Everyone wants healthy, thick hair. So much so that we’re willing to do whatever it takes to get it. From nutritional supplements to hair serums, there is no shortage of products that promise long, luscious, locks.
Which of these products is supported by scientific research? Are any of these products actually worth your time and money? One of the most commonly advertised supplements for hair growth is collagen. Keep reading to learn how collagen supplements might help to promote hair growth.
The Role of Collagen in Hair
Collagen is an important part of hair growth. The body synthesizes its own collagen from amino acids, but by the mid-twenties, collagen production begins to slow. This continues to decrease with age.
Hair is mostly made up of a protein called keratin. Your body synthesizes keratin on its own from other substances consumed through the diet. Protein and collagen contain the amino acids that are used to build keratin. When you consume collagen and other proteins, they are broken down into amino acids. The body then uses the amino acids to build keratin and grow hair.
The dermis is a thick layer of skin below the epidermis. The dermis houses blood capillaries, nerve endings, sweat glands, hair follicles, and other structures. Collagen happens to be the main part of the dermis.
Collagen is needed to build and repair the dermis and scalp at the root of the hair follicle. The body’s natural decrease in collagen production may impact scalp health and increase hair loss with aging.
Is Collagen Good for Hair Growth?
Some research and anecdotal evidence suggest that collagen supplements may be good for hair growth. However, the results are mixed, with some studies supporting the use of collagen for hair growth while others are inconclusive.
Reasons Why Collagen Might be Good for Hair
When you consume collagen supplements or other proteins, your body digests and breaks them down into amino acids. The amino acids are then used to make other substances and proteins in the body.
Collagen is mostly made from 3 nonessential amino acids; proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline. Proline is the primary amino acid in keratin. Consuming collagen, which is high in proline, may provide the body with the building blocks it needs to make hair.
Evidence suggests that hair follicles can be damaged by oxidative stress. Collagen is believed to have antioxidant properties that might prevent hair damage by scavenging for free radicals, but more research is needed to confirm this.
High levels of oxidative stress may also increase graying. Since collagen may have antioxidant properties, scientists believe that it might fight free radicals, preventing cell damage and premature graying.
Collagen also protects the layer of skin that houses hair roots, so proponents of collagen supplementation think that it might help delay age-related hair loss and thinning. Unfortunately, there is no substantial research supporting these claims.
Does Collagen Thicken Hair?
It’s possible that collagen may help strengthen the hair shaft, which could prevent breakage and promote stronger, thicker hair. Taking collagen may improve the health of your scalp and hair, but there is no strong evidence that taking collagen will result in thicker hair growth for everyone who takes it.
Does Collagen Stop Hair Loss or Thinning?
Hair loss and hair thinning are often related to genetics, hormonal changes, medical conditions, or a part of the normal aging process. The body’s collagen production decreases with age, which may negatively impact scalp health and hair follicles.
Collagen supplements may help prevent hair loss or thinning before it starts. A 2016 study found a correlation between age-related hair loss and the depletion of collagen. It is possible that consuming collagen-rich foods and collagen supplements could increase the body’s natural collagen production. This may improve scalp and hair follicle health and prevent hair loss.
What Type of Collagen is Best for Hair?
Type 1 collagen found in both bovine and marine-derived collagen seems to be the best for hair growth. Bovine collagen is easily absorbed by the body and is the closest form of collagen to that found in humans.
How to Increase Collagen Naturally?
There are some steps you can take to increase your body’s production of collagen naturally.
Animal proteins are a great source of dietary collagen. Foods that have a lot of collagen include bone broth, chicken, fish and shellfish, and egg whites. There are also foods you can eat to ramp up your body’s production of collagen.
Vitamin C is needed for the production of pro-collagen, the body’s precursor to collagen. Consuming foods that are high in vitamin C (citrus fruits, berries, tropical fruits, tomatoes, and bell peppers) may also help increase your body’s collagen levels.
Certain lifestyle habits can prematurely decrease collagen production and speed up the aging process. To maintain optimal collagen levels, avoid smoking, excessive alcohol use, chronic stress, excessive sun exposure, and poor sleep habits.
Limit alcohol intake to 1-3 drinks per week. People who limit their alcohol intake not only appear younger but also have a lower risk for cancer and other health complications.
Chronically high cortisol levels can decrease collagen production. Find a way to manage the stress in your life, like meditation, therapy, or journaling.
Limit the amount of time spent in direct sunlight and don’t forget to wear sunscreen.
Get at least 8 hours of sleep nightly. If you have difficulty sleeping, try setting a nightly routine to prepare your body and mind for restful sleep.
What to Avoid
To ensure your hair stays looking healthy and full, limit processed foods that are high in added sugar and saturated fat. Limit snack foods and processed meats. Fill your diet with fresh, whole foods to stay looking young and healthy.
Collagen supplements provide your body with important amino acids that are used to make collagen. Increasing the supply of these amino acids through the use of collagen supplements may help increase your body’s natural collagen production.
Should I Take a Collagen Supplement for My Hair?
The jury is out on whether collagen supplements actually promote hair growth. Some studies suggest that taking collagen supplements can improve the health of your hair, prevent hair loss, and promote hair growth. Other studies found unimpressive hair growth results from collagen supplementation.
When collagen is digested, whether it’s from food or supplements, it is broken down into amino acids. It enters the body as collagen but it does not stay intact. If the body’s ability to produce collagen naturally declines with age, does giving the body more amino acids to make collagen actually allow it to produce more? It’s a question that remains unanswered by science.
If you’re okay with no guarantees of hair growth when supplementing with collagen, then it wouldn’t hurt to try it. You should make sure all of your other lifestyle habits are in check (nutrition, sleep, stress, alcohol intake, sun exposure) before spending money on a collagen supplement because it can’t outperform poor lifestyle choices that contribute to premature aging.