Hair is made up of the fibrous, high-sulfur protein called keratin. Protein is very important for all hair types and provides body and thickness to the hair’s fibre. For that reason, it is the protein structure that determines the hair’s state and physical appearance. Protein requirements will differ between individuals. For instance, hair that is relaxed or colour treated will need more protein since the hair’s protein structure has been altered during these chemical processes.
Although protein is crucial, too much protein may lead to hair damage and breakage. Therefore, it is important to continually assess the condition of your hair after using protein-based products and to follow up with a moisturising deep conditioner to balance the moisture/protein content of the hair.
The majority of hair products in shops contain protein. They can be found with titles such as:
- some conditioners
- some moisturisers
but their concentration will vary. Some protein molecules are too large to penetrate the hair shaft. These proteins have a high molecular weight and greater film forming properties (i.e. provides good coverage on the hair). Proteins that are broken down into small molecules during a process called hydrolysis are more likely to penetrate the hair shaft. These proteins are called hydrolysed proteins.
Hydrolysed proteins act as humectants, emollients, and film formers. It is during the process of hydrolysis that increases the proteins water solublility, which makes them ideal for hair conditioners and moisturisers. They can also make products have a softer and silky feel. Whereas, some hydrolysed proteins will be better for penetrating the hair shaft (i.e. silk protein), others will have greater film forming benefits (oat protein). Generally, the first 5 ingredients make up the bulk of most products, so this is a good starting point to guage how much protein a product contains.
To know whether a product has protein look out for the following ingredients:
- Amino acids
- Hydrolysed Rice/Silk/Soy/Oat/Wheat
- Milk protein