Thursday, April 19, 2012

What's Cookin': Vegetarian Protein Treatment for Hair

One word. Beer. See the end of the post for store-bought vegetarian protein products!©Science-y Hair Blog 2013
I have been wracking my brain for a homemade  vegetarian protein treatment which would give "I want to see a change right now" results like my gelatin protein treatment recipe, and which you can find locally and easily. I tried commercial hydrolyzed proteins at varying levels, but they just did not pack the punch I was looking for. When I use a protein treatment, I want my hair to feel different - to be bouncier and shinier. I'm looking for instantaneous gratification!

Hydrolyzed protein, whether hydrolyzed by heating with acid or by fermentation, is the form of protein which is the most useful to your hair. Gelatin is hydrolyzed collagen, an animal protein. Soy sauce is hydrolyzed soy protein, but did not impress me much - though I admit fear of using it on my entire head because I have light-colored hair and don't like the smell very much except in cooking.

But beer has a wonderful effect on hair. I'm not a beer drinker, so I can't speak much about brands, but a strong, dark beer is best.©Science-y Hair Blog 2013

What's in it for you? All the carbohydrates from the grains beer from which the beer is made - probably mostly sugar by the time it has become beer - are humectants which moisturize the hair. Beer contains pectins, celluloses, lipids and hops. "Hops" is a vine and the flowers (used to flavor beer) themselves make a marvelous rinse for hair. There is a small amount of protein in beer - both from the grains and the yeasts. Because this protein has been subject to fermentation, some of it should be useful to your hair. Protein is a humectant as well and the protein, sugars, and plant-based nutrients from beer are much like the gelatin in that they both moisturize and form a subtle film around your hair, making it feel thicker, more substantial, less frizzy, shiny, and bouncy.

Beer also has a pH value which is lower than water - something your hair will like.

How to use: Pour a glass of beer and leave it at room temperature to go flat (though it isn't necessary, you definitely want the foam incorporated into the beer because the foam contains the smaller proteins). You will probably need about 1/2 cup - so it is possible to freeze what you don't use. Cleanse your hair. Pour the beer over your hair, work it into the length and make sure all your hair is saturated. 
1) Leave on (beer doubles as a light-hold "setting lotion"): Don't rinse at all, or just duck your head into the shower spray to make sure the beer is evenly distributed. If you are using a conditioner, condition first, or just use a leave-in conditioner after the beer rinse.
2) Rinse off: Leave the beer on your hair for 5-15 minutes with gentle heat (wrap your hair in plastic or a treatment cap), then rinse out and apply conditioner.

The beer smell evaporates almost completely - I do not like the smell of beer one bit, so I was surprised to find it went away without rinsing. The scent which remains is slightly "woodsy" or grainy/herbal and not at all like the floor of a baseball stadium after a big game.

Like most protein treatments, this is one you do when the effects begin to wear off, or when your hair needs a boost. It's not cheap, but if you have leftover beer or if you use it as a once or twice per month treatment (freezing the extra) - it's not unreasonably priced, either. I have yet to try using heat with this treatment, because it is left on, that seemed unnecessary. When I do try that, I'll update this post.


Curious about the protein in the foam? Read this.  Beer foam is about 10% protein, the rest is carbohydrate. Much of the protein in beer foam is higher molecular weight (large) - 40,000 Daltons. This will interact with hair - but only in film-forming, which is desirable for fine/medium hair or damaged (including highlights and permanently colored) hair. There is a lower molecular weight protein (9700 Daltons) which has been broken down during the malting stage (sprouting and microbial breakdown of the grains). It's not small enough to get beyond the cuticles - but it is small-medium and will also help with hydration. Undoubtedly the protein size (weight, to be correct) and composition will vary with the kind of beer, and brand of beer.©Science-y Hair Blog 2013

Other Vegetarian-Friendly Protein-rish products (may not be cruelty free):

  • Nutress Hair Moisturizing Protein Pack
  • Nutress Stop Break (spray)
  • Garnier Fructis Damage Eraser Conditioner
  • Garnier Fructis Damage Eraser Shampoo
  • Garnier Fructis Damage Eraser Reconstructing Strength Butter