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What Pig Collagen Can Do For You (And What It Can't)


Yes. Pig collagen.

Porcine collagen's been big in Korea for about four years now. In 2010, the fad began to take hold with the trend of grilling marinated pork rind beside a strip of juicy-tender galbi (Korean barbeque). It was a common misconception that consuming pig collagen would benefit the skin, but this fad soon dissipated and beauty brands were quick to launch topical solutions around the notion instead. It's an eye-catching star ingredient, for sure. And one that is potentially stomach-turning. But it seemed only fair to give it a good ol' fashioned college try, if only because my own personal collagen occasionally feels as if it's in short supply.

This Pure Farm Pig Collagen Jelly Cream from Tony Moly includes 50 percent pigskin collagen extract, along with anti-aging adenosine and a revitalizing “red wine extract formula.” My first question pertained to how these animals were treated and if the extraction process was in any way painful for them (_ Babe_ will always be the iconic pig in my heart). The collagen is extracted from “pasture-raised organic pigs,” said one in-store beauty consultant. I gave it a half-reluctant go.

At first glance, the gel-type cream looks like fluid Jell-O, and at first scent, a peach-infused red wine. Korean women I've spoken with have noticed smoother skin with increased elasticity and firmness, but it personally hasn’t done much for me in terms of visibly disguising fine lines around my mouth and eyes—hence, my love-hate relationship with smile lines continues. Collagen molecules are too big to penetrate deep into skin barriers, so my sense is that you’re better off with ingredients that can stimulate production.

What it does do, though, is leave your skin feeling hydrated with a slightly sticky moisture barrier—which can sometimes feel better than quick absorption of a product, especially in drier environments. All the while, the cooling effect negates any unpleasant feeling from the stickiness. As noted on Tony Moly’s website, a generous application of this jelly cream seems to make it a fairly effective sleeping mask, but I will probably keep it at that—no more, no less. Pig collagen may be one of the many fads coming out of South Korea, but it's far from the next BB cream.

—Stella Kim

Photographed by Tom Newton. To read more of Stella's writing, click here.