Keratin is the hard protein that makes up your hair, nails, and the outer layer of your skin. Increasing your keratin may help give more flexibility, strength, and shine to brittle nails or thin, lank hair. A deficiency of keratin can result in hair loss, sagging skin and nail breakage. You can increase your keratin naturally by eating a diet rich in keratin and other nutrients. Avoid common keratin-busting habits to further increase your keratin, and try using products that contain or increase keratin.
Things You Should Know
- Eat vegetables, fish, and protein to increase your keratin levels from the inside out.
- Use hair products that contain keratin for an extra boost.
- Avoid straightening or bleaching your hair, since heat and chemicals can decrease keratin levels.
Eat foods that contain keratin. Keratin is found naturally in vegetables like kale, broccoli, onions, leeks, and garlic. Include these foods in your meals to boost your body’s keratin naturally. Liver, fish, yogurt, and low-fat milk are other good food sources of keratin.
Consume a protein-rich diet. Include healthy proteins in your diet to help your body make more keratin. Eat lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy. Remember that red meat is high in fat, so be sure to balance your other health needs with your keratin-friendly diet.
- If you’re vegetarian or vegan, snack on high-protein products like walnuts, almonds, and beans.
Eat omega-3 fatty acids. Include fatty fish in your meals several times a week. Salmon, mackerel, herring, trout, sardines, and tuna are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids that can help your body make keratin.
- Limit salmon and canned tuna to 12 oz. per week.
- Don’t eat mackerel if you’re pregnant – it’s considered a high-mercury fish that’s best avoided during pregnancy.
Up your vitamin C intake. Your body needs vitamin C to make keratin. Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, as these are high in vitamin C. Some of the best produce for vitamin C include:
- Citrus fruit and juice, like orange and grapefruit
- Tropical fruits like cantaloupe, kiwi, mango, papaya, and pineapple
- Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, and watermelon
- Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts
- Peppers (green and red), tomatoes, and potatoes (sweet and white)
- Leafy greens like cabbage, spinach, and turnip greens
Eat foods rich in biotin. Your body needs biotin to make healthy hair and skin, partly due to its role in keratin production. Upping your intake of biotin-rich foods may improve hair and nail quality, though not much research has been done on this. Get biotin from foods like:
- Eggs (with the yolk)
- Vegetables like cauliflower, beans, blackeyed peas, soybeans, and mushrooms
- Whole grains
- Nuts like almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, peanuts and their nut butters
Get cystine from your diet. Cystine is turned into a building block of keratin in your body. Include foods rich in cystine in meals regularly. Eggs are one of the best sources of cystine. Other good food options are beef, pork, seeds, and milk.
- Choose lean and low-fat options, which are better for your heart and overall health.
Get keratin-based hair products. Some shampoos, conditioners, and styling products contain keratin. Using these products consistently over time may help build up protein on your hair that makes it smoother and softer. Look for these products at your local pharmacy or beauty supply store – they should be clearly labeled. Some examples include:
- Keratin Complex Shampoo
- It’s a 10 Miracle Shampoo Plus Keratin
- KeratinPerfect shampoo by Sephora
- Suave Color Care Keratin Infusion shampoo
- Keranique Volumizing Shampoo for Thinning Hair
Choose shampoo and conditioner with the right nutrients. Use hair products that are enriched with vitamin E, vitamin B5, iron, zinc, and copper. It’s possible that these nutrients can increase your hair’s keratin production. Look for these nutrients on the label or on the ingredients list.
Habits to Avoid
Don’t straighten your hair with an iron. Using an electric hair straightener can change and damage the structure of keratin fibers in your hair. If you’re trying to improve and increase keratin, blow dry your hair straight on a cool setting rather than using a straightening iron.
Don’t bleach your hair. Bleaching your hair damages keratin and your hair’s cuticles.Using gentle dyes are okay, but avoid bleaching your hair if you want strong, healthy keratin.
Protect your hair from the sun. Protect your hair from those strong summer rays, which can act like bleach on your hair and damage keratin. Wear a wide brimmed hat or cover yourself with an umbrella if you’ll be outdoors.
- Fine, light-colored hair is more vulnerable to sun damage than thicker, coarser hair.
- Protect your skin from sun damage by covering up or wearing sunscreen on exposed skin.
Rinse your hair thoroughly after swimming. Pools and hot tubs contain a lot of chlorine, a chemical that dries out your hair and damages keratin. If you’re going to swim in a pool, rinse your hair well with clean water afterwards.