Collagen versus biotin for healthy hair, skin and nails. Is one more effective than the other? We will weigh in on this question in this blog.
Let’s begin by reminding ourselves of the difference between the two. First biotin. Also known as vitamin H or vitamin B7, it is a water-soluble vitamin that our bodies are unable to synthesize by themselves, rather relying upon a combination of production from the bacteria residing in our stomach, dietary intake and supplementation. It plays an important role in the metabolism of amino acids, fats and carbohydrates, all processes essential for normal health.
And collagen? It is the most abundant protein in your body and is an important constituent of your skin, tendons and ligaments. Unlike biotin, your body is able to produce collagen by itself, but the rate of production declines with age so as you get older it becomes even more important to keep up the supply through a healthy diet or supplementation.
Now let’s consider what these two compounds can do for our hair. The shaft of our hair is surrounded by connective tissue and skin, both of which are largely composed of collagen. Healthy levels of collagen will therefore provide the hair follicle with a strong supporting foundation aiding the growth and regrowth of your hair. But collagen can also contribute to the health of your hair in a more indirect fashion. Collagen protein can be broken down into amino acid molecular subunits that contribute to the production of other proteins such as keratin, the protein which accounts for the majority of material contained in your hair. However, if you are deficient in collagen, these amino acids will be sent to contribute to the health of your more vital body organs and your hair will suffer as a result. And this is where biotin comes into play. Recall that biotin is important for the metabolism of fatty and amino acids. In other words, it can also help provide those molecular building blocks for keratin. So both of these compounds can exert positive contributions to the hair growth process, but the hype you may see about biotin preventing hair loss is not strongly supported by sound, unbiased clinical studies, so take these claims with a grain of salt. Deficiencies in biotin may lead to hair loss, but most of us will never be deficient so long as we eat a reasonably healthy diet. So regardless of where you stand on these claims, it remains important for your overall health to maintain healthy biotin and collagen levels.
What about our skin? There is much more evidence that oral supplementation with collagen can improve the health of your skin. A recent review of several published scientific studies on the effect of oral collagen supplementation pointed to positive results for skin ageing and wound healing, and specifically for increasing skin elasticity, dermal collagen density and hydration with no reported adverse effects. These benefits might be of importance to those of you that may be trying to lose weight. If you manage to shed a large amount of weight in a fairly short period of time, you may wind up with some saggy skin. This can be countered with collagen through its ability to maintain tight and elastic skin. As with skin, there is little evidence that biotin plays a significant role in improving the appearance of your skin, but deficiencies may lead to skin rashes.
And finally what about our nails? Here the evidence for a positive effect of biotin is stronger, with suggestions that it can reduce the brittleness and increase the strength of your nails, and certainly worthy of further scientific study. The story for collagen is quite similar, where clinical trials have shown that supplementation of collagen resulted in an increased rate of nail growth while simultaneously showing a decrease in brittleness and demonstrating a lower frequency of breakage. Given that your nails are also largely made up of keratin, this is not a terribly surprising result.
So back to our original question. Collagen versus biotin for healthy hair, skin and nails – is one more effective than the other? They are both important for our general health, but the fact is that most of us will already have adequate levels of biotin through our diet alone. Furthermore, it is also very important to keep in mind that excessive biotin levels can interfere with certain medical tests as we have previously discussed. On the other hand, our bodies can synthesize collagen by themselves, but the production rate will decrease with age. Supplementation may make more sense in this case, and even more so because of the preponderance of evidence in support of the positive effects of collagen on the health of your hair, skin and nails. Similar scientific evidence for biotin is not as abundant with the exception of improving nail strength and decreasing their brittleness.
Take away message
Both collagen and biotin are important for our general health, but if you had to choose just one for the benefit of your hair, skin and nails, collagen would make a bit more sense. First, the majority of us maintain adequate biotin levels through our diet. Secondly, our ability to produce collagen declines with age, so eating a diet containing foods that provide high levels of collagen (eg. bone broth, eggs, meats and fish) and/or supplementation becomes more important considerations. And finally, the scientific evidence in support of the benefits of collagen is stronger than that for biotin.