On average, we grow a half an inch of new hair each month. Breakage and splitting ends sometimes make it hard for us to see this growth. We want our hair to continually grow, and often times we are impatient about the time it takes. Although the rate at which hair grows is genetic, there are ways to assist your body’s growth cycle through digestion and external application of protein.
What is protein?
Your hair is mostly made up of protein. Proteins are amino acids that account for about 20% of your body’s weight in muscles, skin, bones and hair. One of the main functions of protein is to build, strengthen and repair keratin. Keratin is the material that makes up the outer layer of your skin and is a key component in the structure of your hair and nails.
Protein in your diet helps your hair grow.
To grow new hair, your body must produce more amino acids to make more protein. Consuming the right amounts of protein in your daily diet will give your body what it needs to stimulate new hair growth. According to the US Department of Agriculture, an adult woman should consume at least five ounces of protein per day, or more if you exercise more than 30 minutes in a given day. Healthy protein sources are lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and soy products.
You can also “install” protein into your hair.
In addition to your diet, you can use protein treatments to strengthen and repair hair from this side of your scalp to supplement your body’s use of ingested protein for growth.
There are four main types of pre-made protein treatments:
- Protein packs are good for routine maintenance to restore and balance (every 4-6 weeks).
- Light protein treatments are ideal for regular maintenance and are sometimes packaged as leave-ins or labeled with phrases like “conditioning mask” or “recovery and repair” (every wash or less if you feel your hair is too stiff when styling).
- Deep penetrating treatments are intense hydrators that work well on moderately damaged hair (good for use every other week/wash-day).
- Reconstructors are often used to repair damage from heat styling or drying affects of color processing (every week/wash-day to repair extensive damage or every other week, pending your hair type and needs).
If you prefer, you can make your own protein treatments:
- Egg Mask: beat a couple eggs, apply the mixture to your hair, cover with plastic cap and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Rinse with cool water, then shampoo and condition.
- Mayo and Avocado Mask: mix a couple tablespoons of pure mayonnaise with half of a mashed avocado (remove skin first), apply to hair and cover with plastic cap, let it sit for 20-30 minutes then rinse with cool water, shampoo and condition.
- Coconut Oil Treatment: combine a cup of organic coconut milk or virgin coconut oil, a tbsp. of honey and 2-3 tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil. Apply to hair, cover with plastic cap and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then, rinse with cool water, shampoo and condition.
What you should know about protein treatments…
Whenever I wear straight styles, either by blow-out or flat ironing, I apply a protein treatment (usually Palmer’s Coconut Oil Protein Pack) with my next wash to “restore” my hair. It can be beneficial to incorporate protein treatments into your routine every four to six weeks if your hair is “normal” or every two weeks if you are trying to repair damage from heat, color processing or split ends. However, if you are experiencing excessive dryness, protein treatments may not be your solution. You may need a hydrating mask or conditioning treatment.
Too much of any good thing can be bad. Overuse of protein treatments can leave your hair feeling stiff. The key is to make sure you are balancing use of protein treatments with depositing moisture into the hair. Try a hot oil treatment and deep conditioning your hair between protein treatments.
As always, make sure you read the directions and product label to see the suggested usage and claims of the treatment. You should use treatments as directed in the instructions or consult a stylist in your area if you are not sure which type of treatment is best for you.