Many natural products are used in the creation of hair treatments. Moreover, while some are certainly more effective than others, it is useful to understand in what ways they can help to obtain healthier hair. Here, we are going to look at the relationship between hair and keratin and the benefits that using keratin can have on our hair.
Keratin, a protein that is mainly composed of sulphur, is present in nature and in the human body. In human beings, it can be found in the nails, the hair and the skin. While in animals, it is found in the horns, the feathers and the hoofs. In fact, its name is comes from the Greek keros, which means horns.
Types of keratin
There are two types of keratin in the human body: soft keratin, present in the skin; and hard keratin, found in the nails and hair. The first is known scientifically as keratin beta, and the second as keratin alpha.
Keratin alpha contains cysteine in its amino acids, which in turn create disulphide bridges. This is a key component in strengthening nails and human hair, just as in the horns of animals.
Meanwhile, keratin beta contains no cysteine in its amino acids and so does not have disulphide bridges. This makes it a much more complicated component to obtain and retain in the body.
Sulphur is one of the principle minerals that form this protein. It is estimated that it makes up between 2% and 4% of soft keratin, while in the hard keratins, it may constitute between 15% and 18%.
However, this is not the only material found in keratin. There is also a significant amount of hydrogen in the form of a helix, which contributes to increasing the resistance and hardness of the sulphur.
The hydrogen layers are structured into a helix and are combined with other layers to form micro fibrils, which then bind to larger molecules called fibrils. These are responsible for the hair’s development, along with its growth and resistance.
The fibrils are synthesized in the hair follicles and form the hair’s growth network. As mentioned earlier, hair possesses keratin alpha, which can be transformed to keratin beta through the application of heat and humidity. When this happens, the hair can extend its length as a result of the elasticity of the keratins and the hydrogen bonds in the helices breaking away to form a new structure, meaning that it maintains the same characteristics.
To get an idea about how keratin looks graphically, you must imagine a series of networked strands that come together to form a thread, which itself joins with others until it forms a large string. To keep the protein’s amino acids attached, a portion of the hydrogen bonds and hydrophobic forces are needed.
The role keratin plays in the hair is to protect each of the strands; to do so it takes the form of scales. This protection keeps the hair strong and resistant, while also regulating the shine and the intensity of colour.
Some 95% of our hair is made up of this protein, which disappears over time. That is why hair looks less strong , and balding appears, in later life.
Properties and care
Keratin makes the hair impermeable, thanks to its protective layer formed by Keratinocytes. Equally, it is responsible for the hair’s elasticity. This is why people who have keratin hair treatments often end up with longer hair. However, if you try to lengthen the hair too much, the keratin will not be able to resist and will eventually break off.
With regard to caring for this protein, there are a number of external factors that will inevitably have an adverse effect, such as exposure to the sun or excessive humidity. However, the use of certain chemicals, hair dryers, irons and other hair care items can further damage the protective layer of keratin.
To recover the keratin levels in your hair, it is recommended you use specialist products that contain the protein, more than anything to give extra shine, strength and flexibility to the hair, as well as to prevent alopecia.
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