Article one: Keratin-just what is Keratin?
“Keratin” seems to be the latest fad when it comes to hair treatments, and it can be so confusing with all these different treatments that have “Keratin” in their name!
Some of these are meant to be good for your hair and some have received some pretty bad press recently. In fact so bad that Keratin is now described by some as the “K” word –never to be mentioned in civilized circles!
So what does it all mean? Over the next few weeks we will be running a few articles to talk about this. In this first article we will talk about Keratin- just what is Keratin?
Samantha, one of our KeratinQuestion bloggers, recently asked an excellent question. She asked:
If the body stopped producing keratin, what would be the effect on the hair?
Well, the short answer to that is that you would not have any hair. But the longer answer is that not much else in your body would function either.
Keratin is the name of a group of fibrous proteins produced by your body. Hair is almost entirely Keratin. The other key component in hair is water, the amount of which changes depending on the state of your hair. Dry hair and damaged hair will contain as little as 10% water, while healthy hair will typically contain about 16% water. The third component of your hair are lipids which make up only 1% and these are a mix of lipids on the surface of your hair and what are called internal lipids within the cellular structure of your hair. All in all, this means that up to 90% of your hair is Keratin. (So it makes sense that, to do any repair work on your hair, you would use a material that is most like your hair!)
But Keratin also forms a key role in other parts of our body. It is an essential structural component of all the soft tissue cells in our body. If we didn’t have Keratin our skin would fall apart, as would all our internal organs. They would lack any structural integrity as keratin is key in providing structural strength to the cell of these organs.
We wouldn’t have any nails as these are also almost entirely Keratin. Even our bones contain keratin within the osteoblasts cells which are the cells that generate the Calcium phosphate structure of our bones. Simply put Keratin is one of the key essential protein types in our bodies and is absolutely critical to our physical wellbeing.
Keratin is present also in the bodies of other animals, in soft cell structures, and in fur, horn, feathers and wool. Sheep wool has a very similar structure to human hair and is a key source of keratin that is used in the personal care industry. The nice thing about using sheep wool is that sheep have to be regularly shorn of their wool as an important part of animal care and are not at all harmed in the process of shearing.
There are several processes for converting the wool, once shorn, into the soluble Keratin that is in hair products. The type of process used is critical in what properties the resulting keratin product has and what functionality it retains and confers on the hair product it is used in. In the next two articles we will talk about the different types of keratin, their functionalities and two types of treatments that you will know of as keratin treatments for hair.
For some more background on keratin you could look at these sites: