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Collagen Supplements For The Skin & Hair: Myth or a Beauty Must?

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

With so many nutritional supplements on the market, it can often be difficult to identify what's effective and what is simply a marketing ploy. Collagen supplements have surged in popularity over the last few years, with wide-ranging claims that suggests it has the ability to turn back the hands of time as it pertains to your skin and your hair. But how many of these claims are true?

Well, a recent review of dozens of research studies analyzing the effect of collagen supplementation found that it actually it actually can be quite helpful for skin health. As background, as we age our skin begins to change in a variety of ways. We begin to develop facial wrinkles, our skin loses elasticity, and is less supple losing the ability to retain water. Many of these changes can be directly tied to the loss of collagen in our skin. When we are young our skin contains very thick plump collagen bundles in the second layer of the skin called the dermis. As we get older, those collagen bundles began to break down and are much thinner. The idea behind collagen supplementation is that collagen taken by mouth has the potential to be transformed to new collagen bundles within the skin.

Most collagen supplements contain what is termed hydrolyzed collagen. The term "hydrolyzed" refers to the fact that the collagen itself is present in a much smaller form termed "bio active peptides". The most commonly used bio active peptides are prolyl-hydroxyproline and hydroxyprolylglycine. In the studies analyzed by this research group they found that collagen supplementation did improve most metrics of the skin including skin elasticity water and reduced facial wrinkles. In many of these studies the source of collagen was widely varied, coming from sources like pigs, fish, chicken, etc. Some collagen was given in the form of liquids and other were present in solidified powder formulations; in summary there appeared to be no difference in effectiveness between preparations. Most studies reported that the beneficial effects of collagen supplementation were noticeable after 90 days of treatment and persisted for at least four weeks after intervention was discontinued.

So, what about the hair?

Well, many fewer studies have been conducted in the hair and so far it does not seem that collagen supplementation is effective for hair health. This is likely because unlike the skin in which collagen is a primary component, the hair is primarily comprised of keratin. However, it is unclear if collagen has any impact on the scalp, and if supplementation would lead to an improvement in the appearance of the hair at all.

Because collagen is a naturally occurring component of the body it is suspected that it is largely safe for consumption. But, as you have seen me discuss in my book, supplements are not regulated by the FDA for safety. Therefore, further research is required to confirm if this is the case. As always if you decide to start any supplementation please discuss with your doctor.

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