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publishDate

September 9, 2021

author

Lindsay Delk, RDN
Collagen For Vibrant Hair And Nails
Author

Fact Checked By Lindsay Delk, RDN
 September 9, 2021

Hair And Nails

Do you wish you had the thick, shiny hair of the models in shampoo commercials? Or strong, healthy fingernails like those seen in the pages of a magazine?

Well, there may not be a magic remedy to make this possible, but there is promising research concerning collagen’s potential to make your hair and nails healthier and faster growing.

What Is Collagen?

Collagen is a protein found abundantly in your body as it plays a major role in your connective tissues.

It helps with structural support and elasticity and is a factor in how young your skin, hair, and nails look.

Collagen has also been linked to relieving joint pain, improving muscle mass, and preventing bone loss.

Collagen starts to decrease in your 20s, and by your 40s, lower collagen levels can start to cause wrinkles, sagging skin, and thinner, graying hair (1).

Keratin in Hair and Nails

Hair and nails mostly consist of a protein called keratin.

Keratin is made up of several amino acids, which are the building blocks of all proteins.

Proline is a major amino acid of keratin. Collagen is mostly made up of three amino acids: proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline.

When you eat proteins, including collagen, your body breaks them down into amino acids.

Your body then uses these amino acids to build new proteins in the body.

So, taking a collagen supplement will provide your body with plenty of protein, especially the amino acid proline, that your body can use to create keratin for your hair and nails.

Collagen for Vibrant Hair

While thinning hair and hair loss are associated with aging, no one really knows why.

Your body produces less collagen as you age, which may be one factor contributing to hair thinning and loss.

Here are some theories about how collagen helps produce healthy hair.

  • Healthy Dermis

Hair is composed of two parts: the hair root and the hair shaft.

The hair root is located under your skin in the dermis. The hair shaft is above the skin and is mostly made of keratin.

The middle layer of your skin, the dermis, is made up of about 70% collagen protein, which gives skin its strength (9).

And the roots of your hair are found in the dermis.

One theory surrounding the role of collagen for healthy hair is that if your dermis is healthy with plenty of collagen, then it will produce healthier hair from the hair root.

  • Reduced Oxidative Stress

Circumstantial evidence shows that oxidative stress may be one cause of hair loss and hair graying, especially as you age. Oxidative stress occurs when your body has too many damaging free radicals (2).

As you age, the production of free radicals increases, and your body‘s defense mechanisms decrease. Free radicals can be caused by stress, smoking, alcohol use, pollution, a poor diet, and just everyday living (3).

An imbalance of too many free radicals may result in signs of aging, including in your hair (4).

This is where collagen can help. Collagen is considered an antioxidant, a nutrient that can fight these free radicals in your body.

Increasing collagen could reduce the free radicals in your body and reduce your oxidative stress. Research shows that hydrolyzed marine collagen from sea cucumber and many types of fish is especially good at fighting free radicals in the body (5, 6).

Research has also shown that oxidative stress leads to an unhealthy scalp, which then leads to poorly formed hair as it grows (7).

If the oxidative stress is reduced by collagen, the scalp is healthier and the quality of hair may be healthier. Oxidative stress also appears to play a role in premature hair loss (8).

  • Healthy Hair Follicles

Collagen may be able to reduce gray hair by supporting the hair follicles where hair pigment is made.

Free radicals may also damage your hair follicles. As discussed above, collagen can act as an antioxidant to fight these free radicals.

One study found that collagen is deposited in hair follicles and a lack of collagen delays hair growth (10).

The researchers suggested that collagen could be a potential treatment for hair loss.

  • Protein in Your Diet

Protein is essential in the proper functioning and repair of your body, including your hair (11).

Collagen is a protein, so taking a collagen supplement will increase your intake of protein.

This may help prevent hair loss or encourage the growth of your existing hair, especially if you have not been eating enough protein previously.

Collagen for Strong, Healthy Nails

Having brittle nails is a common problem in which the nails have a rough surface, are ragged, and peel.

If you have brittle nails, you might feel that your nails are soft, dry, weak, easily broken, and won’t grow long.

About 20% of the population have brittle nails, and women are affected twice as often as men (12).

Nails can become damaged or unhealthy for many reasons.

Iron deficiency, hypothyroidism, acrylic and gel nails, working with your hands, or frequent hand washing can all cause nails to become weak, brittle, or easily broken.

One study investigated whether taking hydrolyzed collagen every day would improve the symptoms of brittle nails and make the nails grow faster (13).

The participants took 2.5 grams of collagen each day for 24 weeks and then stopped the treatment for four weeks.

The researchers found that the hydrolyzed collagen supplement increased the growth rate of the nails by 12% and decreased the number of broken nails by 42%.

64% of the participants had an improvement in their brittle nails, and 88% had improvement four weeks after the collagen supplement was stopped.

80% of the participants said the collagen supplement made their nails look better and were completely satisfied with the treatment. 75% thought their nails were stronger, and 71% felt their nails were growing faster and longer.

Collagen Supplement Powder

Any benefit of a collagen supplement depends on how well it is digested and absorbed in your gut.

Collagen supplements are sometimes hydrolyzed to make collagen protein chains that are easier for the body to absorb.

Hydrolyzed means that the collagen is already broken down into smaller pieces of proteins. So, it is more bioavailable and better absorbed by your body.

Look for hydrolyzed collagen powder that is unflavored so you can easily add it to your favorite hot or cold drinks, smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, or any soft foods.

Avoid collagen supplements that have added artificial sweeteners or flavorings.

A typical dose of hydrolyzed collagen is around 10 g per day.

While collagen is generally safe, you should always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.