Let’s face it, collagen is taking the beauty world by storm. It’s hard to scroll through your Instagram feed these days without seeing a post about this ‘fountain of youth.’ From bone broth, to collagen coffee creamers, collagen beauty water, and collagen face masks, there’s no denying that there’s a market for it. More and more, the beauty community is touting the importance of skincare from within over expensive topical products. By 2023, the ingestible skincare market is forecasted to grow to $7.5B - bigger than both the size of the supplements market, and the Korean skincare market.
So what is this skin miracle anyway? Collagen is a protein that makes up more than 75% of the protein found in our connective tissues and skin. Its role is to maintain our skin’s tone, suppleness, uniformity, and elasticity.
Sometime after the age of 25, our bodily production of collagen begins to decline at a rate of 1.5% year. By our mid 40s our collagen levels may decrease as much as 30%. The question becomes, how do we stop this travesty from happening? The answer? Daily ingestion of collagen. Studies have shown 12 weeks of daily collagen ingestion increases skin elasticity and hydration, in addition to reducing fine lines and wrinkles.
We sat down with Founder of ingestible collagen brand, Crushed Tonic and author of “Collagen Glow: A Guide to Ingestible Skincare,” Sally Kim, who gave us the details on all we wanted to know about collagen - from the daily recommended dosage, sustainably sourcing collagen, and the difference between marine and bovine collagen. Starting as a side hustle, Sally was doing double duty, working a full-time job and managing Crushed Tonic. Two years later, at only 26, Sally has created a beauty empire worth over $1.5million dollars focusing on the fundamentals of the Korean diet. Need we say more? #KillingIt
1. You wrote a book called the ‘Collagen Glow: A Guide to Ingestible Skincare’. What are the biggest takeaways readers can learn it?
One — that skincare begins from within— and for healthy skin, we need to nourish ourselves where it matters: at the cellular level. For example, there's so much fuss around KBeauty and the whole 10-step regimen — but to be really frank, it’s less about these rituals and more in Korean food, and our diet*. Of course, it definitely helps that most of us invest a lot of time and effort into our skin — but skincare’s not just great moisturizers and masks — a lot has to do with all the other things we are doing (in this case, eating). Because what’s inside, matters just as much, if not more. And second — that collagen can be added to just about anything you drink and eat (not just coffee). I say this because currently, a lot of brands suggest their customers take collagen with coffee, or other strong drinks that can mask collagen's strong and often off-putting flavor and taste.
However, if the collagen is of high quality, it is virtually tasteless and should be able to be added to anything without it altering the drink’s flavor too much. Although, having said that, there are certain ingredients that can make it even more delectable — hence the 40 other recipes!
*Koreans ingest marine collagen on a daily basis (it’s common for a meal to include whole-roasted fish with its skin on) and lots of bone broth (most of our meals come with a bone-broth based soup) and once or twice a week, we will have a Korean barbecue, such as pigs belly and then there are side dishes such as jellyfish salad, steamed octopus and squid. More extreme collagen-rich specialty foods are chicken feet and pork knuckles! Koreans also consume a lot of collagen-producing foods, such as green tea and barley tea.
2. We love that Crushed Tonic is a multi-tasker and contains collagen, probiotics, and biotin in one. Why did you choose this combination?
I wanted to create an anti-aging wellness drink — but not the kind of anti-aging we are all thinking.
For me, the term anti-aging means something different: it’s about saying no growing up. It’s about rewinding time to get back to when we felt like we had all the energy in the world, to do whatever we wanted to do, nothing to hold us down, and no excuses to hold us back. After all, it’s not just our skin that ages. But I also think that anti-aging is beyond just looking a certain age; it’s feeling it too. Which is why we put a bit of a spin on anti-aging, and formulated with more than just collagen — but probiotics, biotin, and other superfoods* — to help you fight inflammation, indigestion, flus, fatigue, and more.
“Our formula can also provide you with what you need more of at the cellular level— so that you'll get your youth back not just in your skin, but also in your energy, spirit, and overall health.”
What’s even better, is that all of these ingredients, when combined together, bring your skin even more powerful results!
*And for those who don’t know what these ingredients are:
- PROBIOTICS (live cultures that help balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut by supporting the excretion of radical toxins from our systems)
- BIOTIN (a type of vitamin that helps us metabolize energy more efficiently and supports growth of thicker hair)
- FLAVOR-PACKED SUPERFOODS, such as matcha (known to boost focus, increase metabolism, and help you feeling full and satiated), turmeric (to boost immunity) and lucuma (to boost energy).
3. Where is your collagen sourced from?
Our marine collagen comes from tilapia skin — more specifically, skin of sustainably harvested non-gmo tilapia that is raised in freshwater fish farms in Europe. (It is sustainable as farms often discard the skin of tilapia, where the collagen comes from—and because the skin would have been thrown away regardless.)
4. Why did you choose marine collagen over bovine collagen?
After a lot of research and vetting, I went with our specific tilapia collagen brand for many reasons:
It is the most clinically proven—there were ample amounts of clinical studies done on this specific brand already, so we didn’t have to question the efficacy of the collagen. (Read More on Our Science and Studies).
Always marine, never bovine — bovine collagen is collagen sourced from boiled cow hides that traveled a long way from their butchers. I can get behind eating fish skin powder; cow skin, however, is a totally different story (and one that surprisingly, MANY customers are not aware of). Marine collagen is also the most effective of all collagen brands— not only is it the highest in bioavailability compared to the other sources of marine collagen, tilapia skin is the best in promoting wound healing and skin regeneration (ingestion of tilapia collagen encourages the growth of fibroblasts & increases the expression of genes involved in wound healing). Tilapia also has the highest concentrations of protein in their skin.
It tastes better — some of the other fish brands have a stronger, gamier taste, while tilapia collagen is essentially flavorless. This was the most important reason for me to go with my collagen; collagen is something that needs to be drank daily for at least 4 weeks for full effects, yet when I started drinking it, I hated the taste of it so much!
It is sustainably sourced — because tilapia is so abundantly farmed (and the skin is so often discarded), sourcing collagen from aqua-cultured tilapia is the most environmentally friendly.
It is the purest of its kind — many breeds of wild fish now contain high levels of mercury and other toxic metals (which Vital Proteins was recently spotlighted for), while our collagen was tested to be less than 0.01 PPM. And all of our tilapia collagen goes through a validated and safe process (sterilization, pasteurization, filtration, UF, and demineralization), something that many collagen companies cannot stand behind. Our collagen is also irradiated and is contaminants free, carbohydrate free, cholesterol free, and preservative free.
“Lastly, our collagen powder is traceable back to the farm— which means every bit of the process it took for the fish to become powder has been recorded, and we would be able to trace it back to where and when.”
5. Is there an ideal collagen dosage per day?
When I used collagen for the sole purpose of recovering from my burns, I took about 10-30g of it daily. However, to get the effects of great hair and skin, it’s important to know that it's less about dosage and more about consistency and sticking to it daily.
6. The collagen market is hot right now. There are so many brands in the marketplace - Bulletproof, Vital Proteins, Neocell to name a few. How is Crushed Tonic different?
Crushed Tonic is differentiated from these other brands because it’s less a protein powder brand, and more a comprehensive anti-aging drink brand. Our focus is not just on collagen. Yes, collagen is what makes up our thesis — but as we grow and evolve, we hope to include more various and diverse flavors that make collagen an enjoyable, fun experience, and more of a part of a complete package of a drink with other great supplements. It also doesn’t help that we have vigorously tested our collagen for efficacy and taste (one of the reasons that we have decided to go with only marine collagen and not other collagen sources like bovine or porcine — which, though cheaper, taste worse and are less effective).
7. Do you think that a beauty regimen that’s more focused on cellular level gives you better results than one that is topical?
Yes—when you really look into what is causing some of your worst skin and hair woes, you’ll learn that they stem from within. For example, under-eye dark circles.
8. How has your Korean heritage influenced the brand?
First and foremost, my Korean heritage has helped me think about the health of my skin at an earlier age than most.
Koreans are always talking about skin in some way or another—when someone else’s skin looks a bit off, it’s a totally acceptable question to ask, “Why does your skin look like that?” — and not because we condone rude comments, but because Koreans often look to a person’s complexion to deduce someone’s overall health or emotional state. And it makes complete sense why: our skin is among the first organs to reflect any signs of nutritional deficiencies or imbalance, and our health conditions can be reflected in our skin (and conversely, we can often tell what’s going on at the cellular level when we study what’s happening to our skin).
Then of course — when I realized the importance of collagen for skin after putting two and two together that the reason Koreans have such great skin could be because the Korean diet* is so rich in collagen, I started evangelizing collagen’s super powers to everyone around me. Then, one thing led to another, and Crushed Tonic was born!
9. You are the ultimate girlboss! When did you know to take the leap from turning Crushed Tonic from a side hustle to a full-time investment?
It was this January, when we partnered with Sephora, and at the same time, my publisher**, WW Norton’s Countryman Press, approached me for my book deal (The Collagen Glow, out in stores 10/23). As sad as I was to leave my family at Condé Nast (I was doing digital strategy for Women’s Collection brands)— I knew that I was too passionate about collagen to not take the leap!
** Shout out to Ann Triestman!
10. From launching at Anthropologie to Sephora, you’ve achieved huge milestones the past 2 years. What’s next for Crushed Tonic?
We have a lot that we are cooking up in the kitchen— currently, our biggest priority is expanding our flavors— and looking into adding more proven and popular supplements that are great for our skin, hair and health.
We are also looking into expanding into Asia and Europe with some great international partners. Stay tuned!