You might see collagen on the label of many products you use such as lotions and cosmetics. What’s more, if you stroll down the aisle in the health store, you’ll see many brands of collagen supplements. But, what is collagen and why is there so much buzz about it?
Introduction to Collagen Benefits for Skin and Hair
First, you won’t find a more abundant protein in our bodies. Collagen is a part of your bones, blood vessels, digestive system, muscles, and tendons. It also keeps our skin strong and resilient while replacing dead skin cells.
Unfortunately, when we age, our body’s ability to produce collagen naturally slows down over time. Then, we begin to slowly notice aching joints and start to see more wrinkles in the mirror.
Other contributing factors to a decline in natural collagen production are smoking, overexposure to the sun, and consuming too much sugar in our diets.
The Nutritional Facts About Collagen
Collagen contains 19 different amino acids, so its reference as a complex protein is no surprise. Moreover, these complex proteins are comprised of both essential and nonessential (conditional) types.
What are Nonessential and Essential Amino Acids?
Before we go any further, let’s take time to define “nonessential amino acid” and “essential amino acid.” These are the various amino acids that synthesize in the body or that the body derives from itself. On the other hand, an essential amino acid is one for which the body needs supplementation to achieve and maintain healthy levels. This information helps you achieve the right balance of collagen benefits for skin and hair.
The Three Amino Acid Chains in Collagen
Collagen has three chains that wind in a tight triple helix with each chain being over 1,400 amino acids long. The primary amino acids are proline and glycine. Unfortunately, in a western diet comprised primarily of animal meat as a source of protein, the body can’t produce enough nonessential amino acids on its own. This is where the term “nonessential” is a little misleading because supplementation is still necessary if your body doesn’t get the right food.
Here is a look at the most abundant amino acids found within collagen and an outline of their individual benefits.
Additionally, you’ve probably heard about gelatin and its excellent protein benefits. In fact, the gelatin comes from collagen. In other words, when collagen breaks down it becomes gelatin. That is exactly what happens when you cook bone broth – you break down the collagen in the bones which then become gelatin.
Details of Collagen Benefits for Skin and Hair
What Does Collagen Do for Skin?
Improves Skin Resiliency
The number one benefit of collagen is in its ability to improve our skin. However, as the body naturally ages, it produces less and less collagen. In fact, after the age of 20, collagen reduces at a rate of 12% per decade.
Unfortunately, that has an adverse effect on our skin. That’s when we start to see more wrinkles, our skin gets looser, and it has less resiliency or elasticity. Increasing your collagen intake improves your skin. It begins to look firmer and smoother while the skin cells start renewing and repairing at a more productive rate.
Reduces Cellulite and Stretch Marks
Supplementation of collagen also reduces cellulite and stretch marks. This is good to know because cellulite becomes more visible due to thinning skin as we age. Not to mention the stretch marks become more visible as well. However, supplementing your diet with collagen-rich food and supplements helps make your skin healthier and more resilient.
Studies About Collagen Benefits for Skin
In a controlled 2014 study, women took 2.5 grams of collagen daily for eight weeks. The study shows significant improvements to skin elasticity, skin moisture, and skin evaporation. What’s more, the study noted no side effects whatsoever.
Other studies suggest that collagen protects the skin from both UVA and UVB damage. It also shows improvements to elasticity, moisture, and smoothness of the skin.
Collagen for Hair Growth
What is Keratin?
Hair is largely comprised of Keratin which is a protein that is built from the amino acids in collagen. The primary component of keratin is the amino acid proline (shown in the table above.) Collagen is naturally rich in this and other amino acids that the body uses to produce higher levels of keratin.
Fights Damage to Follicles
Free radicals are reactive molecules that damage DNA, lipids, and proteins. In turn, these free radicals damage hair follicles. Some studies show that collagen, especially from fish scales might act as an antioxidant that fights these free radicals. This suggests that using collagen for hair growth is a sound choice.
Hair Thinning Prevention
Your dermis is the middle layer of skin containing the roots of your hair. It depends on collagen for elasticity and strength. However, when collagen levels decrease the result is often thinning hair. The point is that because hair grows out of our skin, collagen for hair growth supplements also contributes to a decrease in thinning hair.
Collagen for Skin and Hair Side Effects
Check the Source of Your Collagen
It is rare for people to get allergies from the collagen itself, however, you might have an adverse reaction because of the source of the collagen. For instance, if you are allergic to fish, don’t purchase collagen that comes from that source.
To avoid this, do your research and always consult with your medical professional before adding any supplement to your daily regimen.
Read the Labels Thoroughly
Not all manufacturers disclose every ingredient or source of those ingredients on their labels. However, it is wise to stay away from supplements that have secret ingredients. Additionally, it is always wise to use organic products whenever possible.
Mask the Bad Flavor or Aftertaste
Mixing collagen powder with bullion helps mask the bad flavor of most collagen powders. You may also mix it with milk or juice if you prefer. Of course, the slightly unpleasant taste is more of an inconvenience than a side effect.
Possibility of Calcium Overload
Because many sources of collagen are shellfish or shark cartilage which contain abundant levels of calcium, there is a possibility of calcium overload. The symptoms of calcium overload include abnormal heartbeats, fatigue, and nausea.
However, this only happens when you take much more than the recommended dosage, so again, be sure to read your labels. This is important to note because one study shows that 68 percent of Americans do not get the recommended amount of calcium from their food intake.
Skin Irritation from Topical Use
When used topically, please read the ingredients on the manufacturer’s labels. With so many collagen enhanced lotions and creams, it’s hard to know which one to buy. The problem is that these lotions are also loaded with other ingredients. Check those ingredients closely because they are more likely to be the cause of the skin irritation than the collagen itself.
In addition, the molecules in most lotions and creams are far too large to penetrate the skin. Therefore, you’re better off going with the tablets and powder supplements.
Collagen Benefits Review
You may purchase collagen in a tablet or powder, but, you can also make your own bone broth at home. It is also in lots of lotions, creams, and powders, but the molecules in these products are too large to absorb properly into your skin. So, save your money and purchase the broths and supplements instead.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.