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Collagen is one of the various types of protein found in skin, bone, muscles and internal organs, and it is necessary for the proper functioning of these tissues. Hydrolyzed collagen, an ingredient in some health and beauty products, is a gelatin that is made from bone and cartilage that have been broken down into small components. It is found in supplements — sometimes simply referred to as gelatin supplements — that are meant to be ingested, as well as in cosmetics, topical creams and other products that are intended for external application. Among the claims frequently made about the use of hydrolyzed collagen are increased muscle tone, strengthening of arteries and rebuilding of the joints and internal organs.
When hydrolyzed collagen is made, animal bone and cartilage are first crushed or ground and then defatted. They are then rid of their calcium content via soaking in hydrochloric acid before being soaked in sodium hydroxide to destroy the natural bonds in the collagen. After this process is complete, a powder remains that can be reconstituted into gelatin.
Emphasis has been placed on hydrolyzed collagen because this fibrous protein is broken down into short chains of amino acids known as peptides and into completely free amino acids. When taken internally, peptides are further broken apart into free amino acids, which are the building blocks for protein. Gelatin is not a complete protein. In general, only four different amino acids make up about 70 percent of the amino acid content in hydrolyzed collagen. Tryptophan typically is missing from the gelatin, which also tends to lack hydroxylysine, methionine, cystine, tyrosine and histidine.
It is generally believed, however, that the amino acids that are present are made readily available to the body because they do not have to be broken down for the building of new collagen. This belief also has prompted its external use because the skin not only contains collagen, it also is porous. Hydrolyzed collagen has been added to a variety of personal care products, such as shampoos, hair conditioners and beauty creams.
There are differing opinions and results when considering this processed protein as a remedy for complaints such as thinning or sagging skin. Considering the role of collagen in the body, some people have theorized that gelatin supplements might be the answer for correcting such chronic conditions as hypertension, osteoporosis and autoimmune problems. Hydrolyzed collagen, however, should not be used to treat serious health disorders.
Although its use is widely encouraged and accepted, particularly in cosmetics, people who have sensitive skin could experience a condition known as contact dermatitis. If itching, swelling or a rash develops, the use of the product should be immediately discontinued. Women who are pregnant are advised to consult with a medical doctor before supplementing their diet with gelatin. If they do not have sensitive skin, external use of hydrolyzed collagen is generally considered safe.
In Poland, they have found a way to produce a natural collagen that is non hydrolyzed. This allows the collagen triple helix to be kept intact and alive, and found to be the exact same as naturally occurring in the human body. This natural collagen is found to be able to penetrate the skin, allowing for natural skin care.