Collagen is having a bit of a ‘moment’ here in Asia, especially if you happen to be female and over 30. That’s because thirty is the age after which our bodies start producing less of this vital natural protein which supposedly keeps our skin smooth and wrinkle free.
This is why you find collagen as a key ingredient in many beauty products for mature skin, why it is used in lip-plumping injections, and why there are suddenly a number of drinks, powders and sweets to consume which aim to address the problem from the inside as well. After all, the manufacturers claim, anything you put on your skin will barely penetrate the first few layers, whereas anything you ingest will be absorbed by the body and work to boost collagen production at the deepest levels.
In a way, this is just one logical step further than taking daily doses of vitamin and mineral supplements. And if it might help boost your complexion, why not?
The trouble is, collagen is produced naturally by the amino acids found in food protein like steak and eggs. But so are many other things which your body needs every day. And your digestive system treats everything it receives in roughly the same way. Any specialised collagen products you consume are going to be broken down and used like any other food, with no guarantee that your face will benefit at all. The best you can do is to eat a healthy and varied diet rich in every vital nutrient.
Yet ‘superfoods’ containing a lot of natural collagen, such as chicken skin, shark’s fin and pig’s feet, are widely touted as being a great way to keep your skin looking young, and devotees swear that they can see and feel the benefits the very next day.
For those of us who don’t fancy chewing on trotters, extracted collagen served in some more palatable way is offered as the answer. I found these sweets handily displayed by the till in beauty store Sasa, rather like the way the supermarkets have racks of chocolate to tempt you as you queue at the check-out.
Of course I decided to try some, especially as they cost less than S$4 and the tin promised that the peach yoghurt flavoured candy inside was sugar free. However, the sorbitol and aspartame they used instead make them tongue-curlingly over sweet for my taste. Collagen is apparently tasteless and clear, so you cannot tell you are eating it, but even so, judging by its position on the list of ingredients, it seems to be a minor ingredient here. Worse, there are warnings about the possible laxative effects. All in all, whilst these were fun to try, I am not likely to find myself ‘accidentally’ consuming the entire lot in one go, and will probably not buy them again.