The truth is, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, comprising a number of crucial physiological elements such as tendons, joints, bones, muscles, and even skin.1
Sure the body creates collagen naturally in our youth, but as we age, there tends to be a dramatic decrease in production.
Why, you ask?
As we get older, collagen production tends to decrease over time. In fact, collagen production declines in our 20s and continues to go downhill as we age.2 When this happens, it can affect several different parts of your body including hair, skin, bones, and more.
Before we discuss how collagen can improve your hair, we’ll take a look at what it is, along with the number of health benefits supported by collagen use.
Let’s Talk About Collagen
Collagen is an important protein that helps promote skin elasticity, strengthen bones and muscles, protect vital organs, and even provides structure to joints and tendons.1 Within the body there are several collagen types, but the most abundant forms are type I, II, III, and IV.
- Type I: Nearly 90% of the body’s collagen falls within the type I category. It comprises fibers that help form the structural and mechanical makeup of bones, skin, tendons, cornea, blood vessel walls, and more. It’s a key structural part of several human tissues and bodily functions.3
- Type II: This second type of collagen helps to form the basis for articular cartilage and makes up around 50% of all proteins found in cartilage. As you probably already know, the main role of cartilage is to cushion joints. If you’re feeling creaky in your knees, you might benefit from taking some collagen.4
- Type III: It helps to support the structure of muscles, organs, and arteries.5
- Type IV: A necessary component of various physiological and pathological functions.6
As you can see, collagen is super important for a number of reasons.
Not only can it give your skin that nice youthful glow, but it’s also vital for our joints and other connective tissues.
Let’s not forget about hair—because we all want better hair. And collagen is one way to help get it. It’s time to take a look at how collagen can help improve the strength and thickness of your hair.
Collagen can help promote hair health by using amino acids to build hair proteins and strengthen skin that contains your hair roots. It can also prevent hair follicles from becoming damaging and may even prevent greying from occurring.
No More Hair Thinning Through Hair Loss
Ever heard the joke, “Your epidermis is showing?” Even where your epidermis isn’t showing (like the top of your head, for most people), it’s still important to your hair.
When most people think of hair, they probably don’t think of skin.
Underneath all that hair on your head is skin otherwise known as the dermis. Collagen makes up a large portion of your dermis, another name for the part of your skin that contains the root of each individual hair.7 As we discussed earlier, collagen can help your skin by improving its elasticity and strength. Studies have shown that aging skin can lead to hair loss so it’s conceivable that by strengthening the skin, this in turn may help to prevent hair loss due to hair thinning.8 Although, studies are needed to confirm this.
A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted on 69 women between the ages of 35 – 55. Each person received either 2.5g or 5.0g of collagen hydrolysate or a placebo daily over the course of eight weeks.9 The study measured skin elasticity, skin moisture, transepidermal water loss and skin roughness before the first oral product application and subsequently after four weeks and eight weeks. Skin elasticity was significantly improved in comparison to a placebo group.
A second study over the course of 60 days looked at supplementation with collagen over a period of 12 weeks. Subjects were given 50mL of collagen and the results found that they had a significant increase in collagen density and skin firmness after completing the trial.10
Another study investigated the effect of a supplement containing 18,000 IE retinol, 70 mg L-cystine and 7000mg gelatin (a different form of the proteins derived from collagen) and found a decrease in hair loss. Although the supplement wasn’t gelatin alone, the study shows promise on how gelatin and/or collagen may aid in preventing hair loss.11
Lastly, a doctor in Israel has been suggesting to his female patients that are experiencing hair loss to supplement their diet with 1.5 to 3.5g of gelatin daily to prevent hair loss and has seen some excellent results in over 1000 patients. Although this isn’t a study and therefore, the results haven’t been published, he has presented his work at the Annual Meeting of the European Hair Research Society in 2011, which may spark some new interest and future studies.12
Skin elasticity can help prevent hair loss as a byproduct. Therefore, having stronger hair may also help keep your hair healthier as well.
The natural greying of hair is largely genetic but the process can be accelerated due to free radical damage. Melanin pigment gives our hair its color and is formed in certain organelles called melanosomes produced by melanocytes. To make the process simple, reactive oxygen species can damage the melanocytes, which may affect melanin synthesis; although to date, there is only circumstantial evidence.13
It’s possible that collagen may help minimize the damage associated with flight free radicals (which are atoms with unpaired electrons). Test tube studies have shown that collagen has antioxidant capacities but since test tube studies are very unlike the real world environment, this may or may not be applicable anywhere else. However, if future studies confirm that collagen has antioxidant capabilities, consuming collagen may reduce premature greying as a result.14 The appearance of grey hair is reduced by increasing the structure of the hair follicle.
As mentioned, there are no studies that have investigated this, there may be a direct link between collagen and grey hair. Hopefully there will be future research on this subject but we’ll have to wait and see.
Stimulating Hair Growth
As we age, not only does collagen production decrease—hair also thins or falls out.
Hair loss could be partially due to a deficiency of keratin, a fibrous protein forming the main structural constituent of hair.
Collagen, like all dietary protein, can be broken down into amino acids which can be used to build new proteins and compounds. The human body is capable of making 11 amino acids (called nonessential amino acids) but needs to obtain the remaining 9 from the diet (called essential amino acids, as in, it’s “essential” you obtain them from your diet)—collagen, like all animal protein, is made up of three of the nonessential amino acids including proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline.17
Since proline is found in protein-rich animal food sources like collagen, it can help the body regenerate and grow hair. Consuming collagen is important for keeping hair healthy on the scalp and improving its appearance.
Other Health Benefits of Collagen
You’re already aware that collagen is a vital protein for your body. Of course, there are its cosmetic and skin enhancement abilities, but there are actually a number of different functions it can perform.
Easing Joint Pain
Collagen makes up a substantial portion of our cartilage. As we get older, achy joints are common, and supplementing with collagen has been shown to improve joint health.
In a 2009 study, a group of 52 people used a collagen type II supplement over the course of 90 days. The results of the program showed a 40% decrease in arthritic symptoms and a 33% decrease in the severity of their symptoms.18
Another study was performed in 1993 in which type II collagen supplementation was given to 60 patients who were suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis in a randomized, double-blind trial. Out of the entire group of patients, four reported complete remission from the disease. There was also a notable decrease in the number of swollen joints and tender joints from those receiving collagen supplementation.19
Collagen supplementation has been shown to be an effective method of reducing inflammation and promoting pain relief for people who are experiencing joint related health problems.
Walk down the skincare aisle at any health food store. Collagen will likely be a prominent feature in many supplements for its ability to promote skin health.
If you make sure collagen levels are kept in check, you may experience more glowing, youthful skin as a result.
As we age, our skin tends to lose elasticity which can cause wrinkles.8
A secondary study looked at 114 women between the ages of 45 and 65 who received a bioactive collagen peptide or a placebo for eight weeks. The results showed a statistically significant reduction of eye wrinkle volume in the collagen group. This leads us to believe that collagen can be an effective form of skincare to help us look youthful and with less wrinkles.20
Taking collagen can result in youthful, glowing skin.
Reduction of Cellulite
Cellulite is fat located under the skin that can form a lumpy appearance. Around 80-90% of women suffer from cellulite resulting from aging.21 The good news is that collagen can help treat it.
A study was conducted on 105 women aged 24 to 50 who used a collagen regimen for six months. They were given 2.5g of collagen peptides or a placebo over the course of the study. Cellulite was measured prior to beginning treatment, after three months, and after six months.22
The results of the study showed clear improvements in skin appearance in women suffering from moderate cellulite. The data suggests collagen can be a form of therapy that can lead to improved cellulite and better skin health.22
Collagen supplementation can reduce the appearance of cellulite leaving you with smoother, silkier looking skin.
Adding Collagen to Your Diet
Although collagen occurs naturally in the body, it can (and likely should) be increased through food and/or supplementation.
Many common foods contain high levels of collagen, so eating these foods can counterbalance any low collagen. Some common foods include:
- Meat sources such as chicken, beef, pork, fish, etc
- Bone broth
- Collagen supplements
But if you aren’t getting enough collagen through your diet, there’s always supplementation, which is an effective way to ensure you’re getting enough collagen.
Choosing a Collagen Supplement
When it comes to collagen supplements, you should choose a high-quality product containing hydrolyzed collagen with a low molecular size, such as 10g – 15g of collagen per serving. This is considered the optimal daily serving according to studies.10
You can experience benefits without overwhelming absorption capacities or unnecessarily increasing protein intake. Shop from companies that use bone and tissues from cage-free and antibiotic-free sources.
To use collagen powders, simply add a scoop to just about anything like smoothies or your morning coffee for a boost of essential protein and healthy fats.
It can help build healthy hair, skin, joints, and nails as an essential protein for bones and tissue while protecting the body’s collagen which depletes with age. It comes in three delicious flavors including unflavored, vanilla, and chocolate. And with only 80 calories per serving, and zero net-carbs, you’ll never break your diet.
Why You Should Add Collagen to Your Diet
Healthy hair is one of the most prolific benefits related to consistent collagen use.
Amino acids from collagen can help build and strengthen your hair while keeping it strong and preventing grays. Although collagen occurs naturally in the body, it tends to gradually decrease over time, starting when you’re in your 20s.2
The good news is that if your natural collagen has diminished over time you can always increase it with food or supplementation. It’s well worth the health benefits. Reduction of wrinkles, increased skin moisturization, and relief from joint pain are just some of the benefits you may enjoy. Look younger, feel better by using collagen supplementation.