Collagen can help fight hair damage and inhibit hair growth? Fact or fiction?
Raise your hand if you’ve seen at least one advertisement for a “collagen for hair” supplement? Most probably your hand is up. The beauty market is not new to supplements promising multiple benefits and one of those is shinier and fuller hair. But is there any truth to it?
Before we deep dive into that, let’s take a look at what collagen is and what else you need to know about its role in our hair health, whether true or still a theory.
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What is collagen for hair?
For those who aren’t aware, collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It accounts for about 75% of our skin’s dry weight. Its primary function is to provide structure to our body and serve as the building blocks for our hair, nails, skin, muscles, tendons, and blood vessels.
Since collagen is found mainly in the dermis where our hair follicles are, it has a major contribution to our hair growth.
Fact: Collagen for hair is a significant growth factor
Hair is composed of the protein keratin and is created from the essential amino acids found in collagen. Once we consume collagen and other proteins, our body then breaks them down into amino acids that are then used to build new proteins and compounds. So essentially, one of the primary sources to grow hair is found in collagen.
Collagen is not just vital in the creating of hair but throughout its life. During the early stage of hair growth, there is an increase in the collagen surrounding the hair bulb. As the hair follicle matures, two layers of collagen are lost. But as our body produces more collagen, these layers grow back and support the hair follicles.
Fact: Collagen for hair helps fight damage
Do you know that collagen is also an antioxidant? Yes, it can help fight the damage often caused by free radicals which we develop as we age (due to stress, air pollutants, smoking, poor sleeping habits, alcohol, and other factors). Sadly, this is one thing you don’t want too much of as a lot of free radicals can be harmful to the cells.
Research shows that free radicals may also damage hair follicles. As we age, free radicals also decrease. This means the older we get the more susceptible we become to hair damage (not a surprise here).
Foods rich in antioxidants like berries, green tea, and vegetables can also protect our cells from free radicals.
Fact: Collagen for hair reduces thinning and greying
Our dermis contains the root of each hair. Since a good amount of collagen can be found on the dermis, keeping this layer of the skin healthy can potentially lower the chances of your hair thinning.
On the other hand, melanin production naturally decreases as we grow older and free radicals can make it twice as worse, also affecting the amount of pigment in our hair. With this in mind, collagen’s antioxidant properties can also slow down the process of greying hair.
Fact: Collagen production decrease as we age
The thing is, as we age, our body produces less and lower-quality collagen. A dermatologist said that starting in our 20s, we begin to lose about 1 percent of our collagen each year. This doesn’t just affect our hair it also affects our skin. Thus, our skin loses elasticity and wrinkles become more visible.
No wonder men and women beyond 20 years old are more interested in how else they can increase collagen production to maintain their youthful appearance.
Fact: Collagen can be sourced naturally
Taking care of the dermis can help stimulate collagen production, we also need to consider other natural sources that may contribute to it like what we eat.
Also, our body needs to break down food to turn it into amino acids before releasing them into the blood, only then is collagen created. To help that, it’s best to consider these natural sources:
- Foods rich in Vitamin C – It is vital in the production of pro-collagen, as it serves as the body’s precursor to collagen. The daily recommendation is 65-9-mg of vitamin C. You can have it whit your favorite citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes. Other sources are also dark leafy vegetables, like kale, broccoli, and spinach.
- Fish and shellfish – People have claimed that marine collagen is one of the best sources as it is the easiest to absorb. As you enjoy your tuna salad or smoked salmon, take note that the “meat” of the fish has less collagen than other, less desirable parts. The head, scales, and eyeballs are the parts with the highest collagen.
Fact: Collagen for hair supplements are backed by research
Collagen for hair supplements are all the rave nowadays in the form of pills, gummies, and teas. There are numerous studies on how it can support our body’s collagen production. But the question, ‘do they work?’ needs further research.
Most supplements contain collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen that are different from what our body produces. They’re made of the same amino acids but are easily absorbed as they feature shorter chains of amino acids than collagen. Thus, such collagen for hair supplements become building blocks for thicker hair.
Some continue to question if these supplements help as the available studies have been funded by companies that manufacture the products rather than by independent non-profit institutions. In an article, one physician hasn’t debunked the theory but she would prefer to see more evidence-backed science.
Fact: Your body’s current collagen needs attention
Due to the popularity of collagen for hair supplements, one expert worries that people might rely too much on them and forget about other means. She suggests also care for the collagen we have in our bodies now by avoiding the following:
- Sugar and refined carbs – Sugar tends to interfere with collagen’s ability to repair itself. It’s recommended to maintain a healthy diet and drink lots of water while minimizing the consumption of added sugar and refined carbs.
- Too much sunshine – Ultraviolet radiation can reduce collagen production. Avoid excessive sun exposure but if you can’t help it, make sure to use sun protection.
- Smoking cigarettes – Smoking reduces collagen production. This can decrease our bodies’ wound healing abilities and may lead to wrinkles.
Collagen for hair: best practices
You’ll see a lot of information and products that promise healthier hair. A good approach here is to combine eating collagen-producing food, using the right products that will promote stronger hair, and caring for the collagen your body has.
While multiple studies suggest collagen plays an active role in supporting healthy hair, there’s still a lot more research that needs to be done to determine how far is the impact.
Consider them all carefully before taking them. Or, better yet, consult your dermatologist.