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Collagen for skin, hair and nails: Does it work?

First impressions matter. How good our skin, hair and nails look not only gives us confidence, but can tell a lot about our overall health. And as well as being what the rest of the world sees of us, our skin, hair and nails are the body’s only natural protective barriers. So they need strength - which is where collagen comes in.

Collagen acts in several ways to boost skin, hair and nails. 90% of the protein in your skin is type 1 collagen, including 70% of the dermis layer. Hydrolysed collagen peptides can be taken up and used directly by the body - glycine for skin, proline for hair, but taking collagen with vitamin C also helps stimulate the fibroblasts under the skin to produce their own collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid, all of which help support more elastic, hydrated and plump skin with fewer fine lines and wrinkles.

The specific amino acids in collagen can also help guard against and improve brittle nails, although we’re not sure if that’s because of the direct effect of the amino acids in collagen itself, or because of its messenger effect whereby it stimulates the nail matrix to grow. Helping yourself from the inside out is always going to be more powerful than any topical product or procedure.

Forming up to 90% of the protein content in our connective tissue, type 1 collagen contains several amino acids, but there are three in particular that have been shown to directly support growth and repair in the hair, skin and nails. This becomes progressively more important as we age, for reasons we explain below.

Collagen for skin

Type 1 collagen works alongside hyaluronic acid, elastin, certain minerals and essential fats to give skin its elasticity and firmness. Interestingly, there’s a clever feedback loop where the natural production of collagen stimulates the production of more hyaluronic acid, which in turn stimulates collagen production again. So the longer we can encourage the body to keep churning out collagen, the better.

Collagen and ageing

As we age, we can no longer keep up with the body’s demand for new or even maintenance levels of collagen. Collagen production starts to decrease by about 1% a year from the age of 25 or so, and this speeds up dramatically during our 40s and 50s. This is why skin starts to develop wrinkles, lose elasticity and show visible signs of ageing.

What causes our skin collagen levels to decrease?

Aside from ageing, collagen may also be damaged by our food and lifestyle choices. High sugar levels in our diet can cause collagen to harden or break down, which in turn can weaken the dermal foundation of the skin and lead to premature ageing. Similarly, smoking cigarettes decreases the amount of oxygen to the skin and is a big reason for collagen damage. And sadly UV rays from too much sun can cause a rapid deterioration in collagen levels and a decrease in collagen structure.

How to increase collagen in the skin

By combining hydrolysed, highly absorbable collagen with vitamin C, we provide the amino acid peptides that can help replenish collagen stores and even help the skin regain elasticity, hydration and firmness.

It’s thought that the collagen stimulates the formation of a cluster of cells called fibroblasts which help replace dead skin cells and allow new ones to grow. In one study using a 1 gram daily marine collagen supplement for 12 weeks, skin hydration, wrinkling and elasticity all improved dramatically when compared against the placebo group.

There’s also another benefit. The vitamin C encourages the body to increase its own collagen production, which in turn stimulates the hyaluronic acid. Finally, the glycine in collagen can help promote better sleep. And a good night’s sleep will definitely help our skin glow!

Collagen for hair and nails

We know how important collagen is to the body. But if you’re allocating out declining collagen stores, hair and nails won’t be top of the list. The body recognises that maintaining the arteries, bones and connective tissues are that bit more important. So as we age, hair might start to thin or lose its texture and nails might become brittle and grow more slowly. 

Research has shown that collagen is directly deposited in the hair follicles, so by providing that boost of additional collagen peptides, we can support hair growth while the body uses its own collagen production for the more important organs. 

It’s the same for the nails. By supplementing with the necessary amino acid peptides, the body has enough collagen available to guard against or improve brittle nails from the inside out. In one study, participants who took a 2.5 gram daily liquid collagen supplement for 24 weeks enjoyed a 12% increase in nail growth and a 42% drop in broken nails.

References

1Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study

2. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials

3. Decreased collagen production in chronologically aged skin: roles of age-dependent alteration in fibroblast function and defective mechanical stimulation

4. Oral Intake of Low-Molecular-Weight Collagen Peptide Improves Hydration, Elasticity, and Wrinkling in Human Skin: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study

5. Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails

Collagen for skin, hair and nails: Does it work?

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