Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Mighty Grains

The benefit of using protein is common in hair care literature. However, what exactly to use and easy ways to use effective proteins are still sparse. I find too many hair posts that recommend egg and mayonnaise as hair treatments. Also, very little is done to describe how proteins help with moisture in hair. Below find effective means of using proteins to keep your hair moisturized this summer.

Protein makes up about 90% of the composite of hair. The structural bonds of these proteins is a string of amino acids (18 in total) that are in turn made up of sulfur, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon. The bonds are joined together by peptides. Two essential elements required for hair are proteins and moisture.

However, in order to be effective proteins need to be of a particular size in order to penetrate the hair. These ideal proteins are referred to as hydrolyzed. Meaning that the large molecular structure of protein has been processed into smaller units. These proteins can originate from a variety of plant (wheat, soy and rice and oats) and animal sources (milk protein, egg protein, silk protein and glycol-protein).  These proteins function to increase hair absorption meaning it is helps to increase moisture in hair. It strengthens hair, improves elasticity, shine, softness and smooth hair.

Proteins that need a special mention:

Wheat protein (Wheat amino acids)
Enables hair to both receive and retain moisture.  Wheat proteins have an ideal molecular weight at 150-2000 to penetrate hair at deeper levels. What that means is healthier hair possibly better looking hair as well.

Keratin Protein
Can be of human or animal origin. Sheep Wool is commonly used as well with a weight of about 1100-3300. Human hair can be hydrolysed to a 150-2000 molecular weight. Gives strength and plasticity.  Said to be the most potent protein as it is closest to the actual composition of hair. High in cysteine- typically lost during chemical processing of hair. Is used to give hair strength and plasticity, moisture and shine.

Silk Protein (Silk Amino Acid)
Silk protein has a small molecular structure that makes it ideal for hair. It has a durability quality that makes it popular for use in a range of products.

Note that proteins of animal and vegetable origin interact differently with hair. Animal proteins refine into fatty acids that coat hair. Typically these products stiffen and harden on hair as they stay on the outer layer. In contrast vegetable ones penetrate the hair. Thus gives more moisture benefit. What you want is a protein/moisture balance.

Lets look at the use of Gelatin.
Gelatin is a great source of protein, easily accessible and easy to use. Gelatin however does not absorb into the hair.  Recall the Olympic games?  One of the uses of gelatin is for the perfectly non-moving hairstyles of synchronized swimmers. What if you are vegetarian and was thinking of using Agar instead? Don’t! Agar is the perfect breeding ground for all sorts of ‘nasties’. In fact it is so good at that job that Agar is used in laboratory testing of the stability and preservative quality of products. Save the Agar for your food. Unless you have an amazing broad-spectrum preservative to ensure whatever you have made stays usable.

How to get protein into your hair?
The best way to get protein into your hair is to eat protein rich foods. I completely hate this thought as it is hard enough for me just to remember to eat because I have to.  So, hearing that a good diet gives good hair is just not my idea of fun. Still, it is what it is. Your body has the immaculate ability to hydrolyse proteins and use them where necessary.  I am also not a big believer in supplements as the scientific proof of their benefit is slim at best and often way too inflated by pop culture.

Should option one make you as unhappy as it does me then the next option is to buy these in ready made, packed and easy to use hair treatments.

Option Three (my favourite). Find ways to get your protein fix in a DIY product.

Oils- Wheat germ, rice bran, soy oil and oat oil are a good place to start

Rinses: Rice water/fermented rice water/rice vinegar

Powders: Rice flour, oat flour, Soy flour, and whey powder

Using the oils as pre-poo (Wheat germ, Soy, oat or rice bran)

A friend recently shared her amazing results using wheat germ oil on her hair as a pre-poo treatment. The way she uses it is as follows:
Apply the oil to wet hair and cover with a shower cap. Use a hot wet towel and cover the head and shower cap. Repeat this process a few times ensuring that the towel stays warm to create a heat cap. Keep on for about an hour and wash as usual. She has a head of beautiful hair and attributes it to the use of wheat germ oil. (See her stunning pictures below)

Rinses (Rice water)

To make rice water:
½-1 cup of rice
10-12 cups of water
(essential oils- optional)

Raw rice method:
Place rice in bowl and rinse to remove debris.
Add water and let it rest for about 48hrs
The rice will ferment and impart colour into the water.
When the rice water is fermented bring it to a simmer to stop the fermentation. Decant the water into a jar and leave in fridge to use. The water will stay fresh for about a week. So only make it when you can use it.

Cooked rice method:
Boil the rice in the water until cooked and drain the water into a bowl. You can either ferment the rice water or cool it and store it in the fridge.

Rice Vinegar:
Brown rice vinegar is rich in amino acids. Good quality rice vinegars have a sediment at the bottom that when shaken gives it a cloudy appearance. 

There goes my love for Apple Cider vinegar.

*I have used rice flour and whey powder on my hair before in protein potions. I have not had any problems with it. However, please note that whey and soy have been linked to controversial research on hair applications. Some research indicates soy isolates as a culprit to hair fall. Soy has also recently come under fire by the medical fraternity for containing hormones that can cause health problems. Please do some research before embarking on a trial for new natural products. Read before testing it on yourself.


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