Collagen supplements have taken over social media, but experts say they're just a placebo

In the search for the fountain of youth, collagen supplements are having their big moment, despite scepticism from the scientific community.

It's big business: despite costing between $50 to $130 for a month's supply, more and more people in New Zealand are using them.

Christchurch company Jeuneora says since they started in 2016, the competition's gotten fierce.

"It does seem like since we've started, every other week there's a new company that's going into the collagen trade, and there's also just a real trend with ingestible beauty supplements as a whole," says Jeuneora's marketing and brand manager Nicola Henderson.

Collagen is the glue that holds our skin, bones, cartilage, and blood vessels together, but the levels we produce it at decrease with age.

"It's a little bit like a bubble wrap analogy, that with repetitive use some of the bubbles get popped," explains Dr Louise Reiche, president of the NZ Dermatological Society.

Enter supplements: made from connective tissue in cows, pigs, or fish, what was once targeted at people with joint issues is now a beauty behemoth.

Many influencers fill their social media feeds with collagen products, swearing their skin, nails and hair have never been better.

But Dr Reiche insists it's a placebo.

"If you or I were taking a lot of these supplements, we might feel we notice a difference but it's unlikely any of our close friends and family would," she says.

"We've never denied there isn't some science. We just feel that their claims are exaggerated, and we would like to see people choosing healthy diets and healthy lifestyles because we know it has an overall health benefit."

But Jeuneora says people have become so time-poor, putting a powder in a coffee is often the only solution they can fit in.

"We find it's a little bit dismissive of the personal positive experiences that literally millions of people around the world have had with this," Henderson says.

"You're not going to take it and the next day be Beyoncé, but if you take it for a few weeks to a couple of months you should see some results."

Associate professor Michael Lee from the University of Auckland's department of marketing says buyers' habits are changing. Consumers are more often trusting friends - or influencers they falsely think are their friends - over experts.

"Humans are far more easily convinced through emotion and relatability and storytelling, than we are through hard facts," he explains.

And consumers often don't realise they have a problem until someone sells them a solution.

"A really savvy marketer or really savvy business entrepreneur will think of a need that may not be explicitly stated yet, or much realised, and making that need or that gap far more obvious," says Dr Lee.

Wellness trends come and go: think fish oil, juice cleanses and kombucha.

And while Jeuneora's confident this one will stick around, they're already looking at what the next big trend will be.

"Collagen will be there, but I think the plant-based opportunities out there are only set to grow," says Henderson.

The company has just launched a plant-based powder, so expect your Instagram feed to be touting its benefits soon enough.