Marine Collagen vs. Bovine Collagen – What's the Difference?

Collagen is an essential building block in the wonderful matrix of our bodies, playing a crucial role in maintaining our structural integrity and promoting healthy, glowing skin. This vital protein not only strengthens our joints, but it also helps to maintain our overall wellbeing.

Choosing the right collagen supplement for you is an investment to genuinely catering for your body’s unique needs. 

It’s crucial to understand that not all collagen is created equal. With more than 28 types of collagen discovered and sourced from different origins, understanding the differences between them can help you determine the most suitable option for your health needs.

Let’s explore the differences between marine and bovine collagen to help you make an informed decision that best aligns with your health and wellness goals.

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is one of the body's most vital and abundant natural proteins. Due to its fibre-like structure, collagen provides strength and support by helping to form connective tissue — crucial tissue that is a significant “connecting” component of our bones, cartilage, muscles, skin and tendons. 

Because of collagen, connective tissue allows our bodies to be strong, resilient, and able to stretch, bend and move. But there isn’t just one type of collagen in the body — more than 28 have been identified (so far!). 

The differences between collagen types ultimately come down to how their molecules are arranged, where they are used in the body, and if they include any additional cell components. Of those 28, there are five that scientists consider the “primary” types of collagen found in the highest quantities in the body. 

  • Type I - 90% of the collagen in the body is type I, a densely packed, structural protein found in our bones, ligaments, skin and tendons.

  • Type II - Type II collagen is responsible for supporting our joints and makes up most of the body’s elastic cartilage.

  • Type III - Our arteries, muscles and organs are made up of type III collagen.

  • Type IV - Along with type I, the skin is also comprised of type IV collagen.

  • Type V - Type V collagen is a more “specialised” form, making up the corneas of the eyes, the hair, some layers of the skin and the placenta of people who are pregnant.

As we age, our natural collagen production slows down more and more (at the rate of the body producing about one percent less collagen each year). Other factors contribute to an even quicker collagen breakdown — menopause, smoking, chronic sun exposure (especially without wearing appropriate sunscreen) and a diet high in carbs and refined sugar. 

When the amount of collagen being produced by the body stops being able to keep up with the amount of degradation, you’ll start to see the more obvious physical signs of collagen loss.

Signs of Collagen Loss

As we age, we’ll all experience collagen loss — it’s a normal and expected part of life. Collagen loss occurs gradually, and there are subtle signs to observe. These indicators can alert you that the process has begun, and it might be time to consider incorporating a collagen supplement into your routine. 

Some of the more visible signs of collagen loss include:

  • A loss of fullness, especially in the cheeks and around the eyes
  • An increase in fine lines and wrinkles (especially on the face)
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Dryer, less hydrated skin
  • Thinner, more “crepey” appearing skin

Collagen loss can also start to impact the inside of the body, leading to stiffer, sore joints and achy muscles.

You can’t stop collagen loss, but the right collagen supplements can support the body’s natural production. However, collagen supplements should also be combined with a focus on living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. 

Types of Collagen Supplements

Due to the natural degradation of collagen, combined with the body's inability to maintain its production at the same levels as we age, collagen supplementation can support the skin and your natural collagen production.

Unfortunately, not all collagen supplements are created equal. Knowing the differences between different types of collagen supplements — like marine collagen vs. bovine collagen — can help you narrow down your options and find your perfect match. 

Although we’re going to focus on talking about the two sources of collagen above, you may also see porcine collagen (which is sourced from pigs) as well, although it’s not quite as common.

Marine Collagen

One of the main options for collagen supplements is marine collagen, which is sourced from sealife (primarily the skin and scales of fish such as cod or snapper). When the fish are processed, the collagen protein is removed and then processed through hydrolysis, in which water is added to break down its chemical bonds and transform it into smaller, more biologically available and easier-to-dissolve units called collagen peptides. 

But don’t worry about the name — most marine collagen is odourless and tasteless, so you don’t have to worry about it tasting too “fishy.” 

Marine collagen is made up mostly of type I and II collagen, which makes it especially beneficial for helping to support overall skin health. It has also been found to be more “bioavailable,” which means that your body will be more successful at absorbing marine collagen in comparison to bovine collagen.

Bovine Collagen

Bovine collagen is produced from cows (specifically their bones, skin and other byproducts). While bovine collagen also contains type I collagen, like marine collagen, it is also high in type III — an important distinction.

Bovine collagen also goes through the hydrolysation process, breaking it down into more readily absorbed pieces. While marine collagen is the optimal bioavailable choice, bovine collagen should still be relatively easy for your body to digest. 

Similarly to marine collagen, most bovine collagen supplements don’t carry the taste of their origin. They are generally either completely neutral in flavour, or enhanced with a more palatable taste. 

Because of the dominant type of collagen in bovine sources, it may be more beneficial for systemic issues like joint pain and bone loss. If your primary focus is addressing external issues such as age-related concerns, marine collagen may be the ideal choice for you. 

What About Vegan Options?

We understand that choosing between marine collagen and bovine collagen is difficult for people who choose not to eat either. Because of what collagen is and where it comes from, the only sources of protein are from non-vegan origins. 

However, that doesn’t mean that we’ll never have a vegan source of collagen — scientists continue to look into different ways to modify things, such as yeast and bacteria, to find an efficient and acceptable substitute. 

Remember that anything that calls itself “vegan collagen” right now is actually a collagen promoter, stimulating your body to produce more on its own, rather than providing a direct means of collagen. 

Are There Any Side Effects To Using a Collagen Supplement?

If it’s your first time starting a collagen supplement, one of the questions you may have might include the presence of any side effects. For most people, collagen supplements are considered safe for daily use. 

We recommend consulting your healthcare provider before incorporating any new supplements into your routine, and always reading the label and following the directions on the product. 

On rare occasions, people who have recently started on a collagen supplement may experience slight gastrointestinal distress — symptoms might include an upset stomach, gas and diarrhoea. You may want to start with a smaller than recommended amount to see how your body reacts before increasing your intake. 

To Wrap Up

Marine collagen vs. bovine collagen — although both offer their individual benefits, marine collagen is far more easily absorbed, which gives it a definite edge. If you’re looking for products to support your body’s collagen production, opt for sustainable options that work for you, and give your body the grace and kindness it deserves.


Type I Collagen - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

Skin anti-aging strategies | PMC

Fish Collagen: Extraction, Characterization, and Applications for Biomaterials Engineering | PMC

Is Bio-Designed Collagen the Next Step in Animal Protein Replacement? | The New York Times