Have you noticed that your ponytail is feeling a little thinner than it used to? Or maybe you’re seeing flyaways at your hairline? Either way, we have you covered, girl.
Collagen is a type of protein all animals produce. In fact, collagen is the “most abundant protein in the animal kingdom," and it’s key for healthy hair, skin, and nails. Because of this, people often wonder about collagen for hair growth.
You’re gorgeous no matter what’s on your head, but we understand how stressful it can be to see clumps of hair on the shower floor. Whether you're experiencing hair loss, thinning hair, hair breakage, or simply want to boost your hair health, adding a collagen supplement to your diet can help.
Collagen and You
Collagen is a structural protein, meaning it helps tissues inside your body take and keep their shape. It’s also what gives gelatin its jiggle and why Jell-O keeps its shape.Muscles are encased in fascia, which is mostly made of collagen. (It’s that white stuff that holds chicken breasts together.) Collagen is also in muscle tissue itself. Tendons, ligaments, and all other connective tissue are made of collagen. Healthy bones, joints, and cartilage require collagen for strength, flexibility, and structure. Your organs contain collagen. #collagenislife
Get the idea? This protein is everywhere, and it's really important that your body can produce collagen.
Your body makes 28 types of collagen. The three big ones are type I, type II, and type III. While the types of collagen contain structural differences, all collagen types have a large proportion of the same three amino acids: glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. The best type of collagen to help you make healthy hair and skin is type III, but types I and IV are also helpful.
So, why supplement collagen if your body already makes it? Put simply, as you age, your collagen levels decline. The decrease in production starts in early adulthood, so supplementing now can help keep your hair and skin healthy.
Collagen for Hair Growth
Now that you know how important collagen is for basically all your body parts (including your hair), let’s address the elephant in the room: Can you use collagen for hair growth? (We all want those long, luscious locks.) The science supporting the connection between collagen supplementation and hair growth is thin, so we can’t recommend it right now.
However, collagen is shown to generally improve your hair’s appearance. Look for a trustworthy brand, follow all dosage guidelines, and consult with a health practitioner if you have questions.
Let’s dive into the science behind why you need collagen, how it helps your hair and skin, and how to consume more.
Hair, Skin, and Collagen Supplements
You know all those flyaways you’re constantly battling at your temples? Collagen can help with those! It helps create elastin in the body, and collagen and elastin help maintain skin elasticity and hydration. (Elastin does what it sounds like: makes your tissue more elastic.) They also play a role in keeping your hair from breaking. You may see these in hair and skincare products.
Collagen helps with skin repair too, especially for ultraviolet radiation and free radical damage. That's because collagen promotes antioxidant activity in your body, especially when it's hydrolyzed into collagen peptides that are easier to break down and use as amino acids.
The problem is, it's tough for collagen to work topically, like through a cream or conditioner. Collagen is too large a molecule to enter your dermis or hair follicle, so it just sits on your skin. The best way to use collagen to nourish your skin and hair is as an oral supplement.
Let’s cover why collagen can generally help your skin and hair:
Collagen contains proline, the amino acid your body needs to make keratins. Keratins are super complex proteins your body uses to make hair, skin, nails, and epithelial cells that run through your gut and other parts of your body. They're special because they don't break down in the presence of protein enzymes the way other proteins do. Otherwise, your body would break down and digest hair and skin.
The antioxidant activity of collagen can protect hair follicles from free radical damage from the environment, your diet, or an overly stressful lifestyle. As you age, both your collagen and antioxidant production decreases. Collagen supplementation can help protect your hair follicles and fight off these damaging factors. Research shows that marine collagen, in particular, is rich in antioxidants.
This one is hair-growth-adjacent. You know melanin gives your skin its pigment, but did you know it's also what determines your hair color? Your hair goes grey because the cells that produce melanin get tired as you age.
While this might feel like a long way off, certain factors can damage the cells that produce melanin. So if you want to keep the grey away for longer, reduce your stress, eat lots of colorful foods, and add collagen to your diet.
So, how do you get more collagen in your diet, and is there a best collagen supplement for hair growth?
Other Helpful Supplements
To improve the appearance of your hair and skin, look for products that contain hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, and biotin. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that helps keep moisture in. Vitamin C is a nutrient that your body needs to produce its own collagen, and biotin offers protective benefits against hair loss.
Collagen-Rich Foods and Supplements
Since collagen is a building block of nearly every tissue in humans and animals, you might guess that a good source of natural collagen in your diet would be animal products. And you'd be right! You’re a genius!
Eggs, poultry, fish (ideally with the skin on), pork, beef, and game are all great dietary sources of collagen protein. But an even better way is to use the richest animal sources — their bones and joints — to make bone broth.
You've surely seen the bone broth craze sweeping the Internet. That's because bone broth is essentially liquid collagen. When you boil collagen-rich bones for a long time (at least six hours at a low simmer or one hour in an instant pot), you extract the collagen from the bones. It becomes a liquid you can use in soups and stews or sip from a coffee mug. You know you've made a high-quality bone broth when it turns to a jiggly, gelatin-like consistency in the fridge.
Your other option is to use a collagen supplement — a much less messy option if you’re not into buying beef knuckles and chicken feet from your butcher counter.
The best collagen products are hydrolyzed for ease of use. This means the collagen is broken down into smaller peptides so that it doesn't clump in cold liquid. Hydrolyzed collagen powder (also known as collagen peptides) is a lot easier to add to smoothies and cold drinks on your way to the gym. And it's also more bioavailable than gelatin, so your body will soak it up and send it where it needs to go.
Ready, Set, Glow!
Collagen production starts decreasing in early adulthood, but don’t let this start your quarter-life crisis! Instead, get into the habit of eating collagen-rich foods and supplements each day. This can support your overall health and wellness.
Even if you feel like hair and skin woes are far in the future for you, it's a good idea to pay attention to your diet now. The anti-aging effects of collagen are pretty convincing, especially for skin and hair health. Learn more about how collagen works and how long it might take to see results.And while you’re at it, grab a jar of Cira’s Glow-Getter Collagen and add it to your morning veggie smoothie!