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What is Fish Collagen?

By Angela Dalecki
Updated Feb 19, 2024
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Fish collagen is a protein extracted from fish that is mainly used as a cosmetic aid to decrease the appearance of wrinkles. Collagen makes up 30 percent of the protein in human bodies and can be found in the skin, joints, teeth, bones, tendons, and blood vessels. It makes up 70 percent of the protein in the skin and helps keep it elastic. Collagen also helps keep the joints fluid, and teeth and bones strong.

During a person's younger years, the body continually discards old collagen and creates new collagen. After the age of 25 or so, the body begins to lose its ability to create new collagen. The lack of new collagen leads to a host of aging symptoms, such as fine lines, wrinkles, arthritis, and joint problems. Medical collagen supplements, which are available as collagen creams, collagen injections, and collagen capsules, replenish the levels of collagen in the body and reduce the signs of aging.

For many years, animal collagen was used for collagen supplements, although it had many drawbacks. Human skin has a difficult time absorbing animal collagen, so collagen treatments had to be supplemented with a hypodermic injection treatment, which typically was expensive and carried the risk of infection. Animal collagen also has the potential to spread bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), better known as mad cow disease, thus posing another danger to humans.

Since BSE and other issues are found within animal collagen, scientists began looking for safer types of collagen. They discovered that fish collagen, which is extracted from fish skin and scales, is a non-toxic alternative. Even better, it is more readily absorbed by human skin than animal collagen.

Due to the variety of water temperatures and pressures in which fish live, fish collagen is resistant to physical and chemical damage. In addition, the extraction process for the collagen preserves its triple-helix structure, thus keeping polypeptides and amino acids intact. These proteins naturally complement collagen and make the resulting treatment more effective.

Fish collagen is most widely used in cosmetics. It typically moisturizes the skin and helps it appear firmer, smoother, and more elastic. Fish collagen can also be an effective treatment for arthritis-related pain and inflammation.

In addition to cosmetics and arthritis treatments, marine collagen is also effective as a diet supplement. It is easily digestible and dissolves without difficulty in water. Due to its restorative health benefits, fish collagen is often used in health food, health drinks, health supplies, and medication for intestinal illnesses.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon320772 — On Feb 19, 2013

Is there mercury in fish collagen?

By anon272116 — On May 30, 2012

I use this great spray on moisturizer product called CMS. CMS uses marine collagen and I can truly see the difference in my skin! I buy this for all my friends and family. Seriously hooked! I love it and I think the fish collagen in it is awesome!

By ZsaZsa56 — On Jun 12, 2011

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I am a man and that I have been using fish collagen for years, but it has really worked wonders in keeping me looking youthful. I was hesitant to start at first, but I think there is some sound science here and you can't argue with the results. People agonize so much over the way they look but with a few simple, proactive steps you can have healthy strong looking skin for your entire life.

By backdraft — On Jun 11, 2011

I remember the old days of animal collagen and I can say from unfortunate experience that the process was painful and ineffective. It involved both a cream application and a shot and the process was often right on the brink of being traumatic. Oh, the things I did to be beautiful back then.

After a particularly painful experience I decided to just set my vanity aside and live with the face that I was given. It wasn't an easy switch to make, but I think it has paid dividends over the long run. I am an old lady with a lot of wrinkly, sagging skin but I love the way I look. This is how I am supposed to look, this is how I was made. You can fight a battle that you will always loose trying to stay beautiful forever, but things get a lot easier if you just accept the way you look.

By Ivan83 — On Jun 09, 2011

@whiteplane - I completely agree. I started using fish collagen a few years ago when I started getting self conscious about my age and it has worked wonders. It must have taken a whole decade off of my appearance. Who would have thought that such a miracle product could have come out of fish scales?

By whiteplane — On Jun 07, 2011

I have been using a product that contains a high concentration of fish collagen to smooth out some of the lines on my face and it has worked wonders. I can't claim to look 16 again but many of the deepest wrinkles and darkest patches on my face have smoothed and softened.

The process did not work overnight. I performed a daily application for several weeks before I really started to see results but my skin has gotten steadily stronger and healthier looking since then. I'm 55 now but I routinely get mistaken for a younger woman. I think fish collagen will be a staple in my medicine cabinet for a long time to come.

By nextcorrea — On Jun 06, 2011

You would be surprised how widespread the use of fish collagen is. If you go to your medicine cabinet and start reading ingredient labels I bet you will find a ton of products that have fish collagen in them that you never would have expected. We have to conclude that it must work if it is so widely used.

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