What’s poppin’ my Beautiful #RedCarpetCurlsRoyalty,
My goal with each article is to give you the science-based information and Curly Girl Method approved product recommendations you need to achieve your healthy hair goals.
In my article Why Your Curly Hair Needs Protein, I briefly mention the use of Amino Acids. This in-depth article will break down everything you need to know about these gentle yet incredibly effective forms of protein to help you repair damage and improve the overall health of your hair much more quickly as opposed to just following a basic CGM routine. Amino acids give hair a great boost of moisture, shine, and strength.
So, here is everything you need to know about amino acids.
What are Amino Acids?
Amino acids are known as protein “building blocks.”
Essentially amino acids are teeny, tiny molecules (also known as micronutrients) that have broken off the original big protein block. Amino acids are essential to every living organism’s growth processes. For example, Did you know hair is the second fastest growing tissue in the body? Right behind bone marrow. Your body needs protein to complete these processes.
Think of amino acids as the foundation for protein.
What are the Scientific Cliff Notes I Need to Know About Amino Acids?
According to the Milady Standard Cosmetology Textbook, Hair is approximately 91% protein.
Protein is made up of long chains of amino acids. Hair is composed of protein that grows from the cells originating within the follicle. This is where hair begins.
As soon as the living cells form, they begin their journey upward through the hair follicle. They mature in a process known as Keratinization. As the new cells mature, they fill up with a fibrous protein called Keratin.
According to an article in the Journal of Cosmetic Science, “Protein is the second major component of living organisms, following water. All proteins, including skin and hair, are various compositions of amino acids. This means we all need protein and would, therefore, benefit from incorporating them into your routine. (OSHIMURA 2007)
Amino acids are the smallest unit of protein, and the most gentle. Amino acids make up a majority of our body, but specifically when it comes to your hair strands, there are approximately 20 different amino acids that are arranged/joined together through specific peptide bonds very strong chemical bonds).
The order and number of amino acids that make up hair protein is determined genetically (DNA is a mystical thing).
Each protein molecule is made of several hundred to a few thousand amino acids. This is why we like to call Amino Acids “protein building blocks”.
Since these micronutrients (amino acids) are so much smaller than the original protein block, it is better able to penetrate the hair strands.
The structure of the hair strand is complex, it has many different layers. The outermost layer of the hair is known as the Cuticle. This is where you will find all the tiny little roof shingle- looking scales that control the porosity of your hair.
Most big protein blocks (like avocado, egg, and mayo) are not small enough to penetrate past this layer, so protein acts as a sort of spackle for the cuticle. It fills the holes and gaps in the cuticle to allow the scales to close down and seal, giving off a beautiful frizz-free shine.
Since amino acids are so much smaller, they are able to penetrate past the outermost layer, all the way to the middle innermost layer of the hair, known as the Cortex.
Fun Fact: Did you know the Cortex of your hair is responsible for about 90% of the total weight and structural integrity of the hair strand?
The amino acids are able to penetrate deeper, strengthening the strand from within. This will help in retaining length and avoiding breakage.
Why Should You Include Amino Acids in Your Diet?
One thing to understand about our hair is that EVERYTHING is a factor!
You cannot have healthy hair growth and length retention without a healthy scalp. I’ll just save you the time and I will tell you right now, you cannot have a healthy scalp without having a healthy body.
As discussed in my Curly Hair Care: Protein V.S. Moisture article, Hair encounters damage on a daily basis from simple manipulation like tight styles and brushing your hair.
The top layer of your hair (also known as the Canopy) subjected to the sun more often than the bottom layer of our hair. This is why the canopy can become more dry and porous than the underlayer of your hair.
Let’s not forget to mention self-inflicted damage like:
- Dying hair incorrectly – with cotton towels or high heat levels
- Bleaching the hair – destroys the disulfide bonds (strongest bonds in the hair, the more of these bonds your hair has, the curlier it will be. These are the bonds that Olaplex #3 strengthens and repairs, and now, Inahsi Naturals(Discount Code: REDCARPETCURLS) has the Rescue & Repair Bond Strengthening line which focuses on repairing these bonds as well.
- Relaxing – also destroys the disulfide bonds in the hair. This process leaves hair dry, brittle and weak, leaving it prone to breakage.
- Perms – perms aren’t as detrimental to your hair health as bleaching. But the process may weaken and dry strands, according to a PeerJ. If you already have damaged hair, you may be more prone to a brittle feel or even breakage.
- Straightening – high levels of heat especially on wet hair essentially causes the moisture in the hair to boil and blister the hair’s Cuticle layer. This makes the Cortex layer more vulnerable to damage and increases the porosity of the hair.
- Curling – same as straightening.
Therefore you need a steady protein source in your hair regime.
The best way to acquire more protein in your life is to ingest it in your diet. When you incorporate protein-based options into your diet, your body breaks down these proteins and distributes it to the areas of the body that need it most. This helps aid in bodily processes such as hair growth.
Eating Your Amino Acids
Your body requires 20 amino acids every single day for optimal biological processes such as hair growth.
Those 20 amino acids are:
- Aspartic Acid
- Glutamic Acid
Of these 20 amino acids, our body naturally produces 10 of them:
- Glutamic Acid
- Aspartic Acid
That means the other 10 amino acids have to be supplemented to your body through your food:
Getting enough amino acids/protein through your diet is essential. This is why crash dieting and eating disorders like anorexia, cause hair loss, lackluster hair, and otherwise unhealthy scalp conditions.
Proteins in meat, eggs, fish, and dairy products are good sources of these amino acids. As are food combinations such as peanut butter and bread, rice and beans, corn. (Milady 2011)
While including protein in your diet is the most effective way to help your body, this doesn’t exactly guarantee that protein will make it to the hair strands. This could be because possibly your skin needed it, or your tissues, maybe even your bones.
This is why I always recommend supplementing hydrolyzed protein like Amino Acids in our haircare routine.
Supplementing Amino Acids To Your Hair
Personally, I am not a fan of the taste of Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids. So, I choose to add it to my weekly deep conditioner.
Amino acids give a great boost of moisture and strengthening at deeper levels than regular protein can provide.
When amino acids are mixed in with a hair conditioner, the amino acids have more affinity( likeness or attraction) for hair, providing more benefits than the conditioner alone can provide.
Purchasing Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids for your deep conditioning sessions is the simplest and most effective way to utilize amino acids in your healthy haircare routine.
You can find this product in your local supermarket or health food store as a soy sauce alternative. Don’t forget Amazon, they have absolutely everything!
Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids contains 16 amino acids that contain all 10 amino acids your body needs but cannot produce on its own, making this the perfect one-step addition.
Adding the Liquid Amino Acids to your deep conditioner is the easiest and most effective way to enhance your hair routine. One of my go-to’s for deep conditioners is the Be My Curl Seal The Deal Mask (Discount Code: REDCARPETCURLS17).
Deep conditioners are the perfect product to add amino acids to because of its function. Deep conditioners are formulated with ingredients meant to penetrate to the deepest layer of the hair known as the Cortex. Since the amino acids are indeed a liquid solution, thicker conditioners are better equipped to handle the amino acids.
This doesn’t mean amino acids will not work well with rinse-out conditioners. The amino acids will serve as an accelerant, adding more moisture and strength to the hair, further enhancing the benefits of the conditioner.
Normally I choose to add amino acids, raw honey, and some kind of oil to my deep conditioners as well. This creates the ultimate treatment for repairing and improving the overall health of your hair.
Take a separate small bowl, I like to use this one from a facial set. Add the amount of deep conditioner you will need for one use. Then add 1-2 teaspoons of Liquid Amino Acids to the separated conditioner, and mix well.
I choose to apply the mixture by raking it into my hair. This would also be a perfect time to finger coil your hair, to “train” the curl on how to curl again. This will help create more uniform curls more quickly. A great tip when transitioning into the Curly Girl Method.
Once the mixture is applied to the hair try to add some indirect heat to enhance the benefits. I love to use my Q-redew hair steamer because the heat from the vapor softens the cuticle allowing the mixture to penetrate the hair faster and more effectively than without the heat.
You can also use a plastic shower cap, to trap the heat produced from your scalp, for a greenhouse effect. You can use a plastic shopping bag for the same effect.
There are also microwavable caps that heat up the conditioner for you as well. I am a fan of the Thermal Haircare Hothead and ThermalVibes.
Leave the mixture on for 30 minutes, then rinse, and follow with your normal styling routine.
I have been using this mask for over four years and have had AMAZING results. My hair never experiences breakage anymore and I am able to preserve the color of my highlights far longer than most people thanks to the amino acids.
Which Amino Acids Does My Hair Need?
As we have well-established amino acids are a phenomenal tool when consistently utilized in your natural hair care routine.. Amino acids help protect the scalp and encourage healthy hair growth.
A 2007 article in the Journal of Cosmetic Science found, “When amino acids are applied to hair as the state of simple aqueous solution, uptake of the amino acids is mainly controlled by ionic equilibrium. When amino acids were incorporated in hair care formulations, the interaction between the amino acids and other ingredients. Uptake of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA), a derivative of glutamic acid, is enhanced by combining with arginine, an amino with strong affinity towards the hair. A hair conditioner incorporated with alanine improves hair surface hydrophobicity of bleach-damaged hair. Histidine and phenylalanine improve tensile strength. PCA was proved to be effective to improve color-retention of dyed hair.“
Basically, this is all really fancy wording for:
- When amino acids are applied to the hair as just a liquid, the absorption of the amino acids depends on the absorption of the liquid into the hair
- When the amino acids were added to a formulated conditioner the amino acids traveled more quickly to the hair
- Hair has a particular affinity (or love) for the amino acid, Arginine, it acts as the “anchor” amino acid by absorbing quickly and encouraging other amino acids to absorb as well
- A hair conditioner incorporated with Arginine improves the water-repelling property of bleach-damaged hair
- Histidine and Phenylalanine amino acids improve the strength of each individual hair strand
- Amino acids help improve dyed hair’s ability to keep it’s the vibrant color for longer periods of time
The science doesn’t lie, amino acids are fantastic for not only hair growth but retention! Utilizing a bit in your routine will help you achieve the frizz-free definition and shine you have always dreamed about.
If you have any other questions about amino acids or protein, don’t hesitate to comment your questions below. If you would prefer to ask me your questions privately you can always email them to Queenmonroe@redcarpetcurls.com
If you are new to your healthy hair care journey and would prefer more direct attention. Feel free to book a 1-on-1 consultation. That is where we will discuss your hair care goals, your current routine, and any product/routine adjustments/recommendations.