Take a look at any “healthiest foods” list, and chances are high that certain seafood will be somewhere near the top. Not only are creatures of the deep (and not so deep) excellent sources of much of what you need for a healthy, balanced diet, they also crush it as far as skincare is concerned. Healthy fats your skin needs to stay plump? Fish. Inflammation-fighting antioxidants? Algae. Naturally-occurring moisturizers? Seaweed. Anti-aging and bone-health fortifying collagen? You guessed it: marine life.
If you’re anything like me, you’re surprised to hear that fish are a great source of collagen. When it became a beauty buzzword in the last couple of years, I assumed the only way to get collagen was via land animals like cows, pigs and chicken. Since collagen is usually extracted from an animal’s skin, tendons and cartilage, it just made sense that larger animals with bigger bones were the best source of the stuff.
But as with most things in life, “best” is dependent on what you’re looking for. You see, cows, pigs and chickens are great sources of one form of collagen: Type II, which supports joint and tendon health. But as far as skin health goes, you might want to take a look at our finned friends. You see, marine collagen features Type I and Type III collagen as the stars of the show, both of which are crucial to hair, skin and nail health. While there’s nothing wrong with bovine, porcine or chicken collagen, they serve a different purpose, one that’s more internal. If you’re after skin, hair and nail benefits, learn to swim with the fishes.
SIDE NOTE: The thing about collagen is that it only occurs naturally in connective tissue, which means it’s not exactly vegan-friendly. If you follow a vegan lifestyle, there are plant-based supplements out there that support collagen synthesis in the body, but I’d recommend steering clear of true collagen supplements. For any pescetarians out there, definitely stick with marine collagen over any other form.
What is marine collagen?
Basically, collagen is a protein that occurs naturally in the body and allows your hair, skin, nails, bones, joints and connective tissues to be healthy and do their jobs. Unfortunately, the body produces less and less collagen over the years, so a supplemental source is a good idea.
More specifically, marine collagen is a fibrous protein extracted from the scales or skin of cold sea fish like snapper, cod and salmon. If the thought of negatively impacting the delicate ocean ecosystem or contributing to the world’s overfishing problem is something you aren’t ok with, fear not. Marine collagen products are made from fish skin and scales, stuff that’s typically thrown away as waste after fish are caught or harvested. If your marine collagen is coming from sustainable fisheries or wild fish, the environmental impact is nonexistent — it’s about as sustainable an animal product as you can find.
Why should I add marine collagen to my daily routine?
The real question is why wouldn’t you add marine collagen to your daily routine? This stuff is beauty superfood in powder form thanks to the amino acids it provides that are essential to building strong, healthy tissue (like the kind that makes up your skin and hair and nails). It helps to rebuild tissue and increase skin’s elasticity; its antioxidant content blocks free radicals and protects skin; it helps skin retain moisture and fight harmful UV rays. Need I say more?
If you’ve already read this handy primer on collagen, you know that the protein’s molecular structure is too big to be absorbed through the skin, which is why the oral, hydrolyzed form is your only real supplemental option. While bovine, porcine and chicken collagen molecules are small enough to be absorbed internally, marine collagen molecules are even smaller, making them more bioavailable and absorbable: they make their way into your bloodstream and get down to business faster and more effectively (about 1.5 times as fast, actually).
What should I look for in my marine collagen?
All fish are not created equally and as such, it’s really important that you pay just as much attention to the type of marine collagen you buy as you do the seafood you buy for dinner. Look for a product that only uses non-GMO, verified wild-caught fish from cold waters, like Vital Proteins’ Marine Collagen. Not only do these parameters ensure the highest quality marine collagen, it also means the product is easy to digest (won’t mess with your stomach), flavorless and odorless, and highly bio-available.
One thing you don’t have to worry about with marine collagen that you should pay attention to with the fish you eat is mercury. Since mercury builds up in fat tissue and marine collagen is free of fat — it’s pure protein — you’re in the clear. (Though it never hurts to double-check that a product ensures toxins and impurities have been carefully removed).
How do I use it?
Whatever floats your boat. As long as you’ve got a liquid, you’re good to go. Add some to your morning smoothie or a glass of orange juice or a cup of coffee. If you’re on the go, throw a sachet in your bag to dump into a bottle of cold water whenever you need to hydrate. Doctor your oatmeal or bone broth with a helping of marine collagen. Seriously, just do it.