You might have heard about keratin or keratin hair treatment. But what really is keratin and how does it work?
Biologically speaking, keratin is a group of structural, fibrous, very durable proteins. It is a major component of our hair, nails, and skin’s outermost layer (epidermis). Keratin proteins are minute structures, which is the reason why it is both flexible and strong. Keratins won’t tear even if they’re flexed in many directions. They form very stable bonds that aren’t easily broken unless you apply special chemicals to break them - just like salon hair straightening treatments.
The Function of KeratinKeratins act like a “scaffolding” for skin cells (epithelial cells) and other tissues in the body to give them solid structure and integrity. Protective skin structures containing keratins such as the hair and nails, form through the process called keratinization. Keratinized structures are implanted in the skin.
In the human hair, keratin filaments are found in the epithelial cells of the hair follicles. Thus healthy follicles are crucial to forming strong bonds of hair strands. Indeed having normal keratin production is crucial if you want to achieve thicker and stronger hair and nails.
How is Keratin Formed?
Keratins are formed by the cells called keratinocytes. These cells make up a major portion of your skin, hair, nails, and other body parts that contain keratin. They are formed by the integration of eighteen types of amino acids; one of them is cysteine. This amino acid is high in sulfur content and plays a key role in forming strong hair bonds.
Boosting Keratin ProductionNormal keratin production results in strong and healthy hair, skin, and nails. So how can you help maintain and boost the production of keratin?
- Protein Intake. Healthy production of keratin relies on a stable flow of amino acids. You can do that through dietary protein. Increase your protein intake if you want to improve or maintain good keratin production. It is also important to get your protein from healthy sources such as lean meat and plant-based proteins. The recommended intake of protein according to the Department of Agriculture is between 46 and 56 grams per day for adults.
- Vitamin A. This antioxidant vitamin affects the growth of our skin by regulating keratin production and activating keratin genes. Keratinization disorders are actually treated through vitamin A or retinoid therapy. The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily intake of 700 mcg for women and 900 mcg for men.
- Vitamin D. This vitamin also plays a role in regulating the growth of keratin or keratinocytes. Vitamin D isn’t produced by our body. You can get it through moderate sunlight exposure (early morning sunlight) and from foods fortified with vitamin D such milk, butter, and yogurt.
Therefore to support the normal and healthy growth of keratin in your body, you need to have a steady and functional supply of these essential nutrients in your body. You can do that through eating properly or taking good quality supplements. These days there are premium supplements that offer a good combination of vitamins and minerals that help improve and boost keratin for healthier hair, skin, and nails.
It is also important to note that naturally improving your keratin is quite different from getting an in-salon keratin treatment. The latter can in fact damage your hair more instead of repairing it. To make matters worse, the ingredients such as formaldehyde are even potentially hazardous to your health (and to the one who administers it) according to the US FDA.
The real keratin, which is the building block of your hair and nails, can only be enhanced through consistent balanced diet and if you get sufficient levels of the above listed nutrients.
If you are suffering from any condition due to poor keratin levels in your body, such as brittle hair and nails or hair fall, it isn’t too late to improve that through the right dietary modification and or supplementation when needed.