Our bodies use protein to repair bone and muscle and produce enzymes and hormones. Also, the chains of amino acids that protein in hair is made out of give our hair its sheen, fullness and bounce. Too little protein leaves hair lifeless, limp and weak – while too much can make it brittle and dry. We will explain what hair protein does, why balancing protein and moisture is important and what you can do to keep your hair looking its best.
The Role Protein Plays in Your Hair
To understand the role protein in hair plays in keeping our hair healthy and vibrant, we must first take a closer look at a human hair. Each of our hair strands are made up of lipids and minerals that provide nourishment, protein that gives hair its strength and pigments that add color. Many people think hair is pretty much the same all the way through, but it is actually made up of three layers. These layers are:
The cuticle: This is the outermost layer of hair, and it looks like a set of scales under a microscope. The cuticle is very thin and easily damaged.
The cortex: This is the main part of a hair shaft and is made up of a protein called keratin. This protein in your locks is made up of 18 amino acids and gives hair its suppleness and elasticity. Keratin is insoluble, which is why we can wash our hair with abandon but damage it with heat and steam.
The medulla: This is the innermost layer of hair, and it is extremely fragile. It basically does for hair what marrow does for bones.
Protein and Moisture Balance
Healthy and strong hair has a good balance of moisture and protein. Hair with plenty of protein but not enough moisture feels dry and becomes brittle and stiff. On the other hand, too much moisture causes a condition known as hygral fatigue that leaves your locks weak and lifeless. Symptoms of hygral fatigue include tangles, frizziness and tresses that feel gummy when touched. While the condition is caused by too much moisture, it can actually make hair feel dry.
Maintaining a good moisture and protein balance is clearly beneficial, but how can this be achieved? This balance usually goes awry when our hair loses its protective protein, which happens a lot. The things that can damage or deplete keratin include:
Nutritional deficiencies: Keratin is made up of 18 amino acids. Some of these amino acids are essential, which means they cannot be produced by the body and must be provided by the foods we eat. On the other hand, some are semi-essential, which means the body can produce them but not in the quantities needed for optimum health. When we do not eat enough food rich in quality protein, our hair can suffer.
Chemical treatments: Styling or coloring treatments that use harsh chemicals can strip our hair of protein and make it susceptible to moisture build-up.
Heat: Most of us use blow dryers, curling irons or flat irons to make our hair look the way we want it to, but the heat these implements use to give us gorgeous results can damage our hair.
Sunlight: Keratin is resistant to water, but it does not hold up very well when exposed to harsh sunlight for prolonged periods.
The Hair Elasticity Test
A simple elasticity test can reveal whether your hair is balanced, deficient in protein or lacking moisture. All you have to do is pull out a single hair and stretch it. If the hair is difficult to stretch or breaks, it has enough protein but lacks moisture. If the hair stretches easily, but does not spring back quickly, it does not have enough protein. If the hair stretches and then snaps back to its previous state, its moisture and protein levels are in balance.
How to Keep Your Hair Looking its Best
If your hair needs more protein to look its best, there are dizzying arrays of products available that make lofty claims. However, not all of them add more keratin. To understand why that is, we have to take a closer look at how these products actually work.
Oil and Silicone
Conditioners and serums that claim to restore or repair hair rarely do more than coat hair shafts in oil and silicone. This can increase moisture levels by reducing friction, but it leaves hair looking and feeling greasy. These products add no protein to the cortex and gradually slough off throughout the day. They also make hairs stick together, which can reduce volume.
Protein treatments add a protective layer of keratin and seal the cuticle to protect the cortex and medulla. This makes hair shinier and less frizzy. They also fill protein gaps in hair and promote hydration, which improves manageability and provides a fuller and healthier look. These hair protein treatments are not a permanent cure and wear off over time, which is why they should be reapplied regularly.
However, they should not be used too often as too much protein in hair can cause almost as many problems as not enough. Performing an elasticity test will tell you whether it is time for another keratin treatment. For most people, the ideal time between hair protein treatments is three to six months. People with wavy hair are more prone to keratin deficiencies, so they may need to reapply curly hair protein treatments more often.
Too Much Protein
Keratin treatments should be used sparingly because too much protein in hair causes stiffness and can lead to breaking. This is especially true with curly hair protein treatments. If your hair feels crunchy when you touch it after applying a keratin product, you probably did not wait long enough between treatments. This is not something you need to be too worried about as the excess keratin will wear off over time.
Ancient Secrets and the Latest Technology
Mounia Haircare products use an ancient Moroccan hair oil recipe and patented technology to maintain your protein and moisture balance and keep your hair looking and feeling its best. Our shampoo, condition and serum work together to create a complete hair system, and they are made from organic and cruelty-free vegan ingredients.