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January 19, 2022 9 min read

In This Article:

  • Conspiracy of silence: How people conceal the hair thinning
  • What is considered to be "normal" hair loss?
  • Age-related hair loss and collagen
  • Best sources of collagen

Conspiracy of Silence

According to University of Melbourne’s Professor of Dermatology, Rod Sinclair, men and women experience roughly the same rate of hair loss. It appears as though men have a higher rate because they tend to lose it in areas whereas women tend to thin out. He calls it a conspiracy of silence because a huge amount of time and effort goes in to what he calls "camouflaging," using weaves, comb-overs, blow-outs, and volumizers to hide women's thinning hair. And since the option of shaving one's heads and purposefully going "Q-ball" is less culturally anathema for men, the bias that men lose their hair more than women is reinforced and the tendency to avoid talking about hair loss is perpetuated.

In a medically reviewed article written for EverydayHealth.com, Psychological Effects of Hair Loss, the author states that "for many people, hair loss (alopecia) or thinning hair can result in a loss of self-esteem and cause depression, anxiety, and other emotional issues." So why is hair loss so distressing? Physicians agree that it’s mostly cultural as almost every society in the world associates luxurious hair with youth, beauty, and good health. It's no surprise then that when it comes to our own thinning hair, we tend to join the conspiracy and suffer in silence.

However, we can see that the folks in the hair-restoration business are not suffering from the conspiracy of silence. It is estimated that the hair loss treatment manufacturing sector in the United States was worth roughly $3.3 billion in 2021. That's a bunch! It also means that you are not alone in finding hair loss distressing.

Hair Loss Is a Common Problem in Both Men and Women

"Normal" Hair Loss

Read any blog or article related to thinning hair and it will inevitably remind you that we lose around 100 to 150 hairs per day. How is that possible?!? A year has 365 days, so that's, what, 4000 hairs a year? Seriously? You might ask, "Do I even have 4000 hairs?" To answer that question, the good folks at HealthLine.com have conveniently published an article with the helpful title, How Many Hairs Are on the Human Head? The average, it turns out, is about 100,000. It's likely you’re not surprised to learn that genetics plays a large role in how much hair a person has. But you may be surprised to learn, as I was, that the number of hairs one has on his/her head can vary by hair color as well. Besides having more fun, it seems that blondes have the most, on average, with 150,000.

This means that a person loses about 4% of their hair every year through the normal process of hair growth. After a period of growth, a hair hangs about (literally) for a time and then is shed. However, the growth period for a hair is long. According to the HealthLine article, 85 to 90% of our hair is growing at any given moment in time. This is an important factoid, as we'll soon see.

Canary in the Coal Mine

And this is where I remind you that although some hair loss is normal and that it increases as we age, many underlying medical conditions can accelerate hair loss. These include thyroid issues, hormonal changes like menopause, renal failure, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), liver disease, diabetes, lupus, high stress, nutritional deficiencies, and side effects from some pharmaceuticals. If you or a loved one are experiencing accelerated hair loss, consult your health-care provider immediately.

Age-Related Hair Loss and Collagen

"Say everybody, I just read an interesting article called Hair Follicle Aging is Driven by Transepidermal Elimination of Stem Cells Via COL17A1 Proteolysis," said no one EVER! Luckily for us, we don't need to be PhD dermatologists to understand the researchers' conclusion: as we age, we produce less of the collagen responsible for hair growth. This decreased collagen production impedes our ability to grow healthy hair. Although the researchers admit that the mechanism of how this works to stymie hair-follicle cell growth is unknown, one thing is clear: we need collagen to maintain healthy hair!

Collagen Production Decreases As We Age

Collagen and Keratin

Collagen is a protein. Proteins are enormous, complex biological polymers. The human body is about one-fifth protein and collagen makes up about a third of those proteins, making it our most abundant protein. It is a fibrous protein found in bones, muscle, skin, blood vessels, and connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments.

Hair follicles are made mostly of another protein called keratin. Keratin is a structural protein of the hair, nails, and of the epithelial cells in the outermost layers of the skin. If we have nutritional deficiencies in the amount of protein we get, including the amino acids that serve as the building blocks of proteins, then we have a problem making keratin as well.

Amino acids are small molecules that always contain a nitrogen atom and provide the molecular structure of all proteins, including collagen and keratin. Collagen uses nineteen amino acids, the three most abundant of which are glycine, lysine, and most importantly proline. Since proline is the main amino acid of keratin and is only found in collagen, consuming a diet rich in collagen should provide your body with the building blocks it needs for hair growth.

Collagen Helps Your Skin

What does healthy skin have to do with healthy hair? Well, hair follicles live in your skin. Since collagen contributes to skin elasticity and health, it stands to reason that they would be connected. As we age, our bodies' ability to make collagen decreases. This is one of the reasons we get wrinkles as we age. In a research study about daily consumption of collagen supplements, 1000 adults took a collagen supplement for three months. The researchers found that it boosted the amount of protein in the skin and reduced the signs of aging.

Other Benefits of Collagen

Moreover, the human body uses twenty amino acids and, as just mentioned, collagen provides nineteen of them (sorry cysteine!). Although researchers are unsure what the exact mechanics of hair loss are, data indicates that hair-loss sufferers are often deficient in many amino acids. A study published by the National Institutes of Health indicates that among the essential amino acids, histidine deficiency was seen in 90% of participants and leucine deficiency was seen in 98% of them. Valine deficiency was also very common across all hair loss subtypes and alanine deficiency was observed in 90%.

But since collagen provides nineteen of the twenty amino acids, it is like a super food! It is known to improve skin health by reducing wrinkles and improving skin elasticity. It can help nail health by improving brittle nails. It can help reduce joint pain by improving and maintaining cartilage, the springy tissue between joints.

A Healthline.com article, Health Benefits of Collagen Supplements, lists other potential benefits of collagen besides healthy hair and healthy skin:

  • May prevent bone loss
  • May boost muscle mass
  • May promote heart health
  • May improve gut health
  • May improve brain health
  • May aid in weight loss

Collagen Rich in Amino Acids

Biotin

Speaking of keratin, biotin, better known as vitamin B7 (or rarely vitamin H), is involved in fatty acid synthesis in the body. It is also a major component of hair growth. In the bluntly titled article, Does Biotin Really Work For Hair Loss Prevention?,available from WebMD.com, the authors state quite clearly that, "Increasing your intake of biotin may help make your hair stronger and more resistant to falling out." Well there ya have it! Although they admit that the evidence is vague and at times contradictory, "time-testing" has built a very popular belief that it does help.

Because biotin stimulates keratin production, consuming foods rich in vitamin B7 will help with overall hair health. The best natural food sources of biotin are meat, eggs, fish, seeds, nuts, and vegetables. These will help fortify your hair follicles by boosting your keratin production. In fact, eating a balanced diet should prevent biotin deficiency in most people. According to the WebMD article, "Biotin deficiency is rare and severe biotin deficiency in healthy individuals eating a normal mixed diet has never been reported."

Signs of biotin deficiency include skin rashes, hair loss, and brittle nails. Therefore, biotin supplements are often promoted for hair, skin, and nail health. However, "these claims are supported, at best, by only a few case reports and small studies." The article states that those most prone to vitamin B7 deficiency are pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Often, products contain biotin for topical use, such as shampoos and creams. The field of dermatology is pretty clear that the benefits of biotin are only available via oral intake of food sources containing biotin. However, some folks swear by these products. More research is needed to determine if there is some benefit to these topical sources or if it's simply a placebo effect.

Natural Dietary Sources of Biotin

Dietary Source of Collagen: Bone Broth

Only collagen contains the amino acid lysine and lysine is essential to making collagen. Can you see where this is going? By eating foods that contain collagen, you get all the building blocks needed for making collagen. The most famous of these is bone broth.

Bone broth is a highly nutritious stock made by simmering animal bones and connective tissue. Using acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, breaks down the collagen and connective tissue. This leaves you with a tasty, nutritious liquid commonly used in soups and sauces. According to a Healthline article, Bone Broth: How to Make It and 6 Reasons Why You Should,there is little research on the benefits of bone broth. However, it is "time tested" and there is a wealth of anecdotal evidence that suggests it has potent health benefits. Below is Healthline's recipe:

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon (4 liters) of water
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) apple cider vinegar
  • 2–4 pounds (about 1–2 kg) of animal bones (it’s best to use a variety of bones such as marrow bones, oxtail, knuckles, and feet.)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  • Place all ingredients in a large pot or slow cooker.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce to a simmer and cook for 12–24 hours. The longer it cooks, the better it will taste and more nutritious it will be.
  • Allow the broth to cool. Strain it into a large container and discard the solids.

Bone Broth - Collagen-Rich Liquid

Other Nutritional Sources of Collagen

A healthful diet can help the body produce collagen. Nutrients that may support collagen formation include:

  • Proline: In egg whites, meat, cheese, soy, and cabbage.
  • Anthocyanidins: In blackberries, blueberries, cherries, and raspberries.
  • Vitamin C: In citrus fruits, strawberries, peppers, and broccoli.
  • Copper: In shellfish, nuts, red meat, and some drinking water.
  • Vitamin A: Occurring in animal-derived foods and in plant foods as beta-carotene.
  • Water: like you needed another reason to mind your hydration?
  • Jello!

That's right, Jello! Gelatin may be a natural way to boost collagen and healthy hair. I mentioned earlier that lysine is an essential amino acid, but so is valine! Who knew that this wiggly favorite of kids could help keep us looking and feeling better as grown-ups?

Dietary Sources of Biotin (Vitamin B7)

Because vitamin B7 is water soluble, it is not stored in the body. So it is important to get some every day. Fortunately, as I mentioned earlier, it's easy to get from a balanced diet. A Healthline.com article lists these foods as great sources for biotin:

  • Egg yolks
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Legumes, especially peanuts and soybeans
  • Nuts and seeds, especially sunflower seeds and almonds
  • Liver
  • Mushrooms
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Avocados

Dietary Supplements

Collagen supplementation is another option for increasing your collagen intake. Collagen powder, collagen protein, and collagen peptides (hydrolyzed collagen) are all available over the counter or online. Collagen peptides are supplements that contain the amino acid building blocks of collagen. Basically, enzymes and hydrolysis are used to make the collagen more soluble and easier to digest. The US National Institutes of Health states in a report about collagen peptides that they are "a source of physiologically active peptides and conditionally indispensable amino acids that have the potential to optimize health and address physiological needs posed by aging and exercise."

Amandean collagen powder is flavorless, non-GMO, and gluten-free, making it an easy addition to your morning coffee or tea. Biotin supplements exist either alone or as part of multivitamins. Since biotin can be found in foods, you can try adding more biotin to your diet by eating more biotin-rich foods. Additionally, you can take a multivitamin that contains biotin and vitamin C to increase your body's production of collagen. When it comes to using biotin or collagen for hair growth, you don't have to choose one or the other - they work best as a team!

Collagen Can Easily Be Added Into Morning Coffee or Tea

Break the Silence!

Don't be shy about speaking to your healthcare provider, friends, family, or haircare professional about your thinning hair. As you now know, many people experience it. It's true that thinning hair isn't the end of the world. However, our confidence and self-esteem are intimately tied to our hair, and paying attention to diet and adding a supplement may be helpful in slowing age-related hair loss.

Article Summary:

  • A person loses about 4% of their hair every year through the normal process of hair growth
  • If we have nutritional deficiencies in the amount of protein we get, including the amino acids that serve as the building blocks of proteins, then we have a problem making keratin as well
  • By eating foods that contain collagen, you get all the building blocks needed for making collagen
  • Amandean collagen powder is flavorless, non-GMO, and gluten-free, making it an easy addition to your morning coffee or tea

Related Articles:

The Role of Collagen In Maintaining Healthy Hair & Managing Hair Loss

Managing Thinning Hair after 50

How to Manage Autoimmune-Related Hair Loss

The Role of Vitamin C & D For Healthy Hair

References:

  1. https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/are-there-more-bald-men-than-women



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