When it comes to anti-aging skin care, collagen is really the gold standard for achieving a youthful, glowing complexion. Collagen creams and treatments are definitely having a moment, but if you're still not fully sure how they work, you've come to the right place.
Shop TODAY consulted top dermatologists to find out what collagen can do for your skin. We also got them to suggest a few collagen-boosting products that are worth trying. Keep scrolling to find out more about collagen products and our top picks — or use the links below.
What is collagen? | Collagen creams vs. collagen-boosting creams | Best budget | Best overall | Best firming | Best vegan | Best serum | Best with vitamin C | Best for mature skin | Most moisturizing | Best investment | What are the benefits? | FAQs | Meet our experts
What is collagen?
Why is collagen such a vital part of our skin?
"Collagen is the main molecule in the skin that provides structure and support. Think of it like the frame of your mattress," says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital's department of dermatology.
"After the age of 30, collagen production starts to decline. This contributes to the fine lines and wrinkles, crepey appearance and prominent pores that occur with age," he adds.
Put simply, collagen is a protein that helps lift, tighten and plump up skin, and over time, age and sun damage can break down the natural collagen in your skin.
Collagen creams vs. collagen-boosting creams
The collagen your body naturally produces starts to decline as early as your 20s, so incorporating a product into your routine that provides similar benefits to collagen isn't a bad idea, especially when you turn 30, according to Dr. Sandy Skotnicki of Bay Dermatology Centre.
Dr. Robert Anolik, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, says creams with collagen (the most common form of "collagen creams") are one such type of product. "Collagen creams do provide moisture, so enhancements in skin moisture and consequent smoother skin can result from collagen cream use," he says.
But it's important to differentiate between creams that simply contain collagen (which boast those wonderful plumping, line-smoothing benefits) versus collagen-boosting creams that contain active ingredients proven to stimulate your body's production of collagen.
Dr. Kami Parsa, a Beverly Hills oculoplastic surgeon, told us in our previous reporting that these stimulating actives include amino acids like peptides and L-glutamine, as well as shiitake complex, which can also slow collagen's breakdown.
He added, "It’s important to remember prevention with sunscreen and healthy eating to maintain your skin’s optimum health. None of these creams can replace a facelift or laser procedure."
Best budget collagen creams
Size: 10 oz. | Key ingredients: Collagen, elastin, safflower seed oil | Usage: Morning and evening
Almost 16,000 Amazon shoppers have given this bestseller a verified five-star rating, and the paraben-free formula is made with plenty of natural ingredients that help lend skin a gorgeous glow. While the elastin and collagen in the ingredient list will be familiar to many skin care aficionados, fatty acid-packed safflower oil plays an important role, as well.
"[This moisturizer] hydrates and softens rough skin cells with collagen and elastin proteins. Safflower seed oil also provides emollient benefits, coating and protecting the outer skin layer," Zeichner says.
Size: 7 oz. | Key ingredients: Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), collagen, vitamin E | Usage: Morning and evening
At just under $10 at Walmart, this is one budget beauty find that rivals the more expensive competition with its powerful ingredients.
"The anti-wrinkle cream delivers skin strengthening hydroxy acids to brighten and firm the skin along with collagen to help plump and hydrate," Zeichner says. Bonus: Its formula also includes vitamin E, an antioxidant experts say protects your skin's collagen and fortifies its barrier.
Best overall collagen cream
Size: 1.7 oz. | Key ingredients: Collagen, peptides, niacinamide, colloidal oatmeal | Usage: Morning and evening
If you're dealing with dryness, loss of elasticity or fine lines and wrinkles, this moisturizer is ready to come to the rescue. It works equally well for normal, dry and combination skin and is cruelty-free and gluten-free.
"This cream helps to hydrate and firm your skin and is good for aging skin. It also contains niacinamide, a potent antioxidant that helps with skin texture and improves the appearance of enlarged pores and dullness," says Dr. Debra Jaliman, a New York City-based dermatologist and author of the book "Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist."
Best firming collagen creams
Size: 1.7 oz. | Key ingredient: Collagen | Usage: Morning and evening
Boston-based dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch suggests giving this reasonably priced moisturizer a try, and it's easy to see why. The lightweight day and nighttime cream offers complexions a healthy dose of hydration, plumps up skin and helps fill in lines and wrinkles.
One reviewer reported, "It helps smooth your skin and is a great pre-makeup base during the day and a nice textured night cream at night." Not too shabby for around $10, right?
Size: 1.7 oz. | Key ingredients: Collagen peptide, niacinamide | Usage: Morning and evening
Plump skin is youthful skin, and Olay Regenerist's collagen peptide cream moisturizer works overtime to hydrate, smooth and firm your complexion, tackling fine lines and wrinkles along the way.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Mary Lupo gives it her seal of approval and notes that pentapeptide, the main ingredient, is pretty transformative and pairs well with another rock star ingredient, vitamin B3+ in the form of pore-minimizing niacinamide.
Size: 1.69 oz. | Key ingredients: Signal peptides, growth factors, pygmy waterlily stem cell extract, soybean folic acid ferment extract | Usage: Morning and evening
Dr. Sejal K. Shah of SmarterSkin Dermatology recommends this protein-packed hydrating cream for anyone whose anti-aging routine could use a boost of moisture.
"It contains a complex of peptides to moisturize and plump the skin. It also has Pygmy Waterlily extract, which is a source of antioxidants and nutrients, so it can help combat free radical damage and boost collagen synthesis," she tells us.
Best vegan collagen creams
Size: 1.7 oz. | Key ingredients: Collagen, antioxidants, vitamin C & E | Usage: Evening
Overnight products are ideal when you want your skin to really soak in potent ingredients, and this recovery cream is chock-full of them.
The vegan formula is free of parabens, phthalates, mineral oil and silicones, and it contains sunflower seed oil, glycerin, collagen and vitamin E. It works overtime to hydrate skin and lend it a youthful glow. And who doesn't want that?
One five-star reviewer on Pacifica's website noted, "I use this night cream two to three nights a week. My skin is more supple and definitely smoother. I was slightly worried about the thickness and possibility to clog pores but so far so good! Been using for about six months now."
Size: 2 oz. | Key ingredients: Peptides, collagen, vitamins E & A | Usage: Morning and evening
Hirsch suggests trying this affordable collagen moisturizer that also contains other beneficial ingredients like vitamin C and green tea. The peptides in the product tackle fine lines and wrinkles, while several antioxidants protect your natural collagen and hydrate skin.
Best collagen serum
Size: 1.3 oz. | Key ingredients: Collagen Peptides, Niacinamide | Usage: Morning and evening
Searching for the fountain of youth? This serum is about as close as you'll get to it. The powerhouse product starts to reduce wrinkles in 28 days and helps renew skin cells to give you a smooth, lifted complexion. "It contains collagen peptides, along with niacinamide (vitamin B3)," Jaliman says.
Best collagen creams with vitamin C
Size: 1.6 oz. | Key ingredients: Vitamin C, phyto peptides, volcanic water | Usage: Morning and evening
Whether you're dealing with wrinkles, dull skin or uneven skin tone, this anti-aging moisturizer can help whip your complexion into shape.
"It not only contains peptides, which noticeably firm and smooth the skin’s appearance, but also the powerhouse antioxidant vitamin C. Lastly, it includes Vichy’s mineral-rich volcanic water, which has been shown to strengthen and support the skin’s barrier," Shah explains.
Size: 1.7 oz. | Key ingredients: Collagen, vitamin C | Usage: Morning and evening
Multitasking products can save you time, effort and money. Case in point: This versatile powerhouse, which is jampacked with beneficial ingredients.
Vitamin C works hand in hand with collagen peptides to firm, plump, brighten, moisturize and protect skin from free radicals. Other key ingredients include olive oil, jojoba oil and rapeseed oil.
Best collagen creams for mature skin
Size: 1.7 oz. | Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, shea butter, fruit extracts (olive and almond) | Usage: Once or twice daily
When it comes to skin care, preventative routines are always best, but there are plenty of products that can whip your skin into shape if you were a little bit lax on your routine earlier in life.
This hydrating cream is ideal for dry or mature skin and works to soften texture, firm skin and replenish moisture, mainly thanks to the emollients and wheat protein in its formula. Plus, the fruit oils are said to not only smooth your skin's surface, but also balance its pH levels.
Most moisturizing collagen cream
Size: 1 oz. | Key ingredients: Collagen, alguronic acid, microalgae oil | Usage: Morning and evening
Hydrated skin is healthy, plump skin, and this collagen-infused moisturizer works on your complexion's behalf to firm, brighten and quench skin as you go about your day. The lightweight cream addresses fine lines, wrinkles, dryness and loss of firmness like a charm, while also helping improve texture. It does all that without containing any undesirable ingredients like parabens or sulfates.
Best investment collagen cream
Size: 1.6 oz. | Key ingredients: Mimosa (flower extract), chlorella, padina pavonica | Usage: Mornings
Sometimes, skin care products are just so good that they're worth the splurge. This one has won the seal of approval of nearly 2,000 Ulta shoppers and is described as a lightweight, hydrating anti-wrinkle gel cream.
It's known for minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and can also help if you're looking to firm up your complexion. The key is in its unique combination of mimosa (a flower extract that tones skin and helps with inflammation), as well as plant actives like the green microalgae chlorella to help firm and hydrate skin.
What are the benefits of collagen creams and treatments?
Dermatologists offer in-office procedures to counteract the natural loss of collagen. If you prefer to take action into your own hands, collagen creams and at-home treatments won't replace the doctor's office, but they're a convenient stop-gap measure when you're between appointments.
Here are some of the ways using collagen creams and collagen-boosting creams can pay off:
- They help build and replace collagen: "This is a goal with topical creams [that contain collagen-boosting actives], especially those with purported anti-wrinkle benefits," Skotnicki says.
- They can stimulate collagen production: Many products don’t actually contain collagen itself, but rather collagen peptides, or collagen that has been broken down into smaller amino acids. "Theoretically, these smaller peptides can penetrate the skin and stimulate collagen production," Shah tells us.
- They improve the skin’s barrier function: Don't ditch your active-less collagen creams just yet. "Collagen molecules are large and don’t penetrate the upper skin layer as many think. They do, however, help plump, hydrate and brighten skin. It helps to fill in fine lines and wrinkles. When our skin is hydrated and plump, it helps prevent new fine lines and wrinkles from forming," Jaliman explains.
Questions about collagen creams, answered by experts
What are the signs that my skin is low on collagen?
Dermatologists and aestheticians can spot a skin care woe from a mile away, but they're not always as obvious to the naked eye. If you're hoping to slow down the signs of aging, Zeichner shares a few ways to recognize when your skin's collagen levels are low:
"Slower collagen production rates combined with UV damage translates to weakening of the skin, develop in a fine lines and wrinkles, and sagging," he says.
If you're 30 or older and notice any of these signs, odds are you could benefit from using a collagen cream.
Are collagen creams safe to use?
They're typically safe for most skin types.
"Topical collagen can be used across all skin types, including those who are oily or even if you have sensitive skin. It is commonly used alongside other active ingredients to improve tolerability of the active ingredient," Zeichner says.
Just as you would do before incorporating any other new products into your routine, do a patch test before applying the cream all over your face.
What are other ways I can restore collagen in my face or body?
"These ingredients can rev up production of collagen from your skin cells to better support the skin and improve signs of aging. Collagen-containing creams can be applied along with retinol for optimal skin benefits," he explains.
Zeichner adds that collagen supplements can also potentially improve the appearance of aging skin — just don't expect miraculous results.
"As collagen peptides are digested, they circulate through your immune system to your skin and serve as building blocks for healthy new collagen production," he shares.
Jaliman is also a fan of collagen and hyaluronic acid supplements, calling them "very effective."
Can I use collagen creams and retinol together? Which one is better for wrinkles/aging skin?
Collagen creams often function more as moisturizers and can be used in conjunction with other skin care solutions as part of a well-rounded anti-aging routine.
"To stimulate collagen better, use a retinoid or vitamin C," Hirsch says.
If you are going to use retinol and collagen together, Jaliman suggests applying retinol first, adding that the ingredient is better suited for wrinkles and aging skin.
Can collagen creams cause acne or other skin issues?
Sure, collagen sounds like a powerhouse ingredient, but will it create acne or other unpleasant side effects? You shouldn't worry too much about that, according to Zeichner.
"The good news is that collagen can be applied topically to people with all skin types, and it's not likely to cause irritation or acne breakouts," he says.
However, if the collagen product contains shea butter or other comedogenic ingredients, Jaliman says it can cause acne.
Meet our experts
- Dr. Robert Anolik, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.
- Dr. Ranella Hirsch, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist based in Boston. Her specialties include laser surgery and cosmetic dermatology, often lecturing physicians on those topics.
- Dr. Debra Jaliman, MD, is a board-certified NYC dermatologist and author of “Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist."
- Dr. Mary P. Lupo, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine. She practices in New Orleans, Louisiana.
- Dr. Kami Parsa, MD, is a Beverly Hills oculoplastic surgeon. He specializes in both surgical and non-surgical procedures that address skin concerns around the eyes, including droopy eyelids and under-eye bags.
- Dr. Sejal K. Shah, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at New York City's SmarterSkin Dermatology. Her focus is on cosmetic dermatology and lasers, hair loss and ethnic skin.
- Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, MD, FRCPC, is a board-certified dermatologist and the medical director of Bay Dermatology Centre. She's also the author of "Beyond Soap: The Real Truth About What You Are Doing to Your Skin and How to Fix It for a Beautiful, Healthy Glow."
- Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist. He is Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology and an Associate Professor of Dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.