If you’ve got a finger on the pulse of the beauty industry, you’ve probably heard the name ‘keratin’ once or twice. A number of skin products have started incorporating keratin into the ingredient list, and are not embarrassed to brandish the word on their labels. But clear explanations of what it is, what it does and how your skin benefits are not as common.
So what is keratin? What does it do? Here are some straightforward answers to burning questions about keratin…
What is keratin?
Keratin is a protein that occurs naturally in your hair, nails and skin. Depending on amino acid levels, it can be hard (as it is in nails) or soft (as it is in skin). No matter what form it’s in, keratin is designed for protection.
In our skin, the outer layer (the epidermis) is made up of a layer of dead keratin cells, pushed to the surface by new keratin cells growing underneath. This outer layer provides waterproofing functions as well as strength and elasticity. The loss of strength and elasticity in older skin is due to losing keratin over the years.
Why is healthy keratin important?
When the top level of keratin is compromised, the sensitive inner layers are exposed to damage through heat, chemicals or friction. When skin keratin is damaged, it results in skin looking flaky and dry. Typically, the healthiest skin has the thickest layer of dead keratin protecting the cells underneath.
What does keratin do in skin products?
Functional keratin in skin products can reinforce that protective outer layer, keeping skin healthy. You can use it to either repair existing damage or to protect your healthy skin: keeping it well-guarded against damaging heat, chemicals or friction.
However, be wary of products that claim to contain keratin: many used hydrolysed keratin, which has been heavily processed with heat and acid. This process degrades the protein to the point where it no longer functions as keratin would. You should always read the ingredient labels and look for ‘functional keratin’. This type of keratin has been extracted from sheep’s wool and maintains its original form and function.
Author bio: Whitney Cox is a blogger based in Christchurch, New Zealand. She often writes about the many uses of keratin products. Because of its rejuvenating properties, keratin makes an ideal skin repair or wound care.