Skip to content

Act fast! "Cozy Edition" KND boxes running low ✨

What is Vegan Collagen?
Essential Takeaways
While this fountain-of-youth protein continues to grow in popularity as a compound for plumping and smoothing skin, brands are stepping up to create completely vegan collagen using high-tech methods that will hopefully be more widely available in the future. Until then, opt for vegan alternatives that support your body’s natural collagen production and come in the form of collagen-boosting vegan skincare products—and, of course, eating your (protein-rich) veggies.

What is Vegan Collagen?

Collagen is all the rage in skincare, with the beauty industry marketing it as a magical must-have in our everyday beauty routine. But what is it, really?

Put simply, it’s a type of protein your body produces that plays an essential role in the structure and function of skin, cartilage, bones, and connective tissues. Often promoted as an anti-aging compound, many brands claim their pricey collagen pills, powders, and other products can deliver benefits such as smoother skin, stronger nails, shinier hair, and healthier joints.

Sure, it sounds important. But, sadly, much of the collagen on the market is sourced from animals—specifically animal tissues including the skin and bones of cows and pigs, fish scales, and egg shells. Luckily, as more consumers become aware of what’s in the beauty products they use and cut back on or eliminate animal products from their lifestyle, the topic of vegan collagen alternatives is becoming a popular one.

Shop Clean, Vegan Beauty Products

Though more research is needed to verify the claims of collagen supplementation generally, the good news is that there might be equally effective—and more affordable—ways to boost your body’s own collagen production without exploiting animals.

Can collagen be vegan?

Thanks to advances in technology, collagen can now be made in a lab. Scientists have discovered some extraordinary ways to produce it without harming a single animal, such as by using fermentation-based processes with genetically modified yeast and bacteria. To produce it in this way, four human genes that code for collagen are added to the genetic structure of P.pastoris microbes. Once the genes are in place, the bacteria then starts to produce building blocks of human collagen. Pepsin, a digestive enzyme, is added to help structure the building blocks into collagen molecules with the exact structure of human collagen.

There’s also cell-cultured collagen in the works which is similar to lab-grown or cultured meat and involves taking a small sampling of cells from a living cow and growing them in a lab setting. This promising method produces the complete matrix of skin, bones, and joints where collagen is abundant.

These new methods to produce collagen are cost-effective and highly scalable in a lab environment. While the methods haven’t rolled out as mass-produced products yet, they have potential to lower the cost of collagen for all consumers and make it widely available for various uses from medical treatments to supplements. Plus, the lab-controlled setting gives manufacturers the ability to improve collagen’s safety profile by using a source that is easily traceable, making it a safer product for consumers.

While science is still building around these products and applications, we can expect that vegan collagen alternatives will one day take the beauty industry by storm. And we are here for it.

Are there vegan collagen supplements?

Until bioidentical vegan collagen is made available, actual vegan collagen is hard to come by. Most companies sell vegan “collagen boosters” as dietary supplements and add collagen-boosting properties to beauty and food products. These products claim to stimulate your body to produce more collagen naturally, helping reduce the appearance of wrinkles and support joint and digestive health.

Collagen boosters contain various vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and zinc that the body needs to make collagen. Some may also include plant extracts and herbs that are found to help stimulate collagen production. Another way to get the benefits of collagen as a vegan is to take individual amino acid supplements. These are what many vegan-friendly companies sell as an alternative to pure collagen supplements.

Some vegan collagen supplements on the market include:

What vegan foods support collagen production?

Although collagen is found naturally in animal foods, your body can still make it if you don’t eat meat, dairy, and eggs. The most abundant amino acids in collagen are glycine, lysine, and proline. When your body makes it, it needs nutrients to help with that process.

A bowl with powdered vegan collagen and a wooden spoon

There are a variety of vegan foods you can eat to help boost your body’s ability to naturally produce more collagen. As long as you eat a variety of plant proteins—think legumes, soy, and quinoa—you will get all the essential amino acids your body needs to make its own. Additionally, a well-balanced diet that includes vitamin C, zinc, and copper will also help your body synthesis collagen. These come from plant foods such as citrus fruits, broccoli, bell peppers, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Is there vegan collagen-boosting skincare?

Giving your skin a boost with vegan collagen becomes more important as you age. Wrinkles start to appear when collagen in your skin begins to break down. As the years go by, your body’s collagen production drops, leading to more and more fine lines and wrinkles.

Shop Cruelty-free, Vegan Skincare Products

Topical skincare products that are formulated with vegan collagen-boosting ingredients are especially beneficial because they provide much-needed hydration for your skin. Though it’s unclear whether or not topical supplementation of collagen—vegan or not—is truly transformative for the skin, there’s certainly no downside to having those additional vitamins and antioxidants.

If you’re considering buying vegan collagen-boosting skincare products, you won’t have to look far. There are a variety of options on the market these days, most of which come in the form of serums, such as:

Final thoughts

While this fountain-of-youth protein continues to grow in popularity as a compound for plumping and smoothing skin, brands are stepping up to create completely vegan collagen using high-tech methods that will hopefully be more widely available in the future. Until then, opt for vegan alternatives that support your body’s natural collagen production and come in the form of collagen-boosting vegan skincare products—and, of course, eating your (protein-rich) veggies.

Nicole Axworthy is a Toronto-based writer and author of the vegan cookbook DIY Vegan.

Sources:
Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration and wrinkles | Journal of Medical Nutrition & Nutraceuticals

High-Level Production of Human Type 1 Collagen in the Yeast Pichia Pastoris | National Library of Medicine

The Nutrition Source: Collagen | Harvard School of Public Health

Immediate and Long-Term Clinical Benefits of a Topical Treatment for Facial Lines and Wrinkles | National Library of Medicine

Each month you'll get

Up to $165 worth of vegan, cruelty-free, & clean beauty
5 products from top ethical and clean beauty brands
A mix of both full-sized and travel-sized items
Skincare, makeup, haircare, body care, and more
subscribe