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'Plaguing on our gullibility' - Are collagen supplements the holy grail of anti-aging, or just a marketing trap?

Collagen supplements are the latest buzz words in the world of wellness, sold to us as the holy grail of anti-aging. But is it just clever marketing?

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Collagen has become the latest fad online, with people paying big bucks to take the powder daily. Source: Fair Go

If it feels like you're seeing collagen products everywhere, that's because you probably are.

From the supermarket shelves to social media feeds, there's been an explosion of the supplements promising to plump up your skin, make your hair and nails grow, and help with joint health. 

To be clear, naturally occurring collagen is nothing new. In fact, it's the most abundant protein in your body.

"Collagen is the material in the skin, the scaffolding if you like of the skin," dermatologist Dr Louise Reiche told Fair Go.

"It gives it strength and a bit of elasticity and makes it smooth in appearance."

As we get older our collagen levels decline and that's resulted in an increased number of collagen supplements on the market. 

The industry is now estimated to be worth $5 billion a year globally.

But Fair Go wants to know - do these collagen products actually do what they're promising?

The jury is still out, according to orthopaedic surgeon Dr Peter Devane.

"We simply don't have technology yet to measure their beneficial effects. It's a little bit hard to say."

Reiche goes even further, calling the product and how it's marketed "misleading".

"I'm not convinced that having collagen supplements achieves that," she says. 

"It might give people a false sense of belief that doing that is enough for the skin, but it's not enough."

Reiche, president of the NZ Dermatologists Association, also said consumers are falling for a marketing trap.

"Marketers are aware that people are genuinely keen to get their best health outcomes and look the best they can, so they are plaguing on our gullibility and our earnest desire to look and to be healthiest."

No Ugly - a Kiwi company with skin in the game - disagrees. 

Co-founder Jo Taylor told Fair Go the company is receiving "a lot of amazing feedback" from customers.

"The benefits of collagen are reduction and fine lines and wrinkles, you'll see an enhanced elasticity, homogeneity in terms of your skin evenness and tone and complexion and radiance, you get a glow going on."

Taylor and husband Aaron recently launched No Ugly Skin, the first ready-to-drink collagen tonic on the market.

"There is scientific evidence around collagen... We have Food Standards of Australia and New Zealand (FSNAZ)," Taylor says.

"They quantify every claim that we make. We cannot make claims that are unsubstantiated."

While there is scientific evidence around collagen, FSANZ looks at labelling and food safety - it does not check claims about benefits of products.

FSANZ says that responsibility lies with the Ministry for Primary Industries, and MPI can ask businesses to show proof of their claims.