Hair Skin and Nails

Collagen Peptides: Beneficial for Skin, Bones, Joints, and More

I wanted to write about collagen this month, since it can have so many diverse and wide ranging benefits. Collagen is a protein that is very prevalent in our bodies- 30% of the protein in our body is made of  collagen and it is the main component of our connective tissues. Collagen is a crucial component of our skin, joints, bones, tendons, and ligaments.

We are born with abundant stores of collagen, and the human body produces copious amounts of collagen when we are young. Unfortunately, that production begins to decline every year after age 25, and decreases even more dramatically in women after menopause.

The decreases in collagen happen throughout our bodies, reducing bone flexibility, making injury more likely, and contributing to joint and mobility problems. One easy way each of us can see how our body’s stores of collagen have decreased is by looking at our skin. As we age, the lovely, plump skin we all had as young adults changes considerably;  lower levels of collagen is one of the main causes of that, since collagen helps to prevent thinning and wrinkling of the skin as well as loss of elasticity. Those outward signs of collagen loss mirror what is unseen inside our bodies, affecting our bones, joints, tendons, as well as many other parts of the body.

Bone health is a particularly important benefit of collagen which most people are unaware of. Collagen literally holds our bones together in a collagen matrix, and helps our bones to remain flexible and durable. When one thinks of “brittle bones,” lack of collagen is a major factor contributing to that. Collagen helps to make the bones more stable and elastic.

Collagen supplements can be beneficial to help boost our body’s collagen stores, though not all collagen supplements are created equal. First of all, collagen is best taken as a powder. You need to take a fair amount of collagen to make a difference, and most collagen supplements in pill form are meant to be taken at around six at a time, which isn’t practical for most people. Another thing to look for is collagen in a peptide form, which basically means that the collagen is broken down into tiny molecules to enhance absorption (since if you’re not absorbing a supplement, it does nothing and you’re wasting your money).

Collagen peptides have been the study of numerous research studies in recent years. One placebo controlled study found that people using collagen peptides daily for three months had a 40% increase in skin elasticity, a 43% reduction in joint pain, and a 39% increase in mobility.

One very important thing to note about collagen is that there are many different forms, and each different form of collagen works in a different way in the body. For example, collagen known as “type I collagen” is helpful for skin, bones, and tendons, whereas “type II collagen” benefits joints, cartilage, and the digestive tract. Types I and II collagen are the most common, though there are actually many different forms of collagen that have varying benefits in body that affect the immune, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems, our hair and nails, even down to the health of our very cells!

A bad thing about most collagen supplements is that they usually only contain one variety of collagen, occasionally two, but rarely more than that, so you’re only getting a fraction of the benefits of the full spectrum of collagen. There is one collagen supplement that we recommend above all others- Collagen Peptide powder by Nature’s Plus. There are so many reasons we’d recommend that supplement in particular, the first of which is that it contains all six of the main collagen types, something I’d never seen in a supplement before this one. It’s also absorbed better than other collagen supplements because it is in the optimal peptide form as well as containing special enzymes that further aid in absorbing those beneficial collagen molecules.

I could go on and on about the reasons why this is the collagen I’d recommend above all others, but I thought it might be better to relay a few reports from my coworkers at Pass Health Foods who take this collagen from Nature’s Plus (I’m a vegetarian, so even though I believe in collagen supplements and the science behind them, I don’t personally take it since they’re from animal products). This particular collagen supplement is made from the highest quality collagen sources- grass-fed beef, cage-free chickens, and sustainably caught fish.

Liz, another one of the managers at the store, takes the Collagen Peptides every day in her coffee. It’s completely tasteless, so it can be mixed easily with foods or beverages. She feels like it has really helped with reducing joint pain and soreness after exercise. It’s the only thing she takes now for joints, and she says it really works. She and her daughter trained this summer for a one-mile swim to raise money for ALS, and she felt like the collagen supplement really helped with how her joints felt, particularly when compared with the joint pain she experienced before starting to use the supplement. Liz says she also likes the collagen peptides since they contain a good amount of natural protein. She feels like most protein supplements seem to bother her stomach, but she’s never had problems from the collagen. She says she also feels like there have been benefits for how her skin looks and feels.

Sarah, who also works at the store, has been using the same collagen peptide supplement and really loves it. She says she originally started taking it because she had a pulled muscle injury that wasn’t healing. She said that she felt relief after the first week, after what was turning into a lingering, painful condition. Sarah contracted an illness after going on a rafting trip and stopped taking all her supplements for a while. She said that her joint and muscle pain started coming back again after not using the collagen supplements for a few weeks, but that after starting them again she felt like her pain was better after just a couple of days of taking it.

Finally, Sam, the son of one of our owners, who just graduated from college, has been taking collagen peptides as well with great results. He had an injury from high school which had healed but where he was still having lingering, persistent inflammation. He has had several rounds of physical therapy and was even recommended cortisone shots by his physician, which he wanted to avoid since he’s still in his early 20’s. Since taking the collagen peptides, he has had consistently less pain. He loves to dance and this past weekend went to a dance competition and clinic. He said that he couldn’t believe it, but that he felt stiffer from being in the car for the three-hour drive than from dancing all weekend long.

We have the Collagen Peptides by Nature’s Plus that we recommend on an everyday sale of 20% off, to pass on the savings of a supplement we really believe in. That brings the price of a jar down to $19.99 for a month’s worth of one serving a day. Stop by the store for more information, we’d love to help you further.


Biotin for Strong, Healthy Hair & Nails

I wanted to write about biotin this month, a B vitamin that is most well known for its benefit for hair and nails, and rightly so- it’s really amazing for strengthening the hair and nails as well as preventing hair loss.

The earliest research on biotin was done mainly with veterinary literature, where biotin was found to increase the strength and hardness of pigs and horses hooves. Those hooves are made of keratin, the same material our nails are made of, as well as our hair strands. The discovery that biotin made such a difference for the hooves (nails) of animals inspired the research to continue to humans.

Many of our customers have had great results for their hair and nails after supplementing with biotin that has also been confirmed by research studies in humans. One such study found that supplementing with biotin at a dose of 2500mcg a day increased the thickness of the human nail plate by 25%. Ninety-one percent of people taking that dosage experienced definite improvement in their nails, especially people who complained of weak, brittle nails before supplementation.

A deficiency in biotin can cause hair loss, and biotin supplementation has been linked to a reduction in hair loss and thinning hair. Other research has confirmed that biotin supplementation helps with brittle nails and thinning hair in people diagnosed with nail issues and poor hair growth. One 2015 study (linked here) found that 90 days of biotin supplementation helped women with hair loss to increase their hair density as well as reduce the shedding of hair. Additional studies have had participants report positive results on the appearance of hair and thickness after 90 days, which increased the longer that people took the biotin supplements.

In addition to biotin’s benefits for hair and nails, biotin can also be beneficial for cardiovascular health as well as increasing blood sugar sensitivity. Biotin appears to help increase the activity of specific liver enzymes that help the liver to utilize blood sugar. When those enzymes are activated, the liver is able to pull sugar from the blood to be properly metabolized. In one study, participants who took 8mg of biotin twice daily resulted in significant improvements in fasting blood sugar levels and blood sugar control in type 1 diabetics. Other research has reported that biotin combined with chromium (a mineral that can help with balancing blood sugar) was effective in reducing blood sugar levels as well as lowering triglyceride levels in the blood of type 2 diabetes patients.

High dose biotin supplementation has also been researched in some very groundbreaking studies on multiple sclerosis, though the research is still in its early stages. I just wanted to mention it since it’s always exciting when vitamins that have been around forever are found to be beneficial in new, previously unknown ways.

Supplementing with biotin for hair and nails definitely has benefits, but keep in mind that it’s more of a long term thing (most studies were for at least 90 days), since it takes time to made a difference in hair and nail strength. Biotin is a water soluble B vitamin, which means that whatever the body does not use is excreted, making biotin an extremely safe supplement to take. High dose biotin can interfere with some blood tests (it’s not harmful, but something to be aware of), so it’s recommended to stop taking biotin for a week before a blood panel, or to mention your biotin supplementation to your physician (which is good advice for all supplements).

A New "Hair Loss" Enzyme for Men

Q: A friend sent me an article on the discovery of an enzyme that’s supposed to cause baldness in men. The article said that they are working on a medicine that will block the enzyme, but there were other natural things that could block it too. It’s supposed to be a miracle for male pattern baldness. I wondered if you’d heard of it and knew of anything that could block the enzyme and help with hair loss.

A: Several years ago, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania published a paper on the discovery of a new enzyme, called PGD2 that prevents hair follicles from maturing. It was found that balding men had much higher levels of this enzyme, which inhibits hair growth. A prescription blocker of the PGD2 enzyme is said to be in the works, but it is many years from being released.

There are some natural products which have been researched to block the same “hair loss” enzyme; quercetin, a compound found in citrus fruits, and resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine. Both have been found in research to be able to suppress the PGD2 enzyme which is linked to male hair loss. 

The research is very preliminary, however, and even though studies have found quercetin and resveratrol to be effective in inhibiting the PGD2 enzyme, it does not necessarily mean they will help prevent or reverse hair loss. Both supplements are safe and beneficial to take, however, and some men may decide to begin taking the supplements to see if they make a difference. Quercetin also has benefits for allergies and the immune system, and resveratrol is well know as a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory anti-aging properties.

So, yes, there are natural products that can block the “hair loss” enzyme, but I would be hesitant to call them a “miracle cure”. Still, there’s no harm in trying it, since they are supplements which have additional benefits for anyone.

Product Spotlight: JarrowSil for Hair, Skin, and Nails


Silica is a mineral which is crucial to hair, skin, and nail health and composition.  The trouble with many silica supplements is that the mineral is very difficult for the body to absorb.  JarrowSil is a specialized form of silica called Activated Silicon which is formulated specifically to be easy for the body to absorb.  Placebo controlled studies have found improvement in skin texture and elasticity for women with sun damage after supplementing with the type of specialized silicon that JarrowSil contains.  There were also improvements in brittle hair and nails.


Healthy looking skin is determined by the health of the underlying tissue.  As we age, our skin often becomes deficient in silica, which can cause dry, wrinkled skin.  Good topical moisturizers can be helpful, but nourishing skin from the inside is important as well.  Silicon is one of the main components of connective tissue, and depletion in skin elasticity and texture is one obvious sign of deficiency.

Healthy Q & A: Hair and Nails


My hair and nails are a wreck.  They’re dry, brittle and just terrible overall condition.  A friend said I should take prenatal vitamins since they’re supposed to be good for hair and nails, so I thought I’d write in to see what you had to say.


Dry, brittle hair and nails are often a result of poor nutrition and possible vitamin deficiencies, which is why people often recommend a vitamin supplement to help.  Prenatal vitamins are frequently mentioned as being beneficial to hair and nails, though I would say that prenatal vitamins are not superior to a good high potency vitamin (in fact- they would be inferior since prenatal vitamins are lower in a number of vitamins like A and E).  I think the idea of prenatal vitamins helping with hair and nails comes from the fact that women usually have really nice hair and nails when pregnant due to pregnancy hormones.  If you currently aren’t taking a multivitamin I’d recommend starting, not only for the benefits to hair and nails, but for helping with energy, the immune system and for filling in the gaps in your diet.


There are also a number of hair, skin and nail supplements available- Country Life has a nice one which has biotin and MSM, two nutrients which help to support and grow healthy hair and nails.  Another supplement that I think could really help is BioSil, a supplement which helps the body to produce collagen.  It’s also been shown in clinical studies to increase hair strength and thickness of the hair shafts.  It’s also been found to dramatically strengthen nails.  It’s also great for increasing skin elasticity.


Winter is really rough on hair and nails.  Wearing gloves when outside can make a big difference, as well as moisturizing frequently with a good lotion (I really like Kiss My Face’s moisturizer).  Another product isNature’s Plus’ Nail Strengthener, an oil which is brushed on the nails once or twice a day.  I’ve used it in the past with great results- it really helps to strengthen weak nails and moisturize cuticles.


I also know of a great hair treatment recipe I can share.  To make it, combine four parts conditioner, one part aloe vera gel, one part honey and a small amount of coconut oil and in a microwave safe bowl.  Heat for thirty seconds or until warm to the touch.  Liberally coat freshly washed hair with the mixture and then wrap your hair with plastic wrap and a towel.  Let the mixture sit on your hair for a half hour before rinsing it out.  It’s a wonderful, easy moisturizing treatment.  You can also add a few drops of essential oils (lavender is nice and relaxing) to the warmed mixture if desired.