Should You Consider Using Collagen for Your Hair? Expert Recommendations

Some claim that collagen helps hair grow, thicken and shine. Can you believe these promises?

Collagen and hair
Collagen is essential in the formation of keratin, which is the first protein found in hair. If you want thicker, healthier hair that is shinier, then you can use a shampoo and conditioner infused with collagen. You could also add a leave-in conditioner formulated with collagen or finish off the process by spraying a hair mist containing collagen. If you are coloring your hair, the collagen conditioners that some manufacturers include will protect against damage and those pesky greys.

Unfortunately, it is a little more complicated than that. Here’s everything you need to know about using collagen supplements on your hair. Here’s what you need to know about using collagen on your skin.

What’s collagen?
You need to understand the way collagen is produced naturally in order to be able to determine how it might affect your hair. It is what our bodies produce, and it is its function that has prompted so many manufacturers to jump on the collagen supplement bandwagon.

Collagen is an elastic, fibrous protein found in bones, tendons cartilage, skin, pores, and ligaments. The robust and versatile structure of collagen helps to anchor cells together. Collagen cushions joints and plumps pores and skin.

The amino acids in protein are broken down by our bodies to create collagen. Dairy products, eggs and cheese, as well as plant-based protein sources like beans, quinoa and tempeh are good sources. Don’t forget the other key players in collagen production: zinc, copper and sulfur.

What is in collagen supplements and lotions for skin?
While collagen made by your body is used in dietary supplements, lotions and dietary products get their collagen from a source outside. All products come with a huge guarantee.

Collagen-infused hair products, such as shampoos and conditioners, promise healthier, stronger, and shinier hair. There are also all-in one collagen powders and capsules that promise everything from younger looking skin to joint pain relief, muscle building, and, you guessed it, thicker hair.

Collagen comes from three different sources.

The collagen derived from cows, pigs or chickens is made by combining the skin, muscles, bones and tendons.
Marine collagen comes from scales, skin and bones of various fishes, as well as jellyfishes and sponges.
Vegan collagen is made without animal by-products. It is a genetically modified yeast or micro-organism with human genes that codes for digestive enzymes and collagen.
Learn more about collagen capsules

Why is collagen so important for hair?
When you are young, collagen production is abundant. It works in the background to keep our skin wrinkle-free and firm, our muscles strong, and our joints flexible.

Collagen production slows down as we age. Other factors that contribute to the decline of collagen production are the sun’s radiation, smoking and other oxidative stresses, such as exposure to harsh chemicals and cleaners, air pollution, an excess in sugar and fats, and excessive alcohol consumption.

In your 20s and 30s, the amount of collagen in your body begins to decrease by 1 percent a year. By the time you reach your 40s you are probably already aware of the signs of lower collagen levels: wrinkles and looser skin, less flexibility of your joints, or even thinning hair and graying. Then, collagen supplements start to tempt us. They promise to plump skin, erase wrinkles and enhance joints.

Collagen is a component of hair.
Where do these claims of collagen-infused products come from? And how can they claim to make shampoo ads that show hair in a bad condition? There are several theories.

One of the sources of these claims is the center layer of skin, also known as the dermis. It contains about 70% collagen. The idea is that a healthy dermis could produce healthier hair. Don’t forget that your roots are found in the dermis and not on the strands of hair you shampoo, condition, or shade.

Shari Lipner MD, associate professor of medical skin care at Weill Cornell Medication in New York City, says that collagen is not a component of hair. The primary component of hair, keratin, is 95 percent.

This leads to the second idea, that your body borrows a few amino acid from collagen in order to make keratin. In theory, having a lot of collagen available would help your hair. However, there is no evidence that swallowing collagen will improve or increase keratin production.

What science says
Here’s the latest, but limited, science on taking collagen to grow hair.

Here are some benefits of collagen powder that you should know.

Can it enhance hair development?
In a small study published in the Journal of Medicine in Dermatology 26 women with hair loss were given four capsules of collagen and other vitamins every day for six month. At the end of the trial, they had more hair growth than 14 other women who took a placebo.

This does not mean that collagen increased hair growth. The capsules contain more than just collagen so it’s impossible to tell which ingredient is the most effective. The complement also included herbs, capsaicin, and keratin. The mixture could have led to growth. The research was also partially sponsored by the manufacturer of the collagen supplement used by members.

Another important caveat: Collagen is broken down in products into amino acids. The body absorbs them like any other amino acid or protein. They don’t always go to where they are needed. Dr. Lipner says that there is limited evidence to support the claim that amino acids contribute to hair growth.

Can it protect against old, greying hair?
Collagen products promise to boost collagen levels as they decrease with age. Although collagen isn’t directly a part of hair, the roots can cause hair to thin as we age. In theory, collagen products could recharge cells in the dermis that support the roots. This can result in less hair thinning. But, once again, this is just a theory.

The molecule of collagen is large, and although you can apply it on the skin, it’s not proven that it will be absorbed through the skin or hair, says Houston dermatologist Rajani Katta MD. She also serves as a volunteer medical professor at Baylor School of Medication, McGovern Medical Faculty, and UT Well being.

When to consult a healthcare provider
Ask your dermatologist or physician why your hair is falling out or thinning before you reach for a collagen supplement. Hair loss can be caused by a protein deficiency, but this is rare. Undiagnosed medical conditions or nutritional deficiencies are the most common causes of brittle, thinning or hard to grow hair.

Dr. Katta says that they will usually test for thyroid disease and for iron, zinc and vitamin B12 levels. If you are experiencing scalp pain, hair loss or flaking, consult your dermatologist or doctor. Find out if Covid-19 can cause hair loss.

Does collagen have to be used for hair growth?
Dr. Lipner and Dr. Katta do not recommend collagen products, citing the lack of evidence to support their use. Dr. Katta says that adding protein to your diet is a better solution. Katta says that the amino acids in collagen supplements can also be found in many foods.

If you still want to try collagen hair supplements, do some research on the company that produces them. Generally, specialists agree most dietary supplements are protected, however dietary dietary supplements–together with collagen dietary supplements–aren’t regulated by the Meals and Drug Administration. You can’t be sure that you are getting high-quality or pure components.

Verify that the label is a third-party verified one, such as those from UL or United States Pharmacopeia.

Wholesome hair ideas
You can take a number of steps to ensure healthy hair and scalp without using collagen. Decide how often you will shampoo your hair. If your hair or scalp is usually oily, then you should wash it every day. Dr. Lipner suggests that if it is dry, you should wash it less often, two to several times per week.

It is normal to notice that your scalp becomes drier with age. The hair may become drier if you use chemical remedies, such as covering gray hair.

Dr. Lipner says, “For maximum shine, concentrate the shampoo on your scalp rather than your hair after washing your scalp.” It is important to use conditioner after every wash. This will improve shine, reduce static electricity, and increase energy.

Do not apply conditioner to your scalp as this can make your hair limp. If you are a swimmer, condition your hair before diving into the pool to prevent chlorine damage.

What is Collagen powder?
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Rajani Katta MD, dermatologist, and volunteer medical faculty at McGovern Medical Faculty and Baylor School of Medication in Houston
Shari Lipner MD, PhD is a dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medication and an affiliate professor in medical dermatology.
Journal of Medicine in Dermatology : “A six-month, randomized, double-blind, placebo-managed examine evaluating the security and efficacy of a nutraceutical supplement for selling hair development in girls with self-perceived thinning hair”
The American Journal of Pathology, “Decreased Collagen Production in Chronologically Aging Pores: Roles of Age Dependent Alteration in Fibroblast Performance and Faulty mechanical Stimulation”.
NSF Worldwide: Testing, Inspection, Certification
UL: “Testing”
USP: “Verification Companies”