Difference Between Collagen and Keratin

Collagen and keratin are both different kinds of proteins found in the human body. Proteins are made up of smaller molecules known as amino acids.

Amino acids are the monomers that when linked together through polypeptide bonds form a polymer known as a protein.

Collagen vs Keratin

The difference between collagen and keratin lies in their constituents and their alignment. Both collagen and keratin are made up of different combinations of amino acids. While the polypeptide chains found in collagen are left-handed, the polypeptide chains in keratin are right-handed.

Collagen vs Keratin

Collagen makes up our bones, cartilage, tendons and other connective tissues. Keratin, on the other hand, acts as a shield for our body and is found in the outermost layer of our skin, hair, nails, etc.

Comparison Table

Parameter of ComparisonCollagenKeratin
Location Found Extracellular matrix and connective tissue. In epithelial cells and structures like hair, nails, etc.
Structural Constituents Made up of hydroxyproline, glycine, proline and alanine. Made up of phenylalanine, isoleucine, valine, methionine and alanine.
Types There are 28 types of collagen proteins found in the human body. There are two types of keratin found in the human body.
Effect on Epithelial Cells Formation of collagen does not lead to the death of epithelial cells (cornification). Formation of keratin gives rise of cornification of epithelial cells that makes the outermost layer of skin, hair and nails.
Commercial Use Used in surgical reconstruction procedures. Used in making cosmetics and as an additive in chemicals.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is a fibrous protein present in the matrix outside the cell. It is considered as the most abundant protein in the animal kingdom. It provides strength and structure to our body.

When collagen mineralizes to be rigid, it forms the bone. When it mineralizes to be compliant, it forms the tendon and when it mineralizes to be a combination of both rigid and compliant, it forms the cartilage.

It is made up of three polypeptide chains that bind together to form a left-handed helix. Further, three of these left-handed helices combine to form a right-handed triple helix (also known as “superhelix”) that is stabilized by hydrogen bonds.

Collagen can be used for a wide number of reasons. It is used in cosmetic surgery, burn surgery and even to make casings for sausages! It can be used in foods as well as for medical purposes.

Lack of production of collagen causes a disease known as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). Eating foods rich in vitamin C can increase the production of collagen in our body.


What is Keratin?

Keratin is also a fibrous protein. It is one of the main components in making our hair, skin and nails along with feathers, claws, hooves and horns in some other vertebrates.

Keratin has a special ability that helps in cornification of cells. When keratin production starts and the cell is filled with keratin, the cell organelles disappear and the cell undergoes death.

Cells present in the outermost layer of our skin contain keratin in their matrix which makes it waterproof. Keratin is used in making hair care products and other cosmetics.

Problems in keratin formation cause diseases like epidermolysis bullosa simplex (EBS) and epidermolytic hyperkeratosis (EH).


Main Differences Between Collagen and Keratin

  1. Collagen is used for medical purposes while keratin is mostly used in cosmetics.
  2. Collagen is made in cells called fibroblasts. Keratinocytes present in the dermis of skin make keratin.


  1. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/fstr/9/1/9_1_91/_article/-char/ja/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1010603001005846
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