Collagen is one of the essential amino acids that are crucial to the skin’s well-being. It’s the most abundant protein found in the body and is crucial in maintaining skin and hair growth. Collagen levels generally rise with someone’s diet and dip as they age, though some people choose to remedy this by taking collagen supplements.
But can too much collagen cause hair loss? Collagen supplements cannot cause hair loss, though too much collagen in the skin can cause another condition called scleroderma. While some collagen supplements can cause mild side effects depending on the patient, any hair loss is unrelated and can be symptomatic of a more serious issue.
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Collagen comprises one-third of the body’s total stores of protein and is the major building block of skin, muscles, and hair. The body naturally produces collagen by breaking it down from usual food proteins, though lately, collagen-infused supplements have been growing in popularity as a way to boost the body’s supply.
There are three important roles that collagen often fills:
More collagen in the skin increases its elasticity and water content, which prevents both dry skin and wrinkles. Well-hydrated skin is more likely to withstand the usual wear and tear it experiences as people go about their day, is less likely to experience issues like acne breakouts, and helps the skin keep its structure.
Because collagen is also an integral part of muscle tissue, it also helps with protecting joints and vulnerable internal organs from impacts. Studies have suggested that collagen deposits in the cartilage can help trigger a loop that stimulates the bone to produce more collagen. This can help treat chronic conditions like joint pain.
Collagen may also help prevent or reduce the symptoms of osteoporosis, especially with older patients. Because collagen makes up so much of the bones in the body, researchers have suggested that older individuals can greatly benefit from collagen supplements. In particular, clinical trials that have combined collagen supplements with calcium have shown promising results.
Aside from aesthetic treatments, collagen is also theorized to help with managing conditions like atherosclerosis, or the narrowing of arteries leading to the heart. Collagen helps the arteries around the heart maintain their structure, which reduces their stiffness. This can help reduce the risk of experiencing heart attacks.
A more direct way of replacing collagen in your skin is via collagen replacement therapy. Highly purified bovine collagen is injected directly into the skin, which can help reduce wrinkles, promote further collagen production, and improve the overall firmness and appearance of the skin.
Collagen is also one of the compounds used for major reconstructive surgery, as it’s a compatible substance that can be easily integrated with existing skin. Synthetic and animal-based derivatives of collagen are also biocompatible with the human body, which gives doctors and dermatologists plenty of options when using collagen for medical treatments.
Collagen is one of the building blocks that help produce keratin, the protein that makes up the hair. The more collagen the body has access to, the easier it will be for it to start hair regrowth. When collagen deposits in the scalp decline due to age, collagen supplements can help make up for the difference and keep hair growing.
Collagen also adds more volume to the hair, which keeps it healthy and shiny because of the steady production of sebum, or the oils found on the hair and scalp. This oil helps prevent dry and flaky hair, which is more prone to breaking or falling.
Finally, collagen also reduces the likelihood of hairs turning grey because of age. Collagen supplements usually contain powerful antioxidants that help eliminate free radicals (unstable atoms that damage cells) from the body. This helps preserve the melanin – the pigment that gives hair its color – in the body, which is the primary cause of graying hair.
Collagen has a variety of uses and a variety of types that can be found in the body and in supplements, but any side effects from taking collagen are minor. Most people who use collagen supplements don’t experience any side effects at all.
While collagen supplements may not cause hair fall, there is a specific medical condition that arises from having too much collagen in the body. Scleroderma (or systemic sclerosis) is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body starts destroying healthy tissue. This causes an overproduction of collagen in the skin, which can lead to several skin-related complications.
Scleroderma is relatively easy to spot, though it can be mistaken for milder skin conditions if not examined thoroughly. The most obvious sign of scleroderma is a thickening of the skin around bony areas and joints, which indicates that the disease is in its early stages.
Other signs of scleroderma include:
Since many of these symptoms can also be indicative of other skin problems and conditions, dermatologists must examine their patients thoroughly to ascertain the exact cause of their symptoms.
Like most autoimmune disorders, science still hasn’t determined the exact cause of scleroderma. However, patients are more likely to develop the condition if they are:
Currently, there is no way to prevent scleroderma.
The prognosis of scleroderma patients is relatively good, especially if the condition is caught early. While there may be no cure for scleroderma, it is possible to mitigate the symptoms and slow down any further complications.
Some treatment options for patients suffering from scleroderma include:
Because the symptoms can vary in severity, doctors may prescribe several treatments to reduce the symptoms of scleroderma and improve the patient’s quality of life.
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Outside of scleroderma, there are other reasons that someone may experience hair loss. Some causes of hair fall include:
Unhealthy diets can reduce the number of nutrients that hair follicles can use, which can weaken their roots and cause them to become more brittle as they grow. Because hair is directly affected by the nutrients available in our blood, malnutrition will negatively affect hair growth.
Malnutrition may also put the body at risk for developing conditions that can eventually lead to hair loss, like diabetes or high blood pressure. Medications used to treat these conditions can be extremely aggressive and often have hair loss as a side effect.
Studies have shown that the genes that can cause hair loss run in families, making it the most common cause of hair loss. While not a disease, hereditary pattern baldness can be aggressive or mild depending on the patient’s family history. The condition becomes more prevalent as people age, though factors like lifestyle and pre-existing conditions can hasten the occurrence of hair loss.
Fortunately, hereditary hair loss also means that the patient has an early warning to start with treatments that can help reduce or recover from the effects of hair fall. While the efficacy of these treatments will vary depending on the patients, there is an excellent chance of managing the symptoms of hair fall if the treatments are started early enough.
Using high heat when ironing hair, using strong shampoo, or coloring hair often can lead to a breakdown of the physical structure of hair strands, which makes them more prone to falling out. People with overly aggressive hair care routines are more likely to experience hair fall, especially if they already have thin hair to start with.
Improper hair care can also include wearing overly tight hair care accessories like beanies, ponytails, or scrunchies. Since the mechanical action of pulling can weaken the base of the hair follicles, consistent use can make hair fall more likely once these accessories are removed.
Hormonal imbalances are another culprit of hair fall, specifically if it’s caused by an overactive or underactive thyroid. Because hormones are behind many of the body’s usual functions, an imbalance in hormonal levels can trigger a variety of physical conditions like hair loss. In most cases, these imbalances are the result of age and other medical conditions, though genetics may also play a significant role.
Because of the differing levels of hormones required to keep a body in balance, the severity of the symptoms associated with this condition can vary greatly depending on gender. In general, men are more prone to hair fall than women, though women may experience more severe symptoms.
Hair loss is more prevalent in older patients since the body’s production of compounds like collagen decrease. While the full severity of hair loss is usually determined by the patient’s genetics, lifestyle, and diet, age can significantly affect the onset of hair loss.
It’s possible to manage hair loss caused by age, but there is no permanent treatment for it. The best that dermatologists can recommend is the consistent use of products like collagen supplements and hair thickening shampoo to help reduce the signs of hair fall caused by aging.
Many of these conditions can be determined before any hair loss occurs, which allows the dermatologist more time and options to treat a patient’s hair fall.
Depending on the severity of their patient’s symptoms, dermatologists may recommend home or clinical treatments to manage the symptoms. Some of the common treatment methods include:
If the primary cause of hair fall is malnutrition, doctors will generally recommend shifting to a diet rich in fatty acids like Omega-3 and Omega-6. These compounds can help revitalize the skin and strengthen its structure, which can encourage hair growth and improve skin quality.
Foods that contain these compounds include fatty fish, almonds, leafy vegetables, and tomatoes. In general, a healthier diet can vastly reduce hair loss and improve the rate of hair regrowth, even after significant hair fall.
Scalp massages are a relatively inexpensive method of treating hair fall and a method that’s rapidly gaining traction with many cosmetic practices. It works by stimulating the flow of blood to the scalp, allowing hair follicles more access to nutrients, and removing any waste material from the scalp.
Laser therapy has also surged in popularity as a way to treat hair fall, especially with the increasing availability of laser therapy devices that can be used at home. This treatment works by stimulating regrowth in the hair follicles, which helps it create the cells responsible for building hair strands.
Products that contain minoxidil (such as Rogaine) are some of the most popular treatments used to regrow lost hair, and can usually be bought without a prescription. While primarily used to treat androgenic alopecia, it’s also proven effective at treating mild to moderate hair loss.
However, patients should be careful when using minoxidil, since the concentrations are gender-specific. And while a doctor’s approval isn’t required to start using the product, most dermatologists would still advise their patients to check with their doctor before use to prevent any complications.
Serums and creams specifically formulated to manage hair loss have become more popular in the past ten years, such as products like PEP Factor. PEP Factor products are creams or serums composed of peptides, nutrients, and other growth compounds that may encourage skin rejuvenation in the face and scalp. It’s been used to treat cases of acute and chronic hair loss and may help manage the progression of certain skin conditions.
PEP Factor products are easy to use and integrate into a patient’s daily skincare routine, which allows them greater freedom and versatility with how to manage their hair fall. PEP Factor products are also relatively accessible and can be recommended as a clinical or home remedy for patients.
Collagen supplements don’t tax the body with their digestion and integration into people’s systems, which can lead to the misunderstanding that more collagen means better results. However, manufacturers will usually include the ideal dosage of collagen that people should use on the packaging.
For the best results, dermatologists should never recommend that the patient exceed the specific recommended dose. Patients who are using collagen supplements should also be wary of any potential side effects that may arise, and report such situations to their dermatologist or doctor immediately.
The possible side effects of collagen use are usually because the derivative of the collagen (whether that’s beef, chicken, or pork) are substances that the patient is allergic to. Most complications involving collagen use never progress to anything serious, though repeated use even after evidence of body incompatibility can diminish or negate its beneficial effects.
Because patients often do not consult their doctor or dermatologist about collagen use, it’s important to ascertain its use during consultations about hair loss. Interactions of collagen supplements with medications have not been extensively studied and may contribute to instances of hair fall.
There’s also the possibility that increasing the amount of collagen in the body may not necessarily manage or stop hair loss. These cases can be attributed to a different underlying condition that may be causing hair fall, like hormone imbalance or improper hair care products. Dermatologists should always be careful to check with their patients about the effects of their collagen supplements, even long after the initial prescription.
Collagen by itself is relatively harmless and doesn’t cause any serious side effects. If a patient experiences severe hair loss, collagen overdose isn’t usually the cause. Dermatologists should start screening their patients for more serious skin disorders if they show severe symptoms or their initial symptoms have not subsided after adequate treatment.
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Read more: Using A Dermapen For Hair Loss
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