In pursuit of thicker, healthier locks, you may have asked: 'does collagen help hair growth?' If you're sick and tired of having limp, thin hair, or, if you're struggling with hair loss, you've probably already done a little research around how you can support hair growth and encountered collagen as a potential solution.
Collagen is a naturally occurring protein in the human body that supports skin elasticity and healthy hair. You'll often find collagen in the best protein powders, because as we get older, our collagen stores deplete. So, taking a collagen supplement can help you to keep your skin and your hair looking a little more youthful. You can buy pure collagen powder too, and mix it up with water, milk or even coffee in the best protein shaker.
While collagen does contribute to younger looking skin and hair, less is known about whether it can actually lead to thicker, longer hair. Here, we'll unpack the research and answer, 'does collagen help hair grow?'.
- Related: What is protein?
What is collagen?
Collagen is a type of protein. It is one of the human body's essential structural building blocks that plays an important role in skin, bones, and hair. Collagen is made within the body, but, over time, our bodies produce less and less of it. As our collagen stores deplete, we often begin to develop wrinkles, thinning hair, and other physical conditions like joint pain.
Collagen is a popular supplement for people looking to support healthier looking skin and hair. Collagen is also a promising treatment for physical ailments.
As one 2019 study by Nutrients showed, collagen supplements can improve skin hydration, skin elasticity, and skin density.
Another 2019 study in Journal of Drugs in Dermatology found that collagen could help people to manage osteoarthritis and reduce joint pain. One 2012 study that appeared in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry also found that collagen reduced joint pain in patients with osteoarthritis to the point where they could participate in more physical activities.
How can collagen improve your hair?
Collagen can evidently help to support healthier skin and joints – but what about hair health? There are many anecdotal accounts of collagen being a game changer for hair, but just how accurate are these stories?
According to a study in Science, we know that hair loss is directly linked to our natural collagen supplies. This is why many men and women experience hair thinning as they age.
"Collagen is primarily made up of three nonessential amino acids: proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline and it is Proline, which is also the main component of keratin, the fibrous wool-like substance that makes up our hair and nails," explains Medical Physicist and founder of 28 Day Skin, Kevin Herbert. "Consuming proline-rich collagen provides our body with the building blocks it needs to create hair."
"There isn't a huge amount of clinical data to support how collagen helps hair growth," adds Herbert. Yet the minimal research so far is promising.
Some studies in Marine Drugs and Food and Function have been done on the potential for collagen, which is an antioxidant, to fight free radicals that can damage hair follicles. However, there are few human studies that illustrate just how effective collagen supplements are for people with hair follicle damage.
These studies are promising but far from conclusive. If you have thinning hair due to depleting collagen supplies or due to hair follicle damage, a collagen supplement may help. Plus, the fact that there are proven results for skin health, it follows that collagen supplements would also improve the health of the skin on the scalp, and therefore contribute to healthier, thicker hair.
However, some doctors and scientists believe that collagen supplements are less effective for hair growth than their marketing may suggest. As with any supplement, effects may vary from person to person. It is worth taking collagen for several months to get a good idea of whether it's having any effect on your hair health.
How to integrate collagen into your diet to promote hair growth
Want to try adding collagen supplements into your routine to support healthy hair growth?
A collagen supplement can give you an extra dose of collagen. Collagen supplements are sold in pill form and powder form, so that you can easily incorporate them into your routine.
You can also up your collagen intake by eating more foods that contain natural collagen. Some collagen-rich foods include:
- Egg whites
- Leafy greens
To keep your collagen levels up, living a balanced, healthy lifestyle is key. Make sure you eat a balanced diet, avoid smoking, and wear SPF when going outside.
If you do decide to try taking a collagen supplement for hair growth, it's important that you avoid taking too many pills at once. "There is a specific medical condition called Scleroderma (or systemic sclerosis) that arises from an overproduction of collagen in the skin, which can lead to several skin-related complications," Herbert tells Live Science. "This however is very rare and unlikely to arise from normal diet or supplementation. There is no RDA for collagen however studies investigating the benefits of collagen supplements have evaluated doses ranging from 2.5 to 10 grams per day."
In other words, try to take the recommended dosage of collagen - more isn't always better.
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Does collagen help hair growth?
Discovering hair in your vacuum cleaner or shower drain can be upsetting. If you are dealing with hair loss, you may be looking for ways to promote healthier hair growth. Based on the studies that have been done so far, collagen offers a promising solution – especially if your hair loss is due to insufficient collagen supplies in the body.
Just be careful not to take too much extra collagen, as this can lead to some side effects. If you're considering adding a collagen supplement to your routine, check in with a doctor, nutritionist, or dermatologist to see if it's the right option for you.
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Meg Walters is a freelance journalist and features writer. Raised in Canada and based in South East London, Meg covers culture, entertainment, lifestyle, and health. Her work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, i-D, Refinery29, Stylist, GQ, Shondaland, Healthline, HelloGiggles and other publications.
When she's not writing, Meg is probably daydreaming about traveling the world, re-watching an old rom-com with a glass of wine, or wasting time on Twitter, where you can follow her @wordsbymeg.