Those who advocate for collagen say that it’s a miracle ingredient that can stop hair falling, boost hair growth, and substantially improve the texture of their hair.
The question is, how many of those arguments are science-backed and could the result be sustained?
Spoiler alert: not many (if any).
In this article, we’ll start with the basics of collagen for hair and then delve deeper to have a look at the science behind it and its real effectiveness when it comes to hair. Then, you can decide whether or not you should turn to collagen-for-hair-growth products or just save yourself the peace of mind.
What Is Collagen?
The word collagen originates from a Greek word that “kola” means gum and “gen” means producing.
Collagen is a protein; you’ve heard of those before. Actually, it’s the most abundant protein in the human body (about 30% by weight). Why do we have so much of it? It fills a crucial role, providing our bodies with structural support.
Collagen is all over your body, but you’d find most of it in your skin, bones, tendons, and cartilages. You may find it helpful to think of collagen as springs on a mattress - it keeps the structure in place, so that everything remains robust, but also flexible and elastic.
There are 5 most common types of collagen, type I–V. Over 90% of the collagen in the human body is collagen type I because of its wide prevalence in almost all connective tissues.
(Source: A Review of the Effects of Collagen Treatment in Clinical Studies, Wang H. 2021)
What’s the Link Between Collagen and Hair?
Hair is mostly made out of a protein called keratin. Remember that we said collagen is also a protein?
All proteins are built up of different blocks, called amino acids, that your body breaks it down into when you eat them. The main amino acid in keratin is also one of the main amino acids in collagen - proline. Here is our aha-moment.
When your hair is in its growth phase, more proline/collagen is naturally found in the dermis on your scalp, where your hair roots stem from.
The theory is that the proline in the collagen you ingest will make its way up to your scalp and stimulate hair growth, some of it ending up in the dermis and some of it reaching inside your hair itself.
So, if we produce collagen naturally, why would we need to take it from an external source?
The beauty industry has a standard response to that that you’ve probably heard before. With time, we produce less and less of it - you can see it in old people whose skin sags, hair thins out and nails become brittle.
They have essentially lost elasticity and structure. The mattress is starting to be less bouncy and firm, all because collagen reserves are low.
That’s true - but the bigger question that the beauty industry is not asking is: once collagen for hair is lost, is it even effective for us to try to replenish it by taking it artificially? According to research, if you're considering using supplementary collagen exclusively to treat/prevent balding or hair loss - don't expect them to work!
What Are the Collagen for Hair Health Claims?
You need only to have a quick search on Google or turn on your TV to have a multitude of claims thrown at you: collagen boosts hair body, prevents hair from greying, rebuilds it from the inside out, and stops it thinning.
“It’s like using fillers, but for the hair,” said Roy Teeluck, a stylist who sells collagen for hair in his fancy Manhattan salon.
It all sounds great, but the issue is that none of these claims have any scientific facts or references to back them up. The cold hard truth is that no respectable scientific studies have proven that collagen supplements or products help hair health.
That’s why you won’t find it in any of our products.
The Science of Collagen for Hair Growth and Health
While collagen applied to hair externally may make your hair look thicker because it coats your hair strands, it’s highly unlikely that it will do anything to actually change the structure of your hair ‘from the inside,’ as it is claimed.
It simply doesn’t work like that.
“Externally applied collagen would probably not penetrate deep enough through the hair follicle to affect the structure of hair itself,” said Dr. Mizuguchi, hair loss expert, to the New York Times.
Remember how we said that when you ingest collagen, it gets broken down into the amino acids that make it up? That means it’s impossible to boost your collagen production directly.
Applying collagen externally in the form of creams or serums is proven to be equally useless - collagen molecules are simply too big to penetrate the skin. It’s like trying to force an elephant through your front door - it just won’t happen.
There has been some research on the effects of collagen on hair, but it’s unsatisfactory, to say the least. The sample groups are small (as opposed to the standard 1000+ in a reputable study) and they’re sponsored by companies within the collagen and hair industry.
It's important to approach these studies with extreme caution.
How to Maintain Healthy Levels of Collagen for Hair?
So, if you can’t bet your money on any of these supplements, injections, or products to boost your collagen levels once they’re gone, what can you do? We’re not the ones to leave you high and dry, so here are our best tips for maintaining the collagen levels you do have while also supporting your hair health:
1. Accept that the human body is complex
The best thing to do is not to focus on one miracle ingredient that’s been marketed to hell and back by the beauty industry. The truth is that the human body is more complex than the simplistic equation of:
You’re better off focusing on a long-term approach: a varied, healthy diet that puts in all the goodness and building blocks that your body can eventually turn into collagen if it feels so inclined. Think Vitamin C, Iron, Zinc, Copper, and the more exotic-sounding Lysine and Threonine.
2. Reduce what we know reduces collagen levels
If you want to fight the loss of collagen in hair in the first place, also have a look at:
- Keeping your stress levels in check (don’t get so pent up over work, try to maintain regular sleeping schedules, go on a holiday once in a while - all easier said than done, we know…)
- Balancing your diet and doubling down on the nutrients we mentioned above
- Minimizing sugar intake
- Stopping smoking.
3. Invest in hair products with actual science-based formulas
Collagen being a no-go doesn’t mean all haircare should be written off. Of course, hair products can be a helpful and welcome addition to your hair care routine and can help keep your hair healthy, thick, and happy. There are plenty of science-based formulas that, unlike collagen, have been clinically proven to work and will undoubtedly make a difference in your hair (such as biotin).
If you’re struggling with more serious issues such as hair loss, you should consult a dermatologist for professional advice. You can also find highly effective natural remedies - at Scandinavian Biolabs, we have developed a powerful range of products that are jam-packed with scientifically proven ingredients and provide real and lasting results. Discover our hair growth products and the science behind them here.
Should You Use Collagen for Hair Growth?
If you’re looking for a temporary fix, collagen for hair may well be your thing. If you’re looking for a product that actually changes the structure of your hair and has long-term, lasting results, skips it.
- Wang H. A Review of the Effects of Collagen Treatment in Clinical Studies. Polymers (Basel). 2021 Nov 9;13(22):3868. doi: 10.3390/polym13223868. PMID: 34833168; PMCID: PMC8620403.