Long, strong hair is a sign of health and beauty valued in almost every culture. However, constant exposure to sun, wind, styling products and hot blow dryers can wreak havoc on your hair's healthy shine. There are as many home remedies to promote hair growth and to support your locks' strength and shine as most people have hairs on their heads, so it's hard to know what works and what doesn't. One of the oldest and best-loved hair tonics is gelatin.

What is Gelatin?

Gelatin is made from the dried collagen inside of the skin and bones of animals like pigs, cows and horses. There are also some types of gelatin made from fish by-products. These are widely used by people whose religious beliefs do not allow them to consume or use anything from pigs, or from animals that have not been slaughtered according to ritual.

Once extracted and powdered, gelatin dissolves in hot liquids and becomes more solid as it cools. It is used to make the outer shells of the capsules used in medications, and in foods like Jell-O and gummy candies. Gelatin is also used in some low-fat products because it simulates the creamy feel of a fatty ingredient without adding any calories.

What Does Gelatin Have to Do With my Hair?

Gelatin contains keratin, which is a very strong protein found in your hair, nails, teeth and skin. All of these are basically dead cells which are pushed up from underneath by new cells being formed. The stronger these layers of dead cells are, the more protection they give the tender, new growth beneath. Keeping your keratin levels up can help keep the outer layers flexible and strong.

Does Gelatin Promote Hair Growth?

There are no clinical studies that prove this to be true. However, gelatin is harmless and does contain proteins and other nutrients that can help promote overall health. The healthier you are, the stronger and healthier your hair, nails and skin will be.

Internal Applications of Gelatin

There are many different kinds of gelatin capsules on the market, advertised to help foster longer, stronger hair and nails. Capsules are very inexpensive — in August of 2009 it was possible to purchase one hundred capsules for less than $4.00 US — and are usually taken one to three times a day.

In the 1950s and 60s it was fashionable to dissolve packets of plain gelatin in water, tea or juice and drink it to promote nail and hair health. While there's no proof that this will foster any hair growth, it will also not hurt you.

External Applications of Gelatin

There are many shampoos and conditioners on the market that contain keratin in the form of gelatin.

A less expensive option is to apply plain gelatin dissolved in warm water to your hair after shampooing. This will help keep your hair moisturized, which will prevent breakage. Synchronized swimmers use gelatin to keep their hair-dos intact, because it won't dissolve in cold water.

You would obviously not want to use flavored gelatin for this, because — while it would smell nice — the sugar in it will get sticky as it dries.

About the Author

Brynne Chandler

Emmy-award nominated screenwriter Brynne Chandler is a single mother of three who divides her time between professional research and varied cooking, fitness and home & gardening enterprises. A running enthusiast who regularly participates in San Francisco's Bay to Breakers run, Chandler works as an independent caterer, preparing healthy, nutritious meals for Phoenix area residents.