In the silver hair community, the topic of collagen comes up often when it comes to hair and whether it helps with hair growth. No matter what stage of growing out your gray hair you are in, when you want it to grow faster, wanting a little supplemental health is to be expected.
I thought it was time to help you with the facts, as with any supplement that becomes popular it can be difficult to wade through the claims vs the reality. Is it the fountain of youth, as all the latest skin creams with collagen claim? Not really, but does it have some really great health benefits? Yes!
So bear with me while I go through the science of collagen to help you better understand what roll it plays in your body and your health.
Table of Contents:
- What is Collagen?
- Where does Collagen come from?
- Do I need to take Vitamin C with collagen?
- What is Collagen Hydrolysate?
- What is the difference between Collagen and Gelatin?
- Is collagen the fountain of youth?
- Does taking collagen help hair growth?
- My Results Taking Collagen
- What to Look for in a Collagen Supplement
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What is Collagen?
Collagen is a ‘complex protein’ containing 19 amino acids. Collagen is referred to as the “glue” that holds the body together; it is in your cells, muscles, bones, tendons, joints, skin, and digestive system. As we age, collagen starts to break down little by little. Because it provides strength and elasticity, this breakdown can be seen in our increased wrinkles and felt in our achy joints.
Where does Collagen come from?
Collagen is the primary component of connective tissue. Because all animals have connective tissue, all animals have collagen. It can also be found in Spirulina, an algae, as a plant based source. Our diets used to be rich in collagen when we utilized every part of an animal for food that we could. The boiling process of making broth with the bones breaks the marrow and connective tissue down and creates a broth which is extremely rich in collagen and nutrients. It probably wasn’t chicken soup that cured the cold; it was the bone broth the chicken soup was made from.
Do I need to take Vitamin C with collagen?
Yes, you support your body’s natural ability to make collagen by eating fruits high in vitamin C. In addition to taking a collagen supplement, you need vitamin C to help the body assimilate and utilize collagen. You can take a vitamin C supplement or enjoy your favorite vitamin C rich foods every day. If you cannot take vitamin C due to iron issues or other health concerns, you can still take collagen; some people still see benefits from taking hydrolyzed collagen.
What is Collagen Hydrolysate?
Collagen Hydrolysate (aka Hydrolyzed Collagen or Collagen Peptides) is collagen that has been reduced to smaller peptides that can be more readily available to the body for assimilation, because of the much smaller molecular weight than whole collagen. According to some studies, 90% of these smaller peptides are found in the bloodstream within an hour of ingesting.
What is the difference between Collagen and Gelatin?
Collagen when it breaks down becomes gelatin. Gelatin has been used in medicine for centuries because the gelatin helps repair the digestive system. Gelatin is particularly beneficial for people who have difficulty digesting food. It helps build and promote a healthy gut lining and increases digestive enzymes helping you better digest your food. There is a good reason everyone gets jello in the hospital.
Is collagen the fountain of youth?
Yes and no. Wrinkle creams may promise the fountain of youth but collagen molecules are too large to pass through the outer layer of skin. It is better for your skin, hair, and nails if you consume it. Some studies are proving that increasing hydrolyzed collagen in your diet: reduces the telltale signs of aging by increasing your skins natural hydration levels, and these studies are finding that your skin is not the only benefactor when it comes to collagen supplementation. Collagen elevates your overall well-being by providing cardiovascular support, prevention and treatment for osteoporosis, reduces joint discomfort, and helps with the healing process after surgery and injury (I can personally attest to that), and this all adds up to increased physical performance.
It might not dial back the clock, but it is a wonderful way to increase your overall health when added to a healthy diet and exercise plan.
That’s all really interesting, but does taking collagen help hair growth?
Collagen provides our skin, hair, nails, tendons, ligaments, intestines, and blood vessels with powerful structural support. That strength translates into health all around especially where leaky gut is concerned, when we heal the lining of the stomach and the intestines we provide our bodies with optimal nutrition, reduce the toxic load, and optimize the immune system, which results in healthy everything, including hair.
Four reasons there is evidence that collagen may help with hair growth:
- Hair is made of keratin. Keratin is a protein that needs amino acids specifically proline which is found in collagen to build hair.
- While the research is limited, spirulina is an antioxidant and marine collagen can act like an antioxidant, both fight off free radicals. Free radicals damage hair follicles, so the potential is there.
- Collagen provides elasticity and strength to your skin (dermis) so it is well within reason that it would help you retain healthy hair, by preventing thinning and shedding.
- Collagen rich skin, will also mean it is hydrated and the cells have plenty of nutrients to provide to the follicle for a strong happy hair strand.
My Results Taking Collagen for Hair, Skin, Nails, Digestion, & General Health:
My own experience and why I am a huge advocate of Great Lakes Collagen: I started taking collagen pre-surgery to help with post-surgical healing. In 2015 I started taking three tablespoons a day, three or four months before surgery.
The first thing I noticed was my nails. All of my life I have struggled with keeping my nails from painfully breaking and tearing at the corner where the nail grows off the bed. I have tried silk wraps, acrylic nails, gel nails, nail treatments…nothing actually worked to heal the issue. And most of the time my nails looked like I had chewed them off when really they had just torn or broken off. Now my nails are so slick, strong, and healthy I cannot even keep polish on them as it just comes right off with nothing to bond too. I am completely okay with that!
Next was post-surgical healing, when I saw my doctor a month post-op he was shocked to see all my incision sites nearly healed-over. He even told me to take it easy; as I was feeling so good, I was doing too much. I will admit I was taking arnica as well, so I feel that was a combination of benefits.
My digestive system seemed to also benefit. I suffered with leaky gut issues (food allergies, food sensitivity, and IBS like symptoms) for most of my 30’s. Now things seem much easier and calmer.
Then my hair: I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. My hair used to grow incredibly slow, it isn’t super-fast, or anything but the length I have now with several significant cuts, would normally have taken me five years to achieve versus 2.5 years.
Things to Know & What to Look for in a Collagen Supplement:
• Remember collagen is a nutrient that goes where it is needed, it’s almost like it will target what it ‘thinks’ needs the most healing first. So give it adequate time to see results.
• Find Collagen made from hides of pasture raised cows or wild caught cold water fish skins, find a source with no added growth hormones, antibiotics, or steroids. Pure collagen with no toxic additives is much healthier and easier for you to break down. My favorite that meets this criteria is Great Lakes Collagen.
• Hydrolyzed Collagen or Collagen Peptides, are far more beneficial and can be utilized because of the smaller molecular structure.
• Go for the powder, as an effective dose is in the tablespoon range (2-3 a day); that’s too many pills to meet the equivalent.
• Look for Easy to Mix (I prefer unflavored so I can add it to my coffee, which I do not taste it.)
• The gelatin is for cooking where you would use typical gelatin in a recipe, and collagen hydrolysate/peptides is more like a protein powder.
• You can always make your own healing bone broth, here is a really great recipe with more info, Unbound Wellness.com Make Perfect Gut Healing Bone Broth
Cautionary Note: While Collagen is safe for the majority, some people experience an unusual side effect with taking collagen, it can interfere with serotonin levels and may lead to anxiety, mood issues, and depression. You can read more about this on everywomanover29.com
I hope you found this post educational and helpful.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share.
As always it is about so much more than the hair.
- “Collagen.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Nov. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collagen.
- Beisel , Amanda. “4 Natural Ways to Boost Collagen.” Vista Magazine, 8 June 2021, https://vistamagazine.ca/4-natural-ways-to-boost-collagen/.
- “Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin C.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 26 Mar. 2021, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/.
- Kremblewski, Katherine. “The Science behind How Collagen Works.” Genuine Health – All Natural Supplements, Genuine Health – All Natural Supplements, 11 Mar. 2019, https://genuinehealth.com/blogs/genuine-hub/the-science-behind-how-collagen-works.
- Li Y, Zhao Y, Sun X, Qu X. [Prevention and therapeutic effects of sika deer velvet collagen hydrolysate on osteoporosis in rats by retinoic acid]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2010 Mar;35(6):759-62. Chinese. doi: 10.4268/cjcmm20100622. PMID: 20545204.
- Streit, Lizzie. “5 Evidence-Based Ways Collagen May Improve Your Hair.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 23 Jan. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/collagen-for-hair#section3.
- Scott, Trudy. “Collagen and Gelatin Lower Serotonin: Does This Increase Your Anxiety and Depression?” everywomanover29, 20 Jan. 2021, https://www.everywomanover29.com/blog/collagen-gelatin-lower-serotonin-increase-anxiety-depression/.
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