Not all collagen is created equal: how to spot the fakes

The popularity of collagen in the beauty industry has seen a boom in fake products. Here are five ways to prevent being ripped off

02 April 2023 - 00:00
By Sanet Oberholzer
As collagen becomes more and more popular, the market for counterfeit products is soaring.
Image: 123RF/svittlana As collagen becomes more and more popular, the market for counterfeit products is soaring.

Collagen is a globally growing market. As demand has increased, so has the counterfeit market.

“With so many options on the market, it's difficult to differentiate between genuine and counterfeit collagen,” says Toni Carroll, founder of online hair and beauty store My Beauty Luv.

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“The products could contain harmful additives or fillers, even heavy metals and bacteria. This can cause allergic reactions, digestive problems and other health issues. Additives pose health risks and may also reduce the effectiveness of the collagen, negating potential benefits. They might not actually contain collagen or may contain low levels of it.” 

Carroll's five tips to avoid falling victim to fake collagen supplements are:

Ingredients: Genuine products should only contain collagen and vitamins and minerals. Avoid products that have long ingredient lists. 

Recommended dosage: A clear indication of whether a brand has bulked up collagen with fillers or bulking agents. Scientific papers indicate a dose from 2g to 5g per day as effective. If a product is telling you to take heaps per day, it’s probably been beefed up with cheap ingredients that aren't disclosed on the label.

Price: Be cautious of collagen products priced too low. High-quality collagen is expensive to produce. Similarly, don't assume that expensive collagen products are always genuine.

Brand reputation: Unfortunately, many brands — even in South Africa — don't disclose the full ingredient list. This happens most often when a premium is being charged for something pure but it has in fact been diluted with filling agents. It's not easy to navigate — brands don't share manufacturing methods or intellectual property — but one way to counteract this is by contacting the brand and asking them for certification from their suppliers. Reviews also help.

Molecular weight: One of the best ways to test if a collagen is superior is to check the molecular weight of the product. Almost all collagen producing brands won't have this on their label or in their marketing literature. If you're serious about quality, request the molecular weight (measured in daltons) directly from the brand. The lower the weight, the higher the quality — 2,000Da is the highest weight to look for so anything under this is excellent quality. It means less absorption and more work for your body to assimilate and produce its own collagen.


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