My Beautiful #RedCarpetCurlsRoyalty,
By now, you all know my goal with this website is to teach you the science behind your hair and skin. This helps you understand and master the Curly Girl Method for your individual hair needs.
This article will give you all the background information you need to know about one of the most helpful tips I could ever give you; utilizing amino acids for their hair and skin benefits.
Utilizing amino acids in your haircare routine and in your diet can 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. Think of amino acids as the foundation for protein.
What is the Scientific Cliff Notes I Need to Know About Amino Acids?
According to the Milady Standard Cosmetology Textbook, “Hair is approximately 90% 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 small micronutrients that break off from the original block of protein. Since these micronutrients 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 outer most 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 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. (Milady 2011)
Fun Fact: Did you know the cortex of your hair is responsible for about 90% of the total weight of your hair? The amino acids are able to penetrate deeper, strengthening the strand from within. This will help in retaining length and avoiding breakage.
Amino acids are chains that make up the structure and integrity of our naturally textured hair, it’s vital. Amino acids make up the bonds in our hair:
- Hydrogen bonds- are weak, physical, cross-link side bonds that are easily broken by water or heat. These bonds are broken each time you wet your hair with water. This allows the hair strands to be stretched and wrapped around rollers. This also affected when you finger coil your hair to “train” the curls for a more uniform definition. These bonds reform once the hair dries.
- Salt bonds – are also weak, physical, cross-link side bonds. Salt bonds depend on the pH of your hair, so they are easily broken by strong alkaline or acidic solutions like alkaline water (which is just a step up from tap water) or acidic solutions like apple cider vinegar rinses. Salt bonds may be weak but they are plentiful. Salt bonds make up about 1/3 of the hair’s overall strength.
- Disulfide bonds – these are the strong, chemical side bonds. Disulfide bonds are very different from the two weak physical bonds we have discussed. These bonds are joined by the sulfur atoms of two neighboring Cysteine amino acids to create one cystine. Disulfide bonds are so much stronger than the other bonds, they account for 1/3 of the hair’s overall strength. Disulfide bonds CANNOT be broken by water. They are only broken by permanent waves and chemical products such as relaxers. This changes the shape of the curl. Olaplex #3 is a treatment used to target these specific bonds in the hair to strengthen them and repair them. This increases your curl strength and definition over time.
Why Should I Include More Amino Acids in your diet?
One thing to understand about our healthy hair is that EVERYTHING is a factor! You cannot have healthy hair growth and retention without a healthy scalp. I will 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 our Protein V.S. Moisture article, Hair encounters damage on a daily basis from simple manipulation like tight styles and brushing your hair. You even encounter damage from the sun, as the canopy of your hair (top layer) is subjected to the sun, the canopy can become more dry and porous than the underlayer of your hair. Not to mention self-inflicted damage like:
Therefore we need a steady protein source in your hair regimes. While the best way to acquire your protein is through your diet, you will have to supplement protein treatments into your hair regime anyway. The reason is most protein treatments help repair the cuticle. Most protein treatments don’t penetrate the cortex(the middle innermost layer) of your hair, they simply sit on the surface of the cuticle(outermost layer of the hair) and fix the surface of the hair strand. The only problem with this method is you need protein to penetrate the cortex because you need to strengthen the hair from within.
The best form of protein (in my humble opinion) is amino acids. Amino acids are broken down protein building blocks. They are much smaller in weight and size which helps penetrate the cortex, strengthen and condition from within for increased elasticity (stretch) and strength.
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, and beans and corn. (Milady 2011)
What Amino Acids Does My Skin Need?
Naturally Curly has a fantastic article about Why Amino Acids Matter, here’s what they have to say about amino acids and skincare. “There have been studies that show amino acids through supplements and topical beauty products can lead to an even skin complexion and even improve the appearance of your skin. Say goodbye to; wrinkles, sun spots, stretch marks, fine lines, and more when you have these amino acids in your diet;
Together, they work together to provide antioxidant powers to strengthen the skin and also act as an exfoliant to boost moisture retention on the newer layer of skin underneath your Epidermis (the outer layer). Your other layers Subcutaneous, and Dermis equally benefit from amino acids for protecting them from potentially harmful environmental factors. Because of this, amino acids are used in various anti-aging products. Love to Know says they might trump the popular ‘alpha hydroxy system’ in effectiveness when it comes to smoothing skin and improving an even tone. Right now, there are 2 trending amino acid treatments: AFA (Acid Filaggrin Antioxidants) and Amino Genesis.” (Velasquez ) Remember your scalp is still skin! It benefits from these amino acids. Healthy scalp, healthy hair growth, and retention.
The skin conditions that see improvement from products with high amino acid content:
- Chronic Dermatitis (A group of skin conditions characterized by red, itchy rashes. Example – Eczema)
Which Amino Acids Does My Hair Need?
As we have well-established amino acids are a phenomenal tool when consistently utilized in your natural beauty routine. We have talked a lot about its benefits for the skin because we all know scalp health is most important for healthy hair growth. 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 en- hanced 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 defintion and shine you have always dreamed about.
How do I Utilize Amino Acids in My Routine
The simplest way to include amino acids into your regime is by using Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids. You can find this product in your local supermarket or health food store as a soy sauce alternative. 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.
You can use Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids as it’s original intent which is as a soy sauce alternative for your food. You can add this to any of your meals and spice up not only your taste buds but also create a better environment for your hair growth.
Personally, I am not a fan of the taste, so I choose to add it to my weekly deep conditioner. We already established that amino acids give a great boost of moisture and strengthening at deeper levels than regular protein can provide. We also established from one of the journal articles, that when mixed with a hair conditioner amino acids have more affinity for hair, providing more benefits than the deep conditioner alone can provide.
I do not do ANY major protein treatments for my fine healthy curls. That is because I keep the protein moisture balance with the weekly treatment. So, what exactly is the magical recipe?
How to Add Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids to My Weekly Deep Conditioner?
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 Inahsi Natural Mango Hemp Restorative Deep Conditioner.
Deep conditioners are intensive conditioners formulated to penetrate the hair strand past the cuticle, all the way to the cortex. The function of deep conditioners is to improve the overall health of your hair, making it the perfect treatment to add the amino acids to.
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 with other types of conditioners, it just might be messier is all. 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.
I find 1-2 teaspoons is more than enough to add to your conditioner. 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 in-direct 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.
Leave the mixture on for 30 minutes then rinse and follow with your normal styling routine.
I have been using this mask for over two 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.