Among some of the top beauty buzzwords is a relatively new player on the scene - collagen. You've probably heard it advertised in a skincare commercial or on an Instagram ad at some point. This essential protein has become a daily supplement for many due to the positive effects attributed to regular use from improved joint mobility, smoother skin, and stronger nails. But, what can collagen do to promote healthy hair? The answer is - a lot!
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It's a structural protein that strengthens the tissues within the body and supports skin elasticity, hydration, heart health, and more. It acts like a trampoline, providing a supportive base for our skin to give it a vibrant, firm appearance. And while collagen is often famed for its skin-boosting benefits, there is evidence to support that this potent protein can also have incredible benefits for our hair.
What are the different collagen types?
There are over 16 collagen types, but the most plentiful are types I, II, III, and IV.
- Type I: Nearly 90% of the human body's collagen is within the type 1 classification. It makes up fibers that form bone, skin, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and more. It's a critical structural aspect of several tissues and bodily functions.
- Type II: This collagen type forms articular cartilage and makes up around 50% of cartilage protein. Articular cartilage's primary role is to cushion joints.
- Type III: This collagen type supports the structure of muscles, organs, and arteries.
- Type IV: Various physiological and pathological functions rely on type IV cartilage.
How does collagen benefit the hair?
Collagen contains numerous properties that improve your hair's overall health, and consistent use has also been shown to enhance your locks' appearance and texture. Numerous collagen supplements aim to maximize hair growth, prevent hair loss, and nourish the hair from the inside out, but how can collagen help achieve these idealistic results?
Collagen can help build new hair follicles and repair damage.
Each hair follicle comprises three layers: the cuticle, the cortex, and the medulla. The outermost layer, the cuticle, consists of hundreds of overlapping cells that form a protective barrier around the inner layers. To give your hair a glossy, sleek appearance, keratin (a structural protein found in each layer of the hair) smooths the cuticle's overlapping layers to make cells lay flat. Keratin also produces new hair follicles at the root of existing follicles.
To create keratin, the body uses several amino acids, many of which are found in collagen. Increasing your collagen intake provides your body with the essential building blocks it needs to create new hair follicles.
Collagen improves blood circulation to prevent thinning hair.
Collagen has been shown to enhance the connective tissue in your scalp responsible for keeping the skin taut to improve blood circulation. This ensures your hair absorbs the maximum amount of nutrients to promote healthier hair.
As the hair grows, strands get pushed up and through the skin and take newly generated cells along with it. Taking collagen supplements creates thicker, fuller hair. However, after 20, humans begin to lose approximately 1% of collagen production per year. Taking a supplement can replace the dermis cells and fight against age-related hair thinning!
Collagen can fight back against free radical damage.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that roam the body causing damage if left untreated. Free radicals are typically the result of metabolic processes but can also be produced by smoking, pollution, prolonged sun exposure, and poor diet. We are pretty good at dealing with these pesky molecules when we are younger, but this process begins to slow as we age.
As we grow older, our natural collagen production begins to decline, and the physical signs of aging start to show - wrinkles, fine lines, joint pain, sagging skin, and brittle hair. In addition to accelerating the aging process, free radicals contribute to many health problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, cataract, and damage to cells and hair follicles. Increasing collagen levels within the body can act as an antioxidant to fight these free radicals keeping the body, hair, and skin healthy.
What are the benefits of collagen on hair?
Hair growth is just one of the many benefits of taking collagen. There are various beauty-boosting bonuses you can reap from this helpful supplement. They include
- Reduced hair loss
- Thicker hair follicles
- Strengthened hair
- Reduced damage and breakage
- Stimulation of new hair growth
- Less gray hair
- Increased hair volume and shine
Does Topical Collagen Work?
The short answer is no. Applying topical collagen topical to the scalp does not help with hair regrowth. The collagen molecules are giant (300,000 daltons) and cannot pass through the upper layer (epidermis) and get to the hair follicles in the dermis. Topical serums, shampoos, and conditioners that contain collagen can attract water and help with hair hydration but will not help with hair regrowth.
How can I add more collagen to my diet and improve my hair health?
Collagen is also abundant in bone broth, gelatin, and eggs. If you are not getting enough of this essential protein in your diet, you may want to consider a grass-fed collagen peptide supplement.
What is the best collagen for growing new hair?
Collagen type I and, to a lesser extent, types III are essential for hair and skin health. Marine collagen, sourced from wild-caught fish, has more collagen type I than bovine collagen and is better for hair regrowth. Aim to take between 5 - 10 grams of collagen per day. Collagen supplements that come in capsules will usually contain significantly lower amounts of collagen and are less effective.
Why choose marine collagen peptides over bovine collagen?
In addition to its higher content of type I collagen per gram, marine collagen also has less impact on the environment. Marine collagen sourced from wild-caught fish is also free of the antibiotics and are toxic compounds used in raising farm animals and is allowed for people on pescatarian and other diets.
- The structure of people's hair
- Structure and functions of keratin proteins in simple, stratified, keratinized, and cornified epithelia
- Decreased Collagen Production in Chronologically Aged Skin
- Collagen For Your Skin: Healthy or Hype?
- Collagen. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Nutrition.
- A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair.