Collagen has been hailed as a natural, safe treatment for slow-growing or thinning hair. But does it actually work? We explore the potential benefits and drawbacks of using collagen for hair growth in this complete guide.
From the basics to clinical studies on effectiveness of collagen on hair growth and thickness, find out if taking collagen is truly effective for longer, thicker hair.
What Is Collagen?
Before we get into the effectiveness of collagen for hair growth, let’s talk about what collagen is. Collagen is a protein that is naturally synthesized by humans and animals.
This structural protein makes up anywhere from 25% to 35% of every mammal’s whole-body protein content! Collagen is the protein that makes up your skin, muscles, and connective tissues (like tendons and ligaments).
There’s more collagen in your body than any other protein – even keratin, the protein that makes up hair and nails – so it makes sense that people would consider taking collagen for hair growth.
Your body makes its own collagen, but the amount decreases about 1.5% every year after early adulthood.
On a microscopic level, collagen is made up of the same “stuff” as every other protein: Amino acids. These are the foundational building blocks of protein structures.
There are 19 different amino acids found in all forms of collagen, and hydroxyproline, glycine, and proline are the most abundant. When you take collagen supplements or consume it naturally, the proteins are broken down into those smaller amino acids so your body can use them wherever they’re needed most.
Usually, these aminos will go on to fortify protein-rich areas like the hair, skin, nails, muscles, and connective tissues. But contrary to popular belief, collagen isn’t actually found abundantly in hair.
There are small amounts of collagen found in the outer layer of the hair shaft, but it’s found in higher concentrations in the skin surrounding hair follicles. This is key to understanding how collagen can work to boost hair growth.
We’ll talk more about that next!
Is It Effective to Take Collagen for Hair Growth?
Hair growth is just one of the benefits people hope for when they take collagen supplements. Research indicates that collagen can be effective for hair growth, but the jury is still out on just how effective it may be.
So far, scientists have discovered that taking collagen for hair growth can work in a few ways. Let’s take a look at the different mechanisms collagen can use to be effective for hair growth.
Breaks Down into Amino Acids to Support Hair Growth
The first way collagen can support hair growth is by making specific amino acids available for use in the body. When you take a collagen supplement, your body will metabolize the protein in it to break it down into smaller amino acids.
Some of those amino acids can then be used to fortify the hair and hair follicles for improved hair growth. So when you take whole collagen and your body metabolizes it, it’s really like taking an amino acid supplement.
The collagen won’t remain whole after you ingest it – it’s always going to be broken down. The 3 main amino acids your body will take from collagen are proline, hydroxyproline, and glycine.
It just so happens that proline is also the main component of the protein that makes up your hair – keratin!
When you take a collagen supplement, your body is going to break it down to make lots of proline (along with glycine and hydroxyproline) available. And research says that extra proline can then be used to help your hair grow. Good news so far!
Prompts Your Body to Produce More Collagen
The second way collagen supplements can work to improve hair growth is by prompting the body to make more of its own collagen – and this is where things get really promising.
Remember that when you take a collagen supplement for hair growth, your system breaks it down into those smaller amino acids (mainly proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline).
When these broken-down proteins meet up with fibroblasts, the cells that make our collagen, they actually bind to the cells by docking like ships into the fibroblast cell receptors. And this is where the cool stuff happens.
When the collagen-making fibroblasts sense that amino acids have docked in their receptors, it actually signals them to start making more collagen. This means taking a collagen supplement can actually prompt your body to start making more of its own collagen. It’s like a two for one special!
Fights Free Radicals That Slow Hair Growth
Taking collagen can also help hair growth by fighting enemy free radicals in the body. Collagen is a type of antioxidant that destroys free radicals.
Free radicals are dangerous compounds in the body that degrade and harm your cells, DNA, and proteins over time. Increased free radicals can lead to slower or thinning hair growth, especially in older adults.
Lifestyle factors like stress, smoking, diet, alcohol and drug use, and pollutants can all lead to increased levels of free radicals. But research is showing that boosting your collagen levels can help fight the invasion of free radicals into healthy cells and tissue.
That includes your hair and scalp! Different types of collagen have been shown to act as antioxidants and fight off free radicals that harm cells and proteins. It can even delay hair graying!
What’s unclear is how effective a collagen supplement is as an antioxidant. This is because you can’t absorb whole collagen proteins – they must be broken down into amino acids before they can be used by your body.
However, when you consider the evidence that taking collagen supplements can boost your natural collagen production, it makes sense that taking collagen could indirectly lead to higher collagen levels and more antioxidant activity.
Helps Hair Follicles Stay in Anagen Growth Phase
Collagen has a fourth mechanism of action for hair growth. It can help your hair follicles stay in the anagen growth phase for a longer period. In short, taking collagen can help keep your natural hair growth process moving along smoothly.
If you feel your hair hasn’t been growing like usual, a boost in collagen could be the solution. High levels of collagen are found in the scalp and tissue around hair follicles.
When strands are in the anagen (growth) phase, more collagen builds up around each follicle to support and protect the growing hair bulb. Collagen loss happens during the catagen phase when hair growth slows and follicles physically shrink.
But increased collagen levels help pad and protect the follicles to support a re-entry to the anagen growth phase. By making more collagen available to your body, you set the stage for ideal hair growth conditions.
What Type of Collagen Helps Hair Growth?
Now that you know collagen can be very effective for hair growth in a few different ways, let’s talk about the different types of collagen. You’ve got lots of options here! You can choose to consume collagen through your diet or with supplements. And there are almost endless options for each.
Boost Collagen With Supplements
The easiest way to boost your collagen levels to pave the way for improved hair growth is to use collagen supplements. Collagen supplements are offered in pill, powder, or liquid form.
Most collagen supplements contain hydrolyzed collagen that has already been broken down into amino acids. Hydrolyzed collagen is better absorbed and more easily used by the body. Collagen supplements in pill form are the easiest to take.
These supplements can be taken with a glass of water or liquid and don’t need to be mixed into anything.
Popular collagen “pill” supplements include Folexin, which contains premium hydrolyzed collagen for improved absorption and hair growth, and Viviscal, which contains marine collagen that has been shown to be effective for hair growth.
The lowest price on Folexin. Period.
- Impressive 4.45-star average rating.
- Way more affordable than competitors.
- Impressive mix of natural ingredients.
- Unique blend of Biotin and Fo-Ti.
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- Diet changes can cause temporary bloating.
Collagen powders are another option. These supplements are sold in both flavorless and flavored varieties. You’ll scoop out a measured amount of powder and stir it into any liquid (hot or cold) to get a quick collagen boost.
We like Sports Research Collagen Peptides Powder (4.6 stars) the most for powdered collagen because it’s better absorbed and contains a whopping 11 grams of collagen per scoop.
Liquid collagen supplements are less common and more expensive than other forms, but still a good option for some. These supplements contain hydrolyzed collagen proteins suspended in a liquid, usually water, for fast consumption.
If you’re looking for a good liquid collagen supplement to try, check out Vital Proteins Strawberry Lemon Collagen Water. It contains 10 grams of collagen per serving and about 3 grams of sugar, plus comes in a variety of flavors.
A research review done in 2020 found that taking liquid collagen peptides for 4 months boosted hair cell growth by 31% and increased overall hair thickness and diameter.
The evidence definitely supports collagen supplementation for hair growth, as well as improved skin elasticity and firmness and nail strength. If you’re not sure which type of collagen supplement to take, start with a pill supplement that contains hydrolyzed collagen.
We’ve identified Folexin as the best hair growth supplement, and the collagen it contains is only part of what makes it so effective. It’s also packed with hair growth-boosting vitamins, minerals, and hormone-regulating plant extracts that are proven to increase hair growth.
Boost Collagen With Your Diet
You can get many of the hair growth benefits from collagen by adding more of it to your diet. This is an easy option that may be more accessible for those who don’t want to buy a supplement – or who want to double up on their collagen-boosting efforts by combining increased collagen intake with a supplement.
Collagen is found in the connective tissue of animals – skin, bone, muscle, tendon, and ligament tissue are all rich with collagen. You can get dietary collagen from common meat sources like chicken, beef, pork, and fish.
One of the best ways to add collagen to your diet is with bone broth. Bone broth is made with bones from animals, which contain lots of collagen and gelatin (the cooked form of collagen). Sip bone broth by itself or use it as a base for your favorite soups with an added collagen boost.
You can also up your intake of gelatin to increase your collagen levels. Gelatin is the cooked form of collagen, so you’ll get all the benefits of taking collagen by introducing more gelatin into your diet.
Research has also shown that increasing your vitamin C intake through your diet can increase your natural collagen production. To boost your own collagen levels naturally, look for foods high in vitamin C, like:
- Bell peppers
- Snow peas
Adding vitamin C-rich foods to your diet is a good idea whether you’re taking a collagen supplement with it or not. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron better, which is a key component in hair growth.
How Long Does It Take for Collagen to Work for Hair Growth?
Once you start taking collagen for hair growth, how long does it take to start working? It’s a good idea to have accurate expectations so you’ll know what kind of results to expect and when to expect them.
The current research says you should start to see results within 4 weeks of taking collagen supplements or increasing your collagen intake significantly. The most impactful results won’t become visible until week 12 (about 3 months).
Another study that looked specifically at collagen supplements for hair growth found that results became measurable and visible after 4-8 weeks of supplementation. Participants in the trial said they started seeing improved hair results by week 2, but clinical evidence didn’t support this until week 4 of the trial.
While a month is the average time it will take to start seeing visible results, the strength of your collagen supplement or amount you’re taking in through your diet is definitely a factor. We’ll talk about that next.
How Much Daily Collagen Do You Need for Hair Growth?
Figuring out how much collagen you’ll need to take on a daily basis is the next step to improving your hair growth. Unfortunately, since the research in this area is somewhat new, there are no true official guidelines on collagen daily values.
However, there are some general guidelines to follow to ensure you’re getting enough collagen each day to see results. If you’re taking collagen for hair growth, you’ll need anywhere from 2.5 grams to 15 grams of collagen peptides each day.
It’s okay to take less, but keep in mind that hitting somewhere between 2.5 and 15 grams of collagen per day will get you the results you want faster.
Some collagen products will contain your entire daily amount in one serving. Others will require that you take 2 or more “doses” (capsules, pills, gummies, drink packets, bottles, etc.) each day to get your recommended collagen amounts.
Pay close attention to the serving size and the number of collagen grams in each. We recommend talking to your doctor before starting a collagen supplementation routine or trying any new supplement.
Is Taking Collagen Safe?
Taking collagen is considered safe and has very few adverse reactions. If you take too much collagen, you may experience one of the following mild side effects:
- Bad aftertaste that lingers
- Stomach pain or discomfort
- An unpleasant feeling of fullness
If you do experience any adverse side effects after beginning a collagen supplement routine, stop using it immediately and talk to your doctor.
Things to Consider
We’ve looked at the science behind collagen for hair growth so you can determine if supplementing with this natural protein is a good idea for you.
So far, we’ve looked at what collagen is, the different ways taking collagen supplements can be effective for hair growth, and what types of collagen supplements can best support hair growth.
Then, we talked about how long it takes to see results (4-12 weeks) and how much you need on a daily basis to get results (2.5 to 15 grams/day). Now, let’s look at a few more things to consider so you can decide if taking collagen for hair growth is right for you.
- Look for high quality collagen supplements. Collagen supplements are one thing you can’t cheap out on. If you want ideal hair growth results, you need high quality hydrolyzed collagen peptides from sources you can trust. We like Folexin because it contains not just collagen, but a whole slew of essential vitamins, minerals, and effective plant extracts to supercharge hair growth. It’s one of the best collagen hair growth supplements you can take.
- Double team with supplements and diet. If you really want to boost your collagen levels for the best hair results, try working more collagen into your diet while supplementing with collagen. If your supplement doesn’t contain at least 2.5 grams of collagen per serving, adding collagen-rich foods like meat, gelatin, and bone broth can make up the difference.
- Be patient when waiting for results. Once you start supplementing with collagen, your results will not be immediate. Be patient and keep taking your supplement consistently for at least 4 weeks. The best results won’t be apparent until around 12 weeks, so buckle down and know your patience will pay off! It may be helpful to take reference photos every 2 weeks to track your hair’s progress. You may see unexpected skin and nail benefits, too!
- Try other natural remedies for hair loss. If hair loss and thinning is what led you to research collagen, there’s no reason to limit yourself to this protein only. Use it in conjunction with other proven remedies for hair loss to increase your results! Hair loss shampoo, proven-effective oils for hair growth, and hair products that can thicken hair are all great and cost-effective options.
Collagen for Hair Growth: A Summary
To sum it all up, yes, collagen can be beneficial for hair growth. It’s a lot like turning back the clock on aging.
From priming the body to produce thicker, healthier hair and providing the “ingredients” (amino acids) needed for hair growth, you should see real hair growth results when you start supplementing with collagen.
It’s also great for skin and nails, healing wounds faster, joint health and arthritis, weight regulation, increasing muscle mass, and even guarding against osteoporosis for healthier, stronger bones. If you’ve been thinking about adding collagen to your daily routine for improved hair growth, talk to your doctor and get started!
This natural supplement can help you turn back time to achieve healthy, thick, and longer hair within a month or two. You’re going to love what collagen does for your hair – and the other body benefits it provides!