen degrades, our skin gets looser, wrinkles are created, and the skin looks less plump, healthy, and youthful,” said Detroit plastic surgeon and RealSelf contributor Dr. Anthony Youn. “Collagen begins to break down as early as our twenties, which is when we begin to see aging in many people. This is especially influenced by external factors, such as smoking, poor diet (filled with inflammatory mediators), and sun exposure.”
You’re wondering: What’s the connection between bone broth and collagen?
“The science behind bone broth is that ingesting high amounts of collagen rich gelatin increases the collagen level in the body,” explained New York dermatologist and RealSelf contributor Dr. Michele Green. “The higher the level of collagen will make the skin firmer reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.”
“The basic idea is that bone broth is chock full of collagen and gelatin,” said Youn. “Although there isn’t a lot of hard science to prove it, the idea is that consuming collagen can help to provide the building blocks the skin needs to stay strong and youthful.”
Bone broth might also help with medical conditions like leaky gut. According to Youn, the gelatin and proteins in bone broth act as anti-inflammatories and can heal the gut lining by providing nutrients and reducing inflammation. “Many doctors have reported seeing similar results in their patients’ skin after adding bone broth to their diets – the skin is smoother, younger-looking, and healthier-appearing,” added Youn.
You’re wondering: How does ingesting collagen (via bone broth or other supplements) differ from applying it topically such as with a cream or serum?
“Collagen applied as a topical may help as a moisturizer, but the collagen molecule is typically too large to actually penetrate the surface of the skin,” said Youn. “It just sits on top.”
Consuming collagen might be a better option. “Ingesting bone broth allows the body to absorb collagen and proteins to improve more than just the skin,” explained Youn. “The joints may be healthier, the gut is healthier, and the skin is healthier.”
Green agreed, explaining that “collagen molecules are too large and cannot be absorbed by applying to the skin topically.” However, she’s less convinced on the benefits of consumption, saying the efficacy of ingesting bone broth to stimulate collagen and elastin production in the skin has not been scientifically proven.
You’re wondering: Can I buy it from the store/can I make it at home? How do I get my hands on it?
Bone broth isn’t the same as the canned broth you buy at the grocery store. “You can’t just buy cheap chicken broth in a can from the store and expect it to have the same nutrients,” explained Youn. “It really must be allowed to simmer for a long time to extract all the nutrients from the bones.”
So where do you find said bones? Companies like Crowd Cow can ship flash frozen bones directly to your doorstep. Crowd Cow is a transparent marketplace where consumers can purchase the bones directly from independent, US-based farms and ranches.
For an extra boost, Youn recommends adding skin-healthy foods like antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, which “can supercharge your bone broth to make it even better for you.”
If you’re not into DIY-ing, companies like Whole Foods stock (pun intended) broth from brands like EPIC, and you can find it in their bottled beverage section right alongside the Kombucha and La Croix. Powered versions are also available—including these single serve packets made by Vital Proteins.
So is it worth the hype? The final word from our experts.
“Anyone who isn’t vegan or vegetarian can benefit from bone broth,” said Youn. “I firmly believe that the first place to start, if you want to slow down aging and improve your skin, is to eat a healthier diet. This includes reducing inflammation by decreasing the sugar and processed foods you eat, adding antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables, adding good anti-inflammatory fats such as omega-3 fatty acids, and even supplementing with skin-friendly foods like bone broth.”
Not everyone is sold on the idea, however. Schlessinger agreed when it comes to eating well, and said “the idea of a healthy diet is clearly important” but he doesn’t endorse bone broth.
Green said that while consuming collagen supplements like bone broth probably isn’t a health risk, “there is not sufficient scientific research to supports its efficacy.”
As for how much bone broth we should be consuming, Youn doesn’t recommend a specific frequency, but says “just try it and see how you feel (and look!) afterwards.”