Collagen is a key component of the body's different structures. You can find this substance in both humans and animals. Primarily, collagen and collagen peptides are found in the skin, hair, nails, bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and blood vessels.
The important role of this substance and its abundance in various tissues drove the collagen supplement industry to grow.
In this article, we will cover some of the benefits that collagen offer for the integumentary system, then switch focus to the main topic - does collagen help hair loss? But first, let us briefly touch on the types of collagen, as well as its relationship with vitamin D, vitamin E and other compounds.
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The Types of Collagen
Type 1 collagen
Type 1 collagen is the most common, representing 90% of the total amount found in your body. You can find type 1 collagen in fibers of the skin, bones, tendons, and teeth.
The deficiency in this type of collagen is often the result of an extremely low intake of vitamin C or a condition known as scurvy. When type 1 collagen deficiency occurs due to a genetic mutation, we refer to it as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
Type 2 collagen
The primary site where we can find type 2 collagen is the joint capsule. More specifically, this collagen is the main component of elastic cartilage that acts as a shock absorber.
Thanks to the composition of type 2 collagen, it has several properties, including tensile strength and elasticity, making it the perfect component for the joints.
Type 3 collagen
Similar to type 1, this collagen serves as a structural supporter of the lungs, intestines, blood vessels, and skin.
However, the elasticity of type 3 collagen makes it especially important to cope with the dynamic nature of the organs it covers.
Type 4 collagen
Type 4 collagen serves as a barrier between the epithelial and endothelial layers.
In other words, the collagen will be a filter that stops fluids and molecules from spreading to surrounding tissues.
Type 4 collagen also separates the dermal from the epidermal layer.
The Relationship Between Collagen and Vitamin C
One of the reasons that could potentially drive you to take the collagen supplement is the complex process required to synthesize this protein.
You see, for natural collagen production, it needs to go through multiple steps that need vitamins, enzymes, and co-factors. One of these indispensable compounds is vitamin C, which is critical for the production of type I collagen. Of course, this means that vitamin C is also necessary for types II, III, and IV collagen.
Vitamin C ensures the structural integrity of collagen. Other compounds also intervene with collagen production. A disruption at any point of this interconnected chain will halt the synthesis of collagen.
Before taking any collagen supplementation, make sure to speak with your primary care physician, dermatologist, or nutritionist to receive tailored medical advice.
Benefits of Collagen on the Integumentary System
Collagen is the building block of most bodily tissues. However, when you supply your body with this substance, you can see benefits on healthy hair health, scalp, skin.
The sections below will briefly cover the effects of the collagen supplement on the skin and nails:
As you age, your body produces less collagen and reduces collagen level, which leads to the loss of skin elasticity and dehydration issues. This results in wrinkles and poorly nourished skin.
In a 2013 study, scientists inspected the effects of collagen supplementation on skin moisture and elasticity. To achieve this goal, they enrolled 69 participants who were divided into three groups. Two groups received collagen in different doses, whereas the third group received a placebo (i.e., the control group).
The results showed that after 8 weeks of this protocol, the group that received 5 grams of collagen per day had the most significant improvement in hydration level, skin elasticity, and general appearance.
These findings showcase the drastic effects of collagen on skin appearance.
One of the most common conditions that affect the nails is brittle nail syndrome. Patients present with nail surface roughness, peeling, and raggedness.
In a study in 2017, researchers recruited 25 participants and gave them 2.5 grams of collagen per day for 24 weeks.
The results of this study were as follow:
- The average improvement in nail growth rate was 12%
- The average reduction in the frequency of broke nails was 42%
Participants also reported that taking the supplements made them more confident about their general appearance.
Does Collagen Help with Hair Loss?
After briefly covering the effects of collagen on skin and nails, let us dive deep into the meat of this article - Here is how collagen help with hair loss, hair thinning and hair growth:
1. Provides the building blocks for your hair follicles
As you may know, hair is primarily made of a protein known as keratin. To synthesize this protein, your cells require various amino acids. Fortunately, you can make some of these amino acids available by taking collagen powder.
Whenever you consume protein-rich food or collagen supplements, special enzymes in the digestive tract will break down these complex proteins into more basic forms - amino acid.
After that, the cells use the basic building blocks to create new proteins. For humans, there are 11 nonessential amino acids. These are the ones that your body can make without the help of your diet. Conversely, the remaining 9 essential amino acids are exclusively obtained from your diet.
This is the basic knowledge that's taught in schools. If you consider that collagen is made up of 3 nonessential amino acids - proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline, you might get the wrong impression of its importance.
You see, proline is the main component of keratin. For this reason, supplying your body with collagen protein will undoubtedly help with providing keratocytes (i.e., hair cells) with proline. This, in conjunction with a lot of other factors, help create thicker hair, healthy hair growth to combat thinning hair.
Despite this, clinical trials on humans that prove the efficacy of collagen for hair loss are scarce.
2. Neutralizes free radicals and prevents hair damage
Collagen protein possesses potent antioxidative properties that make it ideal to fight oxidative stress.
When free radicals accumulate in your cells, they lead to tissue stress that often kills the cell. These damaging substances come from smoking, air pollutants, alcohol, poor diet, and environmental factors. In fact, free radicals and oxidative stress are the key drivers of many types of cancer.
Unfortunately, your hair follicles are not immune from the damage of free radicals. The declining defense effectiveness against free radicals that come with aging makes you vulnerable to hair damage.
The only way to fight oxidative stress is by supplementing your body with powerful antioxidants.
Enter - collagen.
In several animal studies, researchers found that marine collagen supplements extracted from fish scales are extremely effective against free radicals.
One of these studies found that marine collagen can neutralize 4 types of free radicals. Interestingly, another study confirmed that collagen may be more potent than tea in fighting oxidative stress.
With that said, most of these studies did not include human subjects. Therefore, we cannot draw any definitive conclusions.
3. Prevents hair-related hair thinning
The middle layer of the skin is known as the dermis - it is below the upper layer (epidermis). Around 70% of the dermis consist of collagen. Note that the dermis is where the roots of your hair follicles are located.
The abundance of collagen peptides in the dermis makes this layer elastic and strong. When hair loss occurs, it often coincides with replenishing stores of collagen. In other words, the dermis becomes thinner, which may lead to hair follicle root damage. This may explain the connection of hair loss with lower collagen quantities in the dermis.
For this reason, some doctors believe that providing your body with the collagen it needs may be beneficial for the dermis and thin hair.
Above, we covered the effects of collagen on the skin, which may seem irrelevant to the topic of this article. However, you should not forget that hair grows out of the skin. Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the effects of collagen peptides on skin hydration and elasticity may play a big role in reversing hair loss and hair regrowth.
With that said, we still don't have enough evidence to support these theories.
4. Slows down the process of hair graying
Once again, the antioxidative collagen benefit makes it effective at fighting cell damage and the graying process.
You may know that age-related grey hair is mainly the result of your genetics. However, did you know that free radicals play an important role in this process?
Aging causes melanocytes (i.e., the cells that produce melanin) to die. Melanin is responsible for giving your hair its natural color. For this reason, your hair loses its pigmentation and starts to look gray.
While this process is natural, free radicals can accelerate this process dramatically. Without having enough antioxidants in your system to fight these damaging substances, your hair may start to fall and turn gray before time.
A group of scientists found that antioxidative activity in gray hair is significantly lower than in pigmented hair. If you supply your hair with collagen pills, it could theoretically prevent premature hair loss and loss of pigment.
Collagen is a key component of your skin, hair, and nails. Many companies advertise for the use of collagen shampoo to reverse hair loss and aid hair regeneration. While some evidence supports these claims, you should take everything with a grain of salt.
We hope that this article helped you appreciate the science behind the effects of collagen on hair loss. Why not read the truth about another really popular component that aids in hair growth - biotin.
Make sure to read our other blog posts to get a more comprehensive understanding of hair loss and the evidence-based strategies to reverse it.