While beauty companies claim taking collagen pills improves the condition of your skin, especially on your face, the Consumer Council says what goes down your throat won't necessarily end up on your face. Beauty product advertisements infer that wrinkles, dry skin, colour spots will be smoothed over with collagen, and that oral doses of the protein can be absorbed into the skin directly. It's not quite that simple, the council says. Consultations with dietitians, medical experts and Chinese medicine practitioners confirmed that collagen could not be absorbed by skin directly after being eaten, Like any other food, it needed to go through the absorption process in the intestines which broke it down into acids. After they were absorbed, the acids could help form collagen but could equally also facilitate the growth of muscle, cartilage, tendons, hair and nails, the head of the council's publicity and community relations committee Ambrose Ho said. 'The face is only a small part of the body,' he said. While promotions indicate that eating collagen can boost the body's production of collagen to improve skin, Ho said physical and hormonal conditions, nutrition and a body's ability to synthesise substances were also important factors. Any improvement in skin condition felt after taking collagen doses could partly be attributed to a 'feel-good' effect and increased water intake after consuming the products, he said. There are more than 20 collagen supplements or health foods containing collagen on the market. Consumers must spend between HK$400 and HK$1,000 on the products, some of which are required to be taken for a month. One woman complained to the council after spending HK$5,000 on a package of collagen drinks, enough to last her four months. She said she had drunk them for two months but a test found that the water content in her skin had decreased. She had demanded a refund which was refused. Dermatologist Dr Louis Shih Tai-cho said: 'A balanced diet and adequate rest would be a cheaper and more effective way to cure skin problems.' Collagen was a skin tissue that could be found in many meats, Shih said. 'It is a common skin fibre. Even tenderloin has it.' Amino acids, formed after collagen was broken down, could also be synthesised by the body after eating other foods such as fish, vegetables and beans. 'It's not like eating more skin can improve your skin condition ...You wouldn't eat more hair to get more hair, it's the same principle,' he said. Consumed collagens were 'not wise enough' to go to faces instead of other body parts, he joked. In the form of acids, they may also help build thighs. 'I'm sure no women like fat thighs.' An H2O+ spokeswoman said its collagen products had a higher level of collagen than others and there was a higher chance of them reaching skin after absorption. Fancl, which sells collagen drinks, did not respond to an inquiry. Beauty secrets Does oral intake of collagen result in absorption by the skin? No. Collagen will not go directly to skin but is broken down into acids during digestion. Only a part of those would be used to produce collagen. Is collagen the only factor involved in formation of collagen in one's body? It is one of many factors involved. Other factors include health, physical and hormonal conditions. Does collagen improve only facial skin? Apart from skin, absorbed collagen may facilitate growth of muscles, hair or nails. Facial skin is only a small part of the body's total skin. Do we need to replenish any particular types of protein? In general, people in Hong Kong do not suffer from protein deficiencies.