Collagen is an important molecule for scalp and hair health. Many believe that collagen supplements can stimulate hair growth, prevent hair loss, and delay graying, but more research is needed. Keep reading to learn more about the role of collagen in hair growth.
How is Collagen Made in the Body?
Your body has the ability to make collagen naturally, as collagen is synthesized from amino acids. When the body makes collagen, it combines amino acids from the protein-rich foods you eat, like beef, chicken, fish, beans, eggs, and dairy products. Collagen synthesis also requires vitamin C, zinc, and copper.
Collagen Production as We Age
Although your body can produce collagen on its own, this production slows as you age. After the age of 20, collagen production decreases by about 1% annually. In addition to decreased collagen production, sweat and oil glands work less effectively and less elastin is produced.
Excessive levels of psychological stress have been shown to negatively impact skin and hair health due to increased levels of cortisol in the body. High levels of cortisol can break down collagen, as well as increase inflammation, both of which may contribute to hair loss and graying.
Outside of the body’s decreased ability to produce collagen, there are also environmental factors that accelerate aging such as dietary intake, UV rays from the sun, alcohol and tobacco use, and exposure to pollution.
Natural Ways to Increase Collagen
Nutrition and lifestyle choices significantly impact the health of your hair and skin. In general, eating whole foods most of the time – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats – can potentially delay aging and prevent hair loss.
To promote healthy hair, it can be helpful to limit highly processed foods that are high in added sugar and saturated fat. Fill your diet with fresh, whole foods to stay looking young and healthy.
Foods That Increase Collagen Production
Animal proteins are a good source of amino acids that your body can use to make collagen. Other plant-based foods, like citrus fruits and garlic, are high in vitamins and other substances that help your body produce collagen on its own.
Vitamin C is important for the production of pro-collagen, the body’s precursor to collagen. To help the body produce more collagen, make sure you get enough vitamin C.
Here are some foods that are rich in collagen, or contain other vitamins and minerals that may help promote collagen production:
- Bone broth
- Fish and shellfish
- Egg whites
- Citrus fruits
- Tropical fruits
- Leafy greens
- Bell peppers
Supplementing with Collagen
There are several different ways that taking a collagen supplement might be helpful for hair growth.
Collagen supplements provide amino acids that are used by the body to make keratin, a protein that makes up most of your hair follicles. When you use collagen supplements or other proteins, your body breaks them down into amino acids during digestion. These amino acids are then used to make other substances and proteins in the body.
Collagen has 3 nonessential amino acids; proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline. Proline is the main amino acid in keratin. Taking proline-rich collagen supplements provides your body with the substances it needs to build keratin for hair growth.
Studies suggest that oxidative stress caused by free radicals might cause damage to hair follicles. It is believed that collagen may have antioxidant properties that can neutralize free radicals and prevent hair damage, but research is limited.
Free radicals may also cause damage to cells that produce hair color and may contribute to premature graying. Since collagen might act as an antioxidant, it could fight free radicals, preventing cell damage and slowing graying.
Lastly, collagen protects the layer of skin that houses hair roots, known as the dermis. Researchers believe that supplementing with collagen may help prevent age-related hair loss and thinning. However, there is currently no research to support this.
What are the Different Types of Collagen?
As many as 28 different types of collagen types have been identified by scientists. The main 3 types of collagen are types I, II, and III.
Types I, II, and III
Type I collagen makes up 90% of your body’s collagen. This type of collagen is densely packed and used to provide structure to your skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments.
Type II collagen is found in elastic cartilage, which provides support to your joints.
Type III collagen is found in muscles, arteries, and organs.
What are the Differences
Characteristics that differ between the types are how the molecules are assembled, the cell parts that are added, and where the collagen is used in your body. All collagen fibers have at least one triple helix structure.
What are the Different Sources of Collagen?
Collagen supplements are derived directly from animal sources like beef and fish. Bovine (beef) collagen is sourced from cow hides and includes types I and III collagen, both of which play a major role in the growth and repair of bones, tendons, ligaments, and skin.
The cowhides are removed from the cattle and then treated to extract the collagen protein. During this process, the proteins are hydrolyzed, which breaks down the collagen proteins into smaller, more digestible parts.
Marine collagen has high bioavailability, and some clinical studies have suggested it may help reduce wrinkle depth and increase skin moisture levels.
To produce marine collagen supplements, fish skin and scales are hydrolyzed in the same manner as cattle hides in bovine collagen production.
What is the Best Collagen for Hair Growth?
Type I collagen from bovine or marine sources is the best collagen for hair growth because it is rich in the amino acid proline, the main component of keratin.
Supplementing with collagen is likely more effective as a preventative measure. If you have significant hair loss, supplementing with collagen may not be enough to promote hair regrowth.
If you have healthy hair and want to prevent hair loss and support growth, collagen may be right for you. Consider bone broth or collagen supplements that can be mixed into food or drinks.
How Much Collagen Should I Take Each Day?
Research has evaluated the benefits of collagen supplementation and studied doses ranging from 2.5 - 15 grams per day, however, there is no RDA for collagen.
Doses of around 2.5 grams daily may improve joint pain and promote skin health, hair growth, and hydration. Taking 5 grams daily may help increase bone density, while larger daily doses of 15 grams may increase muscle mass and improve body composition.
Is Collagen Safe?
Collagen is generally considered to be a safe and nontoxic daily supplement for healthy individuals, and most people won't experience any negative side effects.
In some studies, however, participants have reported excessive fullness, unpleasant taste, or other stomach issues.
Collagen is an important molecule for scalp and hair health. Taking collagen supplements may stimulate hair growth, prevent hair loss, and delay graying, but more research is needed.
If you want to promote and maintain healthy hair growth, adding a collagen supplement to your daily routine may be beneficial. Consider collagen supplements that have a high concentration of type I collagen, like bone broth or bovine collagen supplements that can be mixed into food or drinks.