Collagen Benefits For Hair, Skin, And Nails
If you’re interested in the science of beauty, you’re probably quite familiar with collagen. It’s a popular supplement that comes in powders, pills, and creams. Many people report fresh, firm, and healthy skin after supplementing with collagen. But how does it actually work? What does science say about collagen benefits for hair, skin, and nails?
What Is Collagen?
The word collagen comes from the Greek word kólla, which means “glue.” It is, in many respects, the glue that holds your body together.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in many animals, including humans. It’s the main component of the connective tissue that makes up your skin, bones, tendons, muscles, and ligaments. It’s also found in other body parts, like the blood vessels, corneas, and teeth.1
Collagen is made up of 19 different types of amino acids, with an abundance of these three:
What Does Collagen Do?
There are at least 16 different forms of collagen. Most of the collagen in the body (80-90%) is type I, type II, or type III.
- Type I: This is the body’s most abundant type of collagen. It’s made of strong, densely packed fibers that give your body’s tissues their structure. Gram for gram, type I collagen is stronger than steel.3
- Type II: This is the main collagen found in cartilage. It cushions joints from shocks.4
- Type III: Similar to type I, this collagen provides structure and is a major component of your skin and organs.5
Collagen Declines With Age
As you age, your collagen production slows down. The collagen that is produced is of lower quality. This causes the structural integrity of the skin and other tissue to decline. The main visible signs of this loss are changes in your skin’s texture and the strength of your cartilage and joints.6
Collagen starts to decline at the age of 25. By the age of 60, most people experience a considerable decline in their body’s collagen. Women experience a dramatic decline in collagen after menopause.7
In addition to the normal decline that comes with age, certain lifestyle factors also cause a loss of collagen.
- Excess sugar consumption
- Tobacco use
- Exposure to UV rays8
Can You Get Collagen Back?
Your body naturally makes collagen. To do this, it combines amino acids from protein-rich foods like fish, beef, and chicken with vitamins and minerals. As you age, your body may lose its ability to absorb and use nutrients effectively. This is where changes in diet, or collagen supplements, might help.9
How Do Collagen Supplements Work?
Studies show that supplementing with collagen can be an effective way to help replace lost collagen.10
Supplements work by giving your body the vital proteins it needs to produce collagen on its own. Collagen supplements may also help your body produce other skin-firming substances, like elastin, fibrillin, and hyaluronic acid.11,12
Hydrolyzed Collagen And Collagen Peptides
The body can’t absorb collagen in its whole form. When taken as a supplement, collagen must be broken down so it can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
To help with absorption, collagen supplements are typically “hydrolyzed.” This means that collagen’s long chains of amino acids have been broken down into smaller, easy-to-process particles.
These smaller particles are called collagen peptides. Collagen peptides are a more easily digestible and bioavailable form of collagen.13 A lot of the collagen powder or supplements you see on the shelves are made of collagen peptides derived from animal sources. Marine collagen is derived from fish sources.14
Collagen Benefits For Hair, Skin, And Nails
Free radicals are harmful compounds that naturally develop in your body. Stress, pollution, toxins, and certain foods may cause them to develop. An abundance of free radicals can harm your body’s cells, including those of your hair follicles, skin, and nails.15,16,17
Studies show that collagen may have powerful antioxidant effects. Antioxidants can help defend your body against free radicals.18 The antioxidant effects in collagen may help:
- Fight free radical damage to hair follicles
- Support your hair’s natural growth cycle
- Support skin health19,20
Collagen is the main structural component in human skin. As you age, your body’s collagen content decreases by about 1% per year. The effects of this can be seen in the form of loosening, sagging, discoloration, thinning, and wrinkling of skin.21
Supplementing with collagen may help slow down these effects. Studies have found that increasing collagen may help support improvements in:
- Skin elasticity
- The appearance of wrinkles
- Rough skin texture 22,23,24,25
Hair Growth And Strength
Collagen makes up 70% of your dermis, which is key to the structure of hair. As you age, your body becomes less efficient at replenishing collagen. This may cause hair loss and hair thinning over time.26,27
Providing your body with collagen may help support a healthy dermis.28 When combined with other supplements, like biotin, studies have shown that collagen may help support improvements in:
- Hair volume
- Hair density
Nail Growth And Texture
Some people experience rough, brittle, peeling nails as they age. One small study looked at the effects of collagen peptides on this condition. The results were promising. It found that supplementation with collagen peptides may help support:
- Your nail’s natural growth cycle
- Nail health and strength30
Healthy Gut And Skin Health
Collagen might also play a beneficial role in gut health. The amino acids in collagen may support:
- Immune health
- Intestinal barrier health31,32,33
What does this have to do with skin health? The skin and gut are more closely connected than many people realize. Scientists call this the gut-skin axis. If the gut microbiome is disturbed, it stops producing substances that help regulate the immune system. The immune system starts to overreact, which in turn makes the skin overreact.34,35
A damaged gut has been linked to various skin irritations and conditions. By keeping your gut happy and healthy, you also help keep your skin healthy.36 Collagen may be able to help with this.
Other Benefits Of Collagen
Beyond the benefits for skin hair and nails, collagen supplements may have a wide variety of other health benefits.
Collagen may also support:
- Joint health37
- Body composition and muscle growth38
- Heart health.39
- Healthy blood sugar levels already in the normal range40
- Weight loss41
Should You Take Collagen?
With such high potential for beauty and health benefits, you may be interested in supplementing with collagen. Before you start any new supplement, consult your doctor. To increase effectiveness, seek out high quality sources of collagen.