Hair protein – Damage & Causes- Sources & Treatments

Hair is made up largely of a protein called keratin. Hair protein gives hair its strength and structure. When hair lacks protein, it can become dry, brittle, and prone to breakage. Getting enough protein in your diet and using targeted hair protein treatments can improve hair strength, minimize breakage, and promote healthy hair growth.

How Hair Protein Works

Hair protein, like keratin, is the building block of your hair. Keratin protein chains bind together through sulfur bonds to form the hair fiber structure. Adequate dietary protein intake and use of products containing hydrolyzed proteins, like wheat or soy, allow keratin to form properly during hair growth. This results in stronger, healthier hair shafts less prone to damage.

Protein treatments for hair work by temporarily infusing the hair with protein. This protein fills in gaps or cracks in the hair cuticle to “repair” damage and fortify the hair. While protein treatments cannot fundamentally alter the hair’s keratin structure, they can temporarily strengthen hair and minimize breakage from mechanical or chemical damage.

At-home DIY hair protein treatments, professional salon treatments, and daily use of hair products containing proteins like keratin, collagen, and elastin can all improve hair strength. However, excessive protein can lead to hair protein overload resulting in dry, brittle hair. Finding the right protein balance is key for optimal hair health.

Signs Your Hair May Need More Protein

How can you tell if your hair needs more protein? Here are some signs protein treatments for hair may benefit your locks:

  • Dry, brittle hair prone to tangling: Lack of protein makes hair fragile and prone to breakage when brushing. Deep conditioning treatments can add moisture, but protein treatments are needed to strengthen the hair.
  • Overly stretchy hair: This is a sign of protein deficiency. Healthy hair has an optimal balance between strength and elasticity. Too little protein leads to overly elastic, gummy hair.
  • Split ends: Protein loss from chemical or heat styling can cause split ends to form. Protein treatments can minimize splits by fortifying and repairing the hair.
  • Slow growth: Hair is primarily made of protein. Without adequate protein intake, hair growth slows and existing hair is weaker. More protein can help optimize growth.
  • Hair loss: Severe protein deficiency can lead to excessive hair loss and thinning. Low protein intake or diets lacking particular amino acids may contribute to hair loss.

If your hair seems weak despite deep conditioning, lacks elasticity, or is slow growing or thinning, a protein treatment for hair may help strengthen and repair it.

Also read: The Nutritional of Salmon Fish Protein

Top Sources of Hair Protein

FoodProtein per ServingKey Amino Acids for Hair
Eggs6g (large egg)Cysteine, proline, lysine
Salmon22g (100g)Cysteine, lysine, glutamine
Chicken27g (100g)Cysteine, proline, arginine
Greek Yogurt20g (170g)Tryptophan, lysine
Almonds6g (28g)Arginine, lysine
Lentils9g (100g)Lysine, arginine, phenylalanine
Tofu11g (100g)Arginine, lysine, tryptophan
Spinach3g (100g)Lysine, arginine
Shirataki Noodles3g (100g)Glycine, arginine
Spirulina8g (5g)Leucine, lysine, threonine

What foods provide protein for healthy hair? Here are some of the top protein-rich foods to incorporate in your diet:

  • Eggs: One of the best sources of complete protein. The sulfur-containing amino acids promote keratin formation.
  • Meat: Red meat, chicken, turkey, and pork are high in protein including keratin-boosting cysteine.
  • Fish: Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel provide omega-3s for scalp health plus protein.
  • Legumes: Kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, and soy contain plant-based protein and amino acids.
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds pack protein, vitamin E, and zinc.
  • Dairy: Milk, cheese and Greek yogurt provide protein along with biotin, calcium, and vitamin D.
  • Spirulina: This alga is one of the highest plant-based complete proteins. It contains amino acids for hair growth.

Be sure to consume adequate protein at each meal to maintain a stable supply of amino acids for building hair keratin and collagen throughout the day.

Do Hair Supplements Containing Protein Work?

Many hair growth protein supplements and vitamins contain amino acids, collagen, keratin, and other proteins for hair health. Some other common ingredients include:

  • Biotin: This B vitamin supports keratin infrastructure and may boost hair growth.
  • Vitamin C: Important for collagen formation and iron absorption to supply nutrients to hair follicles.
  • Vitamin D: May help regulate hair cycle and growth phases. Low vitamin D is linked to alopecia areata.
  • Omega-3s: Scalp anti-inflammatory effects may support follicle health.
  • Zinc and iron: Components of hair protein ferritin that may prevent hair shedding.

Some research suggests certain combinations of amino acids, antioxidants, and vitamins may improve hair volume, shine, or growth. However, there are few large-scale studies on hair supplement efficacy. Overall diet, protein intake, exercise, stress management, and other factors likely play a larger role in hair health.

Also read: ADHD Diet for Kids

Common Hair Protein Treatments

Here are some popular types of professional and DIY protein treatments for natural hair:

  • Keratin treatments: Salon treatments like Brazilian Blowout contain a keratin solution to deeply penetrate and repair hair. Results can last 2-4 months.
  • Reconstructors: Salons use products like Aphogee Two Step Protein Treatment to rebond broken bonds in damaged hair for an immediate effect.
  • Collagen protein: Packs like Briogeo Don’t Despair, and Repair contain hydrolyzed collagen to strengthen hair.
  • Rice water: Fermented rice water contains amino acids like inositol to boost hair elasticity and sheen.
  • Gelatin: Mixing unflavored gelatin with water makes a DIY protein hair mask.
  • Egg mask: The protein in eggs white along with fatty acids in the yolk can condition.
  • Mayonnaise: Contains proteins similar to eggs, along with moisture-binding oils.

To avoid hair protein overload, limit intensive protein treatments to once a week or every other week. Look for products containing hydrolyzed proteins like soy, rice, or wheat for milder daily protein care.

The Takeaway

Adequate protein intake from sources like eggs, nuts, fish, and legumes provides the amino acids to build strong keratin hair protein. Targeted use of salon or at-home protein treatments can help minimize breakage and repair damaged hair. For optimal hair health, focus on consuming a protein-rich, balanced diet along with proper hair care and styling techniques. With the right dietary and topical protein, your hair will grow healthy, strong, and abundant.

Common Hair Damage Caused By Protein Deficiency

Type of Hair DamageCause
Split EndsLack of protein leads to weaker hair more prone to splitting at ends
BreakageFragile hair more susceptible to breakage during brushing and styling
ThinningSevere deficiency pushes more hairs into shedding phase, resulting in thinning
Loss of ElasticityInsufficient amino acids lead to rigid, brittle hair lacking stretch
DrynessLack of protein reduces hair’s moisture binding capacity
FrizzWeak hair cuticles with insufficient protein lift and separate
Reduced ShineAmino acid deficit results in dull, lusterless hair
SheddingInadequate protein intake slows the rate of hair growth
Slow GrowthSevere deficiency pushes more hairs into the shedding phase, resulting in thinning
TanglingBrittle, dry hair is prone to tangles without sufficient protein

Protein deficiency can lead to several types of damage and unwanted hair changes:

  • Split ends – Lack of protein leads to weaker hair more prone to splitting and fraying at the ends. This damage progresses up the hair shaft if not trimmed.
  • Breakage – Fragile hair is more susceptible to breakage during brushing and styling when protein levels are low. This can lead to short, broken hairs sticking up along the hairline.
  • Thinning – Severe protein malnutrition can shift more hair follicles into the resting phase. This excessive shedding results in thinning and loss of volume.
  • Loss of elasticity – Hair stretchiness comes from the bonds between amino acids in keratin and collagen. Lacking protein leads to rigid, brittle hair.
  • Dryness – Protein gives hair moisture-binding capacity. Without adequate protein, hair is quick to dry out and becomes parched.
  • Frizz – Weak hair cuticles lift and separate without sufficient protein to keep the cuticle layer flat and tight. This leads to unwanted frizz.

Regular trims, deep conditioning, and protein treatments can help combat protein deficiency hair damage. However, improving daily protein intake is crucial to support healthy hair growth.

Chronic Protein Deficiency Can Lead to Hair Loss

While periodic protein treatments can provide a quick boost, chronic protein malnutrition may contribute to hair loss conditions like:

  • Telogen effluvium – This reversible form of hair loss is caused by stress, shock, trauma, or malnutrition pushing more hairs than normal into the shedding phase. Lack of amino acids can be a factor.
  • Androgenic alopecia – Hereditary pattern baldness aggravated by dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Amino acids help counteract DHT, so insufficient protein intake may exacerbate this common form of hair loss.
  • Alopecia areata – This autoimmune disorder causes patchy hair loss. Amino acid balance impacts immune function and deficiency may increase risk.

Furthermore, low protein intake can lead to a sluggish metabolism, spikes in the cortisol stress hormone, and other effects that hamper optimal hair growth.

Consuming a varied, protein-rich diet and minimizing stress is key to preventing hair loss. Targeted supplements may also support hair health in protein deficiency.

Also read: Highest protein vegan foods

Signs You May Have Excessive Hair Protein

While a lack of protein can damage hair, too much can also cause problems. Here are signs of hair protein overload:

  • Brittle, inflexible hair prone to snapping when pulled
  • Coarse, dry hair with a straw-like texture
  • Increased tangles and hair difficult to comb or manage
  • Frizzy, puffy hair lacking shine
  • Crunchy hair with a hard cuticle layer that is rough to the touch
  • Severe dryness and tangling after washing
  • Hair that feels gummy and stretches excessively before breaking

Discontinue intensive protein treatments and use more moisture-rich conditioners, masks, and oils to restore balance. Drink plenty of water and have a varied, nutritious diet.

Causes of Hair Protein Deficiency

There are many potential causes of inadequate protein for hair health:

  • Dieting with severe calorie or protein restriction
  • Long-term vegan or vegetarian diet without sufficient protein alternatives
  • Eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia
  • Bariatric surgeries like gastric bypass leading to malabsorption
  • Strict avoidance of common allergens like eggs or dairy
  • Digestive disorders impairing protein breakdown and absorption
  • Regular use of harsh cleansers and chemicals excessively damaging hair protein
  • High fever, infections, chronic stress, or postpartum hair loss overwhelm protein supply
  • Crash dieting, liquid cleanses, fad diets lacking complete protein

Assessing total protein intake and protein quality is important for those suffering hair damage, loss, or breakage to rule out deficiency. Adding protein-rich foods, targeted supplements or treatments may aid hair.

Also read: Treating and Preventing Heart Disease Symptoms, Causes, and Care Options

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