Every part of you that requires elasticity and flexibility relies on collagen. At the molecular level, collagen forms tough structures that does everything from build blood vessels and tendons to cushion your joints (1). Our bodies produce the collagen we need, but this slows as we get older—hello, wrinkles and joint pain!
Dull, thin hair can also be a side effect of aging or stress. Hair is made from keratin, another protein our bodies manufacture. Collagen and keratin share some component amino acids, which may be one factor in collagen’s use in supporting healthy-looking hair. The fact is that scientists are still working to understand the relationship between collagen supplements and hair, but here’s what we do know.
Collagen may improve hair thickness and appearance
A double-blind study showed a collagen-containing supplement didn’t just stop hair loss, it helped regrow hair. More women who received the study medication showed improved hair volume and scalp coverage after three months of treatment, and they also perceived an improvement in hair shine and moisture (2). Although this study didn’t suggest a cause for this correlation, another study (3) showed an “essential relationship” between the extracellular matrix—which contains collagen—and hair follicle regeneration. The study concluded that the nature of this relationship suggests collagen as a potential therapy for hair loss. While scientists are still deciphering how it works, these studies support what many people already know from experience: collagen supplements may deliver thicker, healthier-looking hair in addition to many other benefits.
Collagen may reduce graying
Did your mother ever claim you were giving her gray hair? It’s possible she wasn’t wrong.
Oxidative stress (4) is a term that means there’s an imbalance between free radicals and your body’s ability to neutralize these unstable molecules. Many of us know first-hand that stress affects our health. Specifically, life stress can cause oxidative stress (5), and then hair can indeed lose its pigment thanks to oxidative stress (6). Sorry, mom!
Environmental factors like smoking, sun damage, and air pollutants, and poor diet can also create free radicals and set them loose on our cells. And aging reduces our natural defenses against them. So while gray hair is a natural result of getting older, factors ranging from life stress to pollution can speed up the process.
However, test-tube studies show collagen is a powerful anti-oxidant that can counteract damaging free radicals (7). We already know that collagen supports healthy follicles, but its antioxidant properties may also, in theory, slow down the graying associated with getting older.
Collagen may offer long-lasting benefits
One study on the effects of collagen supplements found that the study’s participants observed continuing effects twelve weeks after the eight-week study (8). Life gets busy, and you can know that you won’t immediately lose the gains you see from a consistent collagen routine.
Bonus: Collagen is supremely easy to add to your diet
As a supplement, collagen is flavorless and odorless. Add it to soups, smoothies, or even supercharge your morning coffee. And with the exception of some forms of marine collagen for people with fish allergies, collagen is usually well tolerated with no side effects.
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