Have you ever wished there was a magic potion to give you radiant skin, thick hair, and strong nails? Collagen might be the secret to achieving that.
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our body and the main component of connective tissue (which is found in joints, tendons, blood vessels, and more). It plays an important role in maintaining skin, hair, and nail health.
As we age, our bodies produce less collagen, leading to dehydrated skin, brittle nails, and joint pain. Over the past few years, collagen supplements have gained popularity due to their ability to promote beautiful and healthy skin, nails, and hair.
In this article, we will explore the benefits of collagen supplementation for skin, nails, and hair, and why you should consider adding collagen to your daily diet.
Collagen is categorised into 26 types, which are grouped into eight families according to their structures. Among the classifications, types I, II, and III are the most abundant and constitute around 90% of the collagen content in your body.1
Type I is the most common. It is found in all connective tissues, including arteries, ligaments, tendons, bones, and skin. It enhances skin elasticity and reduces wrinkle formation.1,2
Type ll is found in joints and intervertebral discs (which lie between vertebrae (spine bones) and provide cushioning to the spinal column). It maintains healthy joints.1,3
Type lll is found in the skin and blood vessels and is important for skin health.1
The use of collagen supplements has increased significantly over recent years. Most are hydrolysed, meaning the collagen has been broken down to make it easier to absorb.4 Collagen supplements are available in powder form and capsules. The supplements vary in their collagen content. Some contain one or two types, while others might contain up to five types.
Benefits of collagen
Collagen is the main component of the skin. It's essential for maintaining healthy skin by promoting its hydration and elasticity. As you age, collagen production in your body declines, resulting in the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. This is where collagen supplements can be used to enhance skin health.
Reducing wrinkles and fine lines
Ageing, unhealthy diet, sun exposure, and pollution can all affect collagen levels in the skin. Reduced collagen leads to wrinkles and fine lines forming on the face. Using collagen supplements can slow their appearance and keep your skin smooth and young for longer.5,6
Improving skin tone
The amino acids present in collagen aid in reducing skin hyperpigmentation and keep the skin looking smooth, even, and healthy. In addition, collagen supplements promote the production of other proteins, elastin and fibrillin, which help structure the skin and maintain elasticity.5,6
Minimising scar formation
The amino acids in collagen can also help reduce the appearance of dark spots and scars from acne. Collagen supplements have been found to speed up the wound-healing process by promoting healthy tissue formation.
Additionally, there are some claims that collagen supplements might help prevent acne formation; however, no scientific evidence supports this.5,6
Improving skin hydration
Losing collagen due to ageing or environmental factors increases skin dryness and flakiness. However, collagen supplements can improve skin hydration by retaining moisture, resulting in smooth and soft skin.5,6
Collagen plays an essential role in nail health by improving blood flow to the nail bed and providing the nails with the necessary structure and strength. In advanced age, the nails become weak and brittle and tend to break easily, resulting in infections and nail damage. Collagen supplements can help to strengthen the nails and prevent damage by:
Promoting healthy nail growth
In a 2017 study, people with brittle nail syndrome (a disorder where nails can’t retain moisture or grow easily) took daily collagen supplements. After 24 weeks, nail growth had increased by 12%.7
Reducing brittle nails
In the same study, taking collagen supplements resulted in 42% less nail breakage. Collagen improves nail hydration and increases moisture content, which protects the nails from becoming dry and brittle.7
Collagen supplements are not only beneficial to skin and nails, but also to the hair. Collagen maintains healthy and long hair by:
Preventing hair loss
Collagen reduces hair loss and promotes hair growth by improving blood flow to hair follicles. In addition, collagen contains amino acids that are essential for the formation of keratin, an important component of hair follicles. This helps strengthen the hair follicles, enhance hair growth, and improve overall hair health.8
Reducing grey hair
Collagen reduces the appearance of grey hair by maintaining the healthy structure of hair follicles and protecting the cells from free radical damage. The pigment that gives hair colour is produced in the hair follicles, so applying collagen cream to the scalp can make grey hair look darker and less dry. In addition, collagen supplements prevent age-related hair thinning and discolouration.9
Repairing hair damage
Ageing, dry air, pollution, and other factors can make hair thin, brittle, and prone to breakage. Collagen can strengthen the hair and repair damage by maintaining a healthy level of hydration and decreasing split ends.8
Other health benefits
Collagen supplements have other health benefits, including:
Promoting heart health
Collagen supplements decrease the risk of heart conditions, such as atherosclerosis (narrowed arteries due to fatty substances building up), heart attacks, and strokes. Collagen keeps the arteries (blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body) elastic and flexible. Thus, a lack of collagen results in arteries narrowing and increases the incidence of heart conditions.10
Preventing bone loss
Bones are mostly made of collagen, which gives them structure and strength. When collagen decreases with age, bone mass deteriorates, resulting in osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a condition characterised by low bone density and an increased risk of fractures. According to studies, collagen supplements can reduce the risk of osteoporosis by increasing the levels of collagen and inhibiting bone breakdown.11,12
Relieving joint pain
Collagen maintains the integrity of cartilage (tissue that protects joints and bones). When collagen levels decline, the risk of degenerative joint disorders, such as osteoarthritis, increases. However, collagen supplements can aid in reducing joint pain and improving overall symptoms of osteoarthritis.11,12,13,14
Foods that contain collagen
Collagen can be obtained from animal and plant sources. The most common animal sources are beef, chicken, and fish.
- Bone broth is a rich source of collagen. It is made by simmering animal bones and ligaments for a long period of time.1
- Chicken skin and connective tissues are great sources of collagen. Types I, II, III, and V are found in chickens’ necks. Type IX comes from breastbone cartilage in chicken embryos.15 Types I and III are found in the skin, and type IV is found in muscle.1,16
- Fish is an excellent source of collagen. Unlike other animal sources, fish collagen is stored in the skin and scales. In addition, fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.1
Vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis. Thus, eating food rich in vitamin C encourages your body to produce collagen. These foods include citrus fruits and berries, and vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and cauliflower.1
How long does it take for collagen to take effect?
Improvements in skin, hair, nails, and joint health may become noticeable after at least eight weeks of regular collagen supplementation. However, results might take 12 weeks or longer depending on personal factors like age, nutritional status, and overall health.17
Side effects and other concerns
In general, collagen supplements are safe and not associated with serious side effects.18 However, some people report mild digestive side effects like bloating, heartburn, and nausea.19 In addition, some individuals might be allergic or sensitive to certain types of collagen; therefore, they should avoid taking supplements containing that type.
Most collagen supplements contain additional ingredients other than collagen, such as herbs or vitamins. If you're allergic to any of these ingredients or taking medications that could interact with these ingredients, make sure to speak to your doctor before taking any supplements. You should also consult your doctor before starting supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Collagen is a protein that plays an essential role in maintaining healthy skin, hair, nails, joints, and bones. As we age, the body produces less collagen, leading to skin dehydration, brittle nails, and joint pain. To compensate for this decrease, we need to obtain collagen from external sources such as foods and supplements.
Collagen supplements are associated with numerous health benefits. Supplements may reduce wrinkles, prevent hair loss, maintain strong nails, and relieve joint pain. Although certain foods have a high collagen content, it's unknown whether they provide the same benefits as supplements.
Collagen supplements are safe and easy to use; however, it's important to consult your doctor if you have certain medical conditions or allergies.
- Avila Rodríguez MI, Rodríguez Barroso LG, Sánchez ML. Collagen: A review on its sources and potential cosmetic applications. J Cosmet Dermatol [Internet]. 2018 Feb [cited 2023 May 10];17(1):20–6. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29144022/
- Rico-Llanos GA, Borrego-González S, Moncayo-Donoso M, Becerra J, Visser R. Collagen type i biomaterials as scaffolds for bone tissue engineering. Polymers [Internet]. 2021 Jan [cited 2023 May 10];13(4):599. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/2073-4360/13/4/599
- Prabhoo R, Billa G. Undenatured collagen type II for the treatment of osteoarthritis: a review. International Journal of Research in Orthopaedics [Internet]. 2018 Aug 25 [cited 2023 May 10];4(5):684–9. Available from: https://www.ijoro.org/index.php/ijoro/article/view/798
- León-López A, Morales-Peñaloza A, Martínez-Juárez VM, Vargas-Torres A, Zeugolis DI, Aguirre-Álvarez G. Hydrolyzed collagen—sources and applications. Molecules [Internet]. 2019 Jan [cited 2023 May 10];24(22):4031. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/24/22/4031
- Reilly DM, Lozano J. Skin collagen through the lifestages: importance for skin health and beauty. Plastic and Aesthetic Research [Internet]. 2021 Jan 8 [cited 2023 May 10];8:2. Available from: https://parjournal.net/article/view/3863
- Papaiordanou F, de-Oliveira GP, Hexsel D, Vattimo ACA. Colágeno e pele: da estrutura às evidências de sua suplementação oral. Surgical & Cosmetic Dermatology [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 May 10];14(0):1–9. Available from: http://www.surgicalcosmetic.org.br/details/949/en-US/collagen-and-skin--from-the-structure-to-scientific-evidence-of-oral-supplementation
- Collagen: a review of clinical use and efficacy [Internet]. Nutritional Medicine Institute. 2022 [cited 2023 May 10]. Available from: https://www.nmi.health/collagen-a-review-of-clinical-use-and-efficacy/
- Hwang SB, Park HJ, Lee BH. Hair-growth-promoting effects of the fish collagen peptide in human dermal papilla cells and c57bl/6 mice modulating wnt/β-catenin and bmp signaling pathways. International Journal of Molecular Sciences [Internet]. 2022 Jan [cited 2023 May 10];23(19):11904. Available from: https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/23/19/11904
- Liu Y, Ho C, Wen D, Sun J, Huang L, Gao Y, et al. Targeting the stem cell niche: role of collagen XVII in skin aging and wound repair. Theranostics [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 May 10];12(15):6446–54. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36185608/
- Tomosugi N, Yamamoto S, Takeuchi M, Yonekura H, Ishigaki Y, Numata N, et al. Effect of collagen tripeptide on atherosclerosis in healthy humans. J Atheroscler Thromb [Internet]. 2017 May 1 [cited 2023 May 10];24(5):530–8. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5429168/
- Porfírio E, Fanaro GB. Collagen supplementation as a complementary therapy for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis: a systematic review. Rev bras geriatr gerontol [Internet]. 2016 Feb [cited 2023 May 10];19:153–64. Available from: http://www.scielo.br/j/rbgg/a/fk95TfhxB7mPsmqYRDdHH8K/?lang=en
- König D, Oesser S, Scharla S, Zdzieblik D, Gollhofer A. Specific collagen peptides improve bone mineral density and bone markers in postmenopausal women—a randomized controlled study. Nutrients [Internet]. 2018 Jan 16 [cited 2023 May 10];10(1):97. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793325/
- Li YS, Xiao WF, Luo W. Cellular aging towards osteoarthritis. Mech Ageing Dev [Internet]. 2017 Mar [cited 2023 May 10];162:80–4. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28049007/
- Khatri M, Naughton RJ, Clifford T, Harper LD, Corr L. The effects of collagen peptide supplementation on body composition, collagen synthesis, and recovery from joint injury and exercise: a systematic review. Amino Acids [Internet]. 2021 Oct [cited 2023 May 10];53(10):1493–506. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34491424/
- Bruckner P, Vaughan L, Winterhalter KH. Type IX collagen from sternal cartilage of chicken embryo contains covalently bound glycosaminoglycans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A [Internet]. 1985 May [cited 2023 May 10];82(9):2608–12. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC397613/
- Schwartz SR, Hammon KA, Gafner A, Dahl A, Guttman N, Fong M, et al. Novel hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract improves facial epidermis and connective tissue in healthy adult females: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Altern Ther Health Med [Internet]. 2019 Sep [cited 2023 May 10];25(5):12–29. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31221944/
- Choi FD, Sung CT, Juhasz MLW, Mesinkovsk NA. Oral collagen supplementation: a systematic review of dermatological applications. J Drugs Dermatol [Internet]. 2019 Jan 1 [cited 2023 May 10];18(1):9–16. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30681787/
- Al-Atif H. Collagen supplements for aging and wrinkles: a paradigm shift in the fields of dermatology and cosmetics. Dermatol Pract Concept [Internet]. 2022 Jan 1 [cited 2023 May 10];12(1):e2022018. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8824545/
- Moskowitz RW. Role of collagen hydrolysate in bone and joint disease. Semin Arthritis Rheum [Internet]. 2000 Oct [cited 2023 May 10];30(2):87–99. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11071580/