If you’re well on your way in your natural hair journey, chances are protein has come up more than a few times. But if you’re a newbie to this natural hair thing, allow us to explain why protein is so important for your hair, before we get into the different types of protein.
Your hair is comprised almost entirely (88-89%) of a protein called keratin so it makes sense that protein helps strengthen your locks. But additionally, protein in general is essential for many of our bodily functions and if you don’t consume enough of it, your body will start to pick and choose which functions need protein the most. This means your body will prioritize hormone production and other important functions over more “frivolous” things like hair growth.
So basically, making sure your body and your hair is well supplied with protein should definitely be a priority on your hair journey, but chances are, you probably knew that already. What you probably didn’t know is that there are different types of protein that will affect your hair differently. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled this super quick, super easy protein guide so you can get a better understanding of what your hair needs.
Two of the major categories of proteins are animal-derived and plant-based, and this is similar to how we look at protein in our food. Animal proteins are those that come from animals and include milk-based proteins since these come from animals as well, while plant –based proteins are exactly that—those which you get from beans, legumes etc.
Generally speaking, animal proteins strengthen and coat your hair shaft, but they can also leave some build-up on your hair and leave your hair hard, while plant-based proteins tend to absorb into your hair more easily, while hydrating your hair and improving damaged or split ends without much of the build-up.
Besides those types there are other smaller sub-categories of proteins that we will outline below:
These are awesome for your hair. They are derived from milk (obviously) and are high in lactic acid and amino acids, which help to moisturize and strengthen your hair.
Hydrolyzed wheat proteins can increase your hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. Additionally, silk which is one of the strongest natural fibers on earth, has a derivative called hydrolyzed silk protein which improve your hair’s elasticity and shine. Finally, hydrolyzed soy proteins (plant-based), can also really strengthen your hair and since it is a water soluble protein, it also increases your hair’s ability to retain moisture (which we all know is absolutely critical to hair growth)
This group of proteins mimic our hair’s natural proteins, and are usually key ingredients in many hair products. They are powerful ingredients which can truly improve your hair’s health. Collagen protein is one which is good for your hair and your skin, as it improves elasticity.
Keratin protein is another powerhouse ingredient that can work wonders on your hair. As we mentioned, your hair is predominantly made up of keratin and when included into your hair regimen, it can strengthen your hair shaft, and smooth your hair cuticle, reducing frizz. It’s no wonder why keratin treatments have been a mainstay in the beauty industry for so long!
According to natural hair expert, Aleka Pooe, of Natural Curl Designs, "After consulting with many of my clients, I believe that protein has gotten a bad rep. Many not knowing that the product they may have used in the past was more than likely comprised of an animal based protein, which can be quite harsh on the hair. Animal-based protein products can possibly cause shedding and sometimes extreme breakage. I always recommend a plant based protein product to be used (as needed) for all my NaturCurl Girls and Color clients. Establishing a protein regimen will help keep their hair healthy and resilient, or help to revitalize their hair back to good health.”
Do you do protein treatments in your hair? Let us know in the comments.