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Are collagen-based products beneficial for nails?

Collagen is a protein naturally produced by the body, particularly known for its ability to strengthen the skin's structure. Collagen is also present in the nail bed and contributes to their health. What about collagen-based products? Let's discuss their potential benefits.

Summary
Published May 17, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 6 min read

Collagen, a beneficial ingredient for nails?

The collagen is a structural protein found in the body in a fibrillar form. It is notably a part of muscles, skin, bones, cartilage, and the walls of blood vessels. Although collagen is not found in nails, this molecule is present in the surrounding skin tissues, including those of the nail bed, the area of skin located under the nail plate. This is also where the blood vessels that supply oxygen and essential nutrients for the growth of nails are located. Over time, collagen production decreases, which weakens the periungual skin structures as well as the nails themselves. An external supply of collagen could thus prove to be interesting to compensate for this loss.

To date, no study has examined the effects of topical collagen application on nails.

Nevertheless, it can be assumed that certain properties of collagen demonstrated in skin application can be transposed to nails. Its moisturizing virtues could particularly benefit nails. Indeed, collagen is a hygroscopic molecule, meaning it has the ability to attract and retain water molecules. It can be assumed that this property would benefit nails, which, by staying hydrated, would be less prone to breakage and appear shinier. Moreover, some studies have shown that hydrolyzed collagen has an antioxidant effect, dependent on its size: the lower the molecular weight of the peptides, the better their ability to donate an electron. Since nails are not immune to oxidative stress, the anti-radical properties of collagen could help protect their cuticle and prevent their splitting.

More research has been conducted on the effects of oral collagen intake on nail health. In 2017, Oesser and his team studied the benefits of a daily supplementation of 2.5 grams of collagen peptides (molecular weight ≈ 2 kDa) on 25 women. After six months, the researchers observed a 12% increase in nail growth rate and a 42% decrease in the frequency of nail chipping. Furthermore, 80% of the participants acknowledged that collagen supplementation improved the appearance of their nails and expressed satisfaction with the treatment.

Another double-blind study involving 54 women with issues of nail splitting and fragility examined the effects of supplementation with collagen, peptides, and hyaluronic acid. The results obtained for the participants who received the active ingredients and those who took the placebo are summarized below.

Evaluated CriteriaAfter 3 weeksAfter 4 weeksAfter 6 weeksAfter 8 weeks
Nail FissuringImprovement of 43.3% for the "Active" group and 47.8% for the "Placebo" groupImprovement of 62.7% for the "Active" group and 58% for the "Placebo" groupImprovement of 76.1% for the "Active" group and 56.5% for the "Placebo" groupImprovement of 79.1% for the "Active" group and 62.3% for the "Placebo" group
Nail FragilityImprovement of 43.4% for the "Active" group and 31.5% for the "Placebo" groupImprovement of 65.1% for the "Active" group and 46.6% for the "Placebo" groupImprovement of 80.7% for the "Active" group and 64.4% for the "Placebo" groupImprovement of 80.7% for the "Active" group and 68.5% for the "Placebo" group
Nail SoftnessImprovement of 18.5% for the "Active" group and 5.6% for the "Placebo" groupImprovement of 23.5% for the "Active" group and 11.1% for the "Placebo" groupImprovement of 35.8% for the "Active" group and 25% for the "Placebo" groupImprovement of 43.2% for the "Active" group and 23.6% for the "Placebo" group

The study results indicate a more pronounced improvement for the group that received collagen and other active ingredients. However, it is noteworthy that individuals who received the placebo also reported a significant enhancement of their nails, even though they were not taking any active substances. This raises questions about the actual effects of oral collagen intake. The improvement in the nail condition of the individuals in the "Active" group could also be due to a placebo effect, and the fact that it is slightly more significant is not a sufficient factor, especially considering the small sample size of participants (only 54). More research is needed today to assert that collagen supplementation is beneficial for nails.

Sources

  • BERKER D. Nail Anatomy. Clinics in Dermatology (2013).

  • GANS E. H. & others. A Nutritional Supplement Composed of Peptides, Lipids, Collagen, and Hyaluronic Acid Enhances Key Elements of Physical Appearance in Nails, Hair, and Skin. Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences (2014).

  • OESSER S. & al. Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides enhances nail growth and alleviates symptoms of brittle nails. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology (2017).

  • AHUIRRE-ÁLVAREZ G. & others. Collagen Hydrolysates for Skin Protection: Oral Administration and Topical Formulation. Antioxidants (2020).

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