There are a couple of benefits of protein for hair growth, but most center on the nutrient’s ability to strengthen the connection of the follicle to the scalp and its potential to thicken individual strands from the root up. Most of the time protein alone can’t stimulate new growth. What it can do is improve the strength and health of the hairs that are already growing. Not all people experience the same benefits, and a lot depends on the type of protein used and its format. Eating more protein-rich foods is one method, but protein-infused shampoos, conditioners, and hair “masks” are often more immediately effective. With continued use, these sorts of products may help prevent hair loss while also giving the appearance of thicker, fuller hair.
Preventing Hair Loss
Protein for hair growth is sometimes recommended as a treatment for people who wish to prevent hair loss. Hair loss is often genetic, especially as people age, and may also be related to stress. There isn’t always a way to reverse losses, and the pattern can be difficult to stop, too. Just the same, many natural therapy advocates recommend using protein-rich foods or supplements, particularly when the alternative is chemical-based creams or medications. Some health practitioners even recommend specific foods to promote hair retention, such as salmon and flaxseed. These are foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to general improvements in hair, nail, and skin health.
A severe protein deficiency can also sometimes result in hair loss, and in these cases eating foods rich in this complex nutrient may bring about a reversal. Most people who have regular access to a wide variety of food, however, will not lose their hair purely for diet-related reasons. Hair loss that happens solely because of a lack of protein in the diet is very rare.
Strengthening Individual Strands
Prevention of hair breakage is another reason why people may choose protein supplementation. When hair breaks, it often does not grow back to its full length. If hair has a tendency to break, other efforts used to help make hair grow may still fail. An adequate protein intake strengthens hair, making it stronger and less apt to snap, snarl, and become brittle, all of which can lead to breakage.
Thickening Locks and Improving Shine
A number of protein proponents also claim that the nutrient can make hair healthier overall. This isn’t necessarily directly related to growth, but it does impact general appearances. When hair follicles and strands are durable, flexible, and thick, they often look fuller, and typically resist damage better than they otherwise might.
Understanding Protein Generally
Most health experts agree that regular protein intake is required for good health, as well as hair health more specifically. Most hair itself is made up of protein molecules and the science behind recommending the nutrient for growth is, in most cases, sound.
Not all protein is equal, though. The protein found within hair cells is known as keratin, and keratin is directly responsible for the composition of each strand of hair. Most of the protein people consume is different. It’s either animal-based, primarily meats and organ tissues, or plant-based, like legumes and certain leafy greens. The amount of protein each person needs daily varies on an individual basis by weight, height, and other factors. People who have weak immune systems or illnesses such as anemia, which is an iron deficiency, may require more. In general, an average adult person requires between 1.4 to 2.5 ounces (40 and 70 grams) of protein daily. Taking more might help hair growth, but a lot of this depends on the circumstances.
A high-protein diet is usually a good place to start. Eggs, salmon, and liver are popular sources and are widely available in most places. Dairy products like yogurt and cottage cheese are also good options, particularly for vegetarians. Other good sources of protein for hair growth include brewer's yeast and wheat germ. Additionally, processed protein supplements, often available in powdered or capsule form, might also be considered, though in general these can’t serve as replacements for otherwise balanced eating.
In addition to eating more protein, people can also usually purchase protein-based hair care products designed to help improve hair from the outside in. These include conditioners, spray-on treatments, and hair lotions, sometimes also known as masks. Keratin, animal, and plant proteins may be found in these products depending on the specifics.