Could there be a way to help regain some of the lustre of youthful hair, skin and nails as we get older?
What is collagen?
Collagen is a protein which occurs naturally in all animals and humans, making up around a third of the body’s total protein.1
From your tendons to your gums – most hard and soft tissues in your body are primarily made up of collagen protein. However, collagen is perhaps best known for its potential beauty benefits.
Why is collagen a buzzword in beauty?
Collagen is naturally present in the hair, skin and nails, and the health of these things is dependent on their collagen content. The more collagen they contain – the better!
Collagen acts as a kind of springy scaffold for your skin – holding it together, giving it structure and allowing it to bounce back after injury.2 Collagen also has a hand in scalp health, helping hair grow strong and thick, and keeping nails from splitting and flaking.
Chemically speaking, collagen is made up of strong strands of amino acids which are bound tightly together in a rope-like chain.3
These strong chains are what give young, healthy skin its resilience and plumpness. Babies, children and teenagers produce collagen at a rapid rate as they grow. This is one reason their skin is so smooth and wrinkle-free.
Unfortunately, as we age, our bodies slowly produce less and less collagen and the effects are reflected in the visible signs of chronological ageing. These include wrinkles, sagging skin, thinning hair and weak, brittle nails.4
But is it possible to replace the collagen we lose as we get older?
Well, not exactly. However, if you want to help protect the structure of your skin, minimise the appearance of fine lines and maintain the health of your hair and nails, collagen supplements might be able to help.
Collagen supplements contain collagen protein which has been broken down into shorter chains of amino acids, known as collagen peptides. These peptides are thought to stimulate the natural collagen production in the body, leading to visible and tangible results over time.5
What’s in collagen supplements?
Collagen supplements are available as collagen pills, collagen shots, liquid collagen, collagen powder, collagen serum, and collagen cream. There are even collagen powders that can be added to drinks.
There are three main types of collagen. Type I is considered the best type for beauty as that’s the type known to be naturally present in hair, skin and nails.6 Type I collagen is most abundant in marine collagen, which comes from the bones, skin and scales of fish and other sea life.
What’s the evidence?
It can be difficult to keep track of the trends in wellness – and so-called ‘nutricosmetics’ be especially confusing with their blend of science and beauty.7 It’s easy to be sceptical, but the evidence behind collagen for skin and as a beauty aid is surprisingly solid.
Most research seems to have been conducted into the effects of collagen supplements on the skin. Evidence for hair and nails is less strong, but this might simply be because less research exists into these areas.
A 2019 clinical trial conducted in Germany showed significant improvements in skin hydration, elasticity, and density after twelve weeks of taking oral collagen.8
Hair & nails
An American study was published in 2014 which showed the potential for significant benefits of oral collagen on hair and nails. An oral supplement which included collagen (along with hyaluronic acid) was given daily to 54 women aged from 26 to 68. The results showed statistically significant improvement in nail cracking, nail brittleness, hair dullness, hair dryness, and nail softness after 8 weeks.9
Is collagen supplementation for you?
The passing of years will always show eventually, which isn’t a bad thing. With age comes confidence and wisdom you could only have dreamed of at age 19 – which is something to be celebrated!
However, the evidence for collagen supplementation is promising, and as collagen is a naturally-occurring substance within our bodies, it’s well-tolerated and very low-risk.10
So why not find out for yourself what collagen could do for your skin, hair and nails?
Last updated: 6 July 2020