Collagen is the most abundant type of protein found in the human body. It is found in our bones, muscles, skin and tendons. Essentially it is the protein that keeps our body together and comes in two forms – endogenous and exogenous collagen. Endogenous collagen is naturally synthesized by the body from amino acids from our diet, while exogenous collagen is synthetic that usually comes in the form of Collagen supplements.
When you consume collagen and other proteins, your body breaks them down into amino acids that are then used to build new proteins and compounds. There are 11 nonessential amino acids that your body can make and 9 essential ones that you need to obtain from your diet. Collagen is primarily made up of 3 nonessential amino acids: proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline. Proline is also the main component of keratin. Therefore, consuming proline-rich collagen should provide your body with the building blocks it needs to create hair. Human studies in humans on the effects of collagen on hair are lacking, making it difficult to know if this protein promotes hair growth.
Our natural collagen synthesis does deplete over time due to age and other lifestyle factors. For example, smoking can be a big factor is declining collagen production.
Collagen supplements have become increasingly popular to help support and promote healthy and younger looking skin. In 2020 alone, an estimated $293 million will be spent on Collagen Supplements in the United States of America alone. Collagen supplements have been shown to be extremely effective at improving the elasticity of our skin and reducing the volume of wrinkles. Type 1 Collagen is the most common and gram for gram is actually stronger than steel! Wrinkles start to appear once the internal structural integrity of our skin starts to deteriorate.
Collagen supplements can help to promote quicker and healthier hair, as the collagen that is ingested is broken down into the individual amino acids. These amino acids can then be rebuilt in different forms of protein around the body where needed. More than 90% of the content of each hair follicle is protein in the form of Keratin. Keratin is a strong fibrous, structural protein just like Collagen. Amino acids are the building blocks that we form protein from, so increasing the level of these amino acids improves are body’s ability to synthesize collagen. Collagen is also thought to be able to fight free radical damage to the hair follicle.
Due to its antioxidant properties, collagen may be able to fight cell damage and slow greying. Age-related hair greying is largely influenced by genetics, but free radical damage to the cells that produce hair colour may also play a role. As you age, the cells that produce the melanin pigment that gives your hair its colour naturally begin to die. However, free radicals that result from poor diet, stress, and environmental pollutants can damage melanin-creating cells as well. Without enough antioxidants to fight free radical damage, your hair may begin to grey. In fact, one test-tube study found that the antioxidant activity of grey hair follicles was much lower than that of hair follicles that still contained pigment. Since collagen has been shown to fight free radicals in test tubes, it may, in theory, help prevent damage to cells that produce hair colour. As a result, it may prevent premature greying or slow down age-related greying. Nevertheless, research on the antioxidant effects of collagen in humans is currently lacking.