collage synthesis and hair growth
collage synthesis and hair growth

WHAT IS COLLAGEN AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR OUR HAIR?

Collagen plays a major role in maintaining the function of the hair follicle, though a very small amount of collagen is found in the outer layers of the hair fibre. Collagen is part of the extracellular matrix that surround the dermal papilla of the hair follicle acting as a scaffold for the hair follicle.

The dermal papilla is the area of the hair follicle where immature keratin cells develop from stem cells before they go on to divide, grow, die and harden, eventually becoming the rigid material that we see growing out of the scalp.

There are many different types of collagen in the body, the collagen found in the scalp is Type I collagen.  Collagen has an unusual amino acid composition, glycine makes up around a third of the protein and proline makes up around a sixth of the protein.

Collagen is not only a structural protein, it plays a key role in the hair fibre traits, cell adhesion, regulation of local tissue.

IS SUPPLEMENTING COLLAGEN WORTHWHILE OR NOT?

Collagen as a hair and beauty supplement as some challenges due to the biochemistry of collagen and the hydrolysation process.  As collagen is a relatively large molecule, it must be broken down its constituent amino acids to be bioavailable in the gut when taken in pill or powder form.

When these collagen peptides are absorbed, the body processes these amino acids (mainly lysine, glycine and proline) and releases them in the blood stream for transport to cells and tissues. They will be used as building blocks for biological structures…but not necessarily for the collagen that surround our hair follicles.

While it is possible that ingesting hydrolysed collagen can help you build up your own collagen reserves, the process required to build collagen requires a number of steps and the availability of specific cofactors.

COLLAGEN BUILDING BLOCKS AND COFACTORS

As the body needs more than just amino acids derived from collagen to synthesise new collagen, it is imperative you provide your body with the necessary cofactors to build new collagen.

Iron – Iron participates in collagen synthesis though it’s interaction with enzymes involved in the building collagen. Research has shown that removal of iron inhibits prolyl 4-hydroxylase, a key enzyme in collagen synthesis [1].  Thus, iron deficiency or iron deficiency anaemia will affect collagen synthesis.

Vitamin C – Vitamin C plays a crucial role in the maintenance of the normal collagen network by inhibiting the breakdown of collagen and act as an electron donor to enzymes that add a hydroxyl group to lysine and proline.

This hydroxyl addition posttranslationally alters lysine to hydroxylysine and proline hydroxyproline.  This hydroxylation process is what allows collagen to assume its three dimensional structure.

Silicon – Biological silicon is shown to stimulate Type I synthesis.  Silicon is important for the activation of hydroxylation enzymes neccessary for collagen formation[2].

Zinc – Increasing zinc intake will stabilise lives of cortisol over time leading to a slower breakdown of collagen.  Zinc also plays a reparative role and administration of zinc has been shown to increase collagen accumulation.

Copper – Copper is needed for the activation of lysyl oxidase.  Active lysyl oxidase is needed for collagen maturation and enables cross-linking of collagen fibres with other supportive networks [3].

THE FINAL WORD

Collagen is essential for the housing of the hair follicle structure.  Adding collagen to your diet may help support hair health but will not help when other nutritional deficiencies are present.  Attempting a more holistic approach by incorporating vitamin and mineral supplements alongside extra collagen is more likely to get you closer to your hair goals than collagen supplementation alone.

REFERENCES

  1. Ikeda, H., Wu, G.Y. and Wu, C.H., 1992. Evidence that an iron chelator regulates collagen synthesis by decreasing the stability of procollagen mRNA. Hepatology, 15(2), pp.282-287.
  2. Araújo, L.A.D., Addor, F. and Campos, P.M.B.G.M., 2016. Use of silicon for skin and hair care: an approach of chemical forms available and efficacy. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia, 91(3), pp.331-335.
  3. Araújo, L.A.D., Addor, F. and Campos, P.M.B.G.M., 2016. Use of silicon for skin and hair care: an approach of chemical forms available and efficacy. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia, 91(3), pp.331-335.