Under The Microscope: Silk Amino Acids

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In the world of cosmetics, companies use all sorts of buzzwords to sell their product. Ads throw around words like “natural” and “organic” and customers eat it up. This also extends to what I like to call buzz-ingredients. Many shampoos and soaps advertise how they include fancy additions, such as essential oils and silk amino acids. That last one sounds ideal: silky smooth, protein building blocks that make your hair gloss like something out of a magazine. Although most of us don’t really understand what the phrase itself means we just know it’s going to give us the smoothness we crave. Silk amino acids bring up visuals of silky-smooth hair – and somehow, that’s exactly what you get! I’m a big fan of giving my hair the attention that it deserves, which is why hearing about silk amino acids for hair, grabbed my attention.

Silk itself has long been touted as the “princess of fibers”. This is due to its paradoxical strength and delicacy. Because the name seems to indicate the valuable contributions from this ingredient, I never sought to learn what they actually were and how they benefited my hair and skin. For a substance that gives hair superior nourishment, it deserves some explanation.  Let’s take a look at the science behind how this addition makes your hair so beautiful. But before we dive in, I think we should cover the basics first. What exactly is your hair structure, and where do silk amino acids come into the picture?

What Is Hair Structure? Hair Structure Explained

Back of womans head with blond curls.

Woman with healthy hair.

The outermost layer of your hair is called the cuticle. This layer of the hair is the part that works the hardest to protect the inner structure and prevent damage. The middle layer is known as the cortex and it really makes up most of what we associate with our hair: the color, texture, and strength. The innermost layer is called the medulla. This layer is commonly only present in extremely thick hair.

When your hair gets damaged, the damage is really only to the cuticle of the hair. When you use heat tools, chemicals, and other stressors on the hair, it weakens the cuticle which then allows for more severe damage to the rest of the hair strand. If the outer layer is weak, the whole structure is compromised. It might sound a little dramatic, but the better you know your hair, the better armed you are to take care of it to the best of your ability. Looking after your hair isn’t just about making sure that it looks good, but also ensuring that it’s actually living its healthiest life. True, some of that comes simply from looking at it, but knowing the structure is the first part of understanding your hair’s needs.

Your hair grows from the roots, which is why scalp health is so important to overall hair health. The roots are located at the bottom of the hair strand. The strand is made up of cells of protein. The protein is keratin and is also a major protein in your nails. The fact that your hair is made up of protein means that it’s essential to get enough of this nutrient in your diet. Better yet, what if you could apply it directly to your hair to help fortify your hair structure? That’s where the use of specific haircare ingredients comes in to play. Enter: Silk Amino Acids.

The Science Behind Silk Amino Acids

The name comes from more than just the lovely hair texture that results from use. Silk amino acids are the proteins that bind together the silk fibers from silkworms.  To better understand what silk amino acids are and how they can help your self-care routine, let’s take a look at their composition. L-Alanine (34.36%) makes up most of the substance which is a nonessential amino acid, meaning that it can be naturally produced by the body. The rest is made up of Glycine which contributes heavily to protein development and higher sleep quality. It also contains L-Serinewhich has a variety of biological benefits, including facilitating metabolism and acting as the precursor to amino acids (including glycine).

As if that weren’t enough silk amino acids also contain small amounts of L-Valine, L-Threonine and additional amino acids which are all necessary for our bodily functions.  The bottom line is that silkworms sure know a thing or two about hair health!

These amino acids all work together to build Sericin. Depending on the specific amino acid sequence, the type of Sericin will change. Sericin is particularly beneficial to the skin in a protective sense, as well as being good at increasing moisture. So now that you know what silk amino acids are, the only question left is why do they work? The term “smooth as silk” is there for a reason…and I for one want to know why.

Why Do Silk Amino Acids Work?

Hand holding hair and essential oil dropper on top.

Hair treatment.

Silk amino acids are susceptible to the action of proteolytic enzymes. Although this just sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, it’s basically like the protein you might find in an almond snack. These proteins have beneficial properties, including the ability to hold onto moisture and cling to skin. Being rich in nutrients allows the silk amino acids to rejuvenate and hydrate both hair and skin. Moreover, silk amino acids in cosmetics bring therapeutic benefits, because your body either naturally produces them or needs them. In fact, the ability to retain moisture in the long term makes this ingredient a very valuable staple of silk hair products. Dry hair, for example, is a result of your hair’s inability to hold onto moisture. So, instead of coating your hair in synthetic moisturizers, silk amino acids address the root of the problem by facilitating natural moisture retention.

Ultimately, silk amino acids benefit your hair because their water-binding capacity regulates moisture content. The chemical makeup of silk amino acids gives them a high affinity for proteins. This results in a tightening, anti-wrinkle effect. Last but not least, because of their low molecular weight, the amino acids easily penetrate deep into the hair cuticle and layers of skin. They add a protective barrier that stays there even after washing, which helps to maintain long-lasting moisture.

Where To Find Silk Amino Acids

Now that you know the science behind silk amino acids, you must be eager to lather them all over your locks. I know I am. The good news is that they aren’t tough to find. Because these amino acids retain moisture really well, many cosmetic companies add them to shampoo and conditioners, as well as other hair care products. On your next drugstore run, check the ingredients label for that silky addition to get the shine you want. The bottle doesn’t lie … the silk amino acids really do leave your hair feeling silky smooth.

Our own Silk18 here at Maple Holistics uses silk amino acids to give you that smooth dream. Silk amino acids have an extremely small particle size. This means that they’re able to penetrate deep into the hair cortex. This strengthens and fortifies the hair from within. Your hair will thank you for providing the hydration, protein, and nourishment it needs. Silk amino acids create a protective, moisturized layer on hair and skin. As a result, these ingredients are also ideal for lubricants and body lotions. When push comes to shove, if you hear someone exclaim “silky smooth!” about their hair or body, they’ve probably been using a cosmetic with silk amino acids.

What About The Silkworms?

Silkworm with its cocoon.

Silkworm cocoon for silk shampoo.

In general, it’s important to be aware of what you purchase, and where you purchase it from. When you put honey in your tea, a population of bees worked hard to create that sweet heaven. Similarly, silk products bring incredible benefits as a result of the hard work of silkworms. Appreciate the work that went into creating this product – not just from humans! Because the production of silk products involves other species, it’s necessary to ensure that these products are cruelty-free. The generic producers boil the silkworms alive, take their cocoons, and extract the silk amino acids for human benefit.

Boiling them alive then stealing their little nest just does not sit well with my moral code, and I hope the same for yours. Although I haven’t fully committed to the vegan way of life, I think that animal safety and the value of our environment cannot be understated. I have tremendous respect for vegans. This is why it’s important to note that not all silk ingredients are cultivated this way. There are cruelty-free methods and it’s well worth the time to take an extra minute to check for these.

Rather than brutally killing the worms and stealing their little houses, ethical companies give the silkworms the time they need to leave the cocoons according to their natural life cycle. The animal life cycle is a beautiful thing to watch, and any company that respects this is the company for me. Once the silkworms have inched along to their next life endeavors, the ethically-conscious producers collect the cocoons left behind. Be good to your health and our world. Care for your hair without compromising your morals by buying the silk you need from the companies that don’t stoop to inhumane levels. The fact of the matter is that this is actually a lot easier than you might think.

The Importance Of Avoiding Chemicals In Shampoo Explained

Blue test tube poured into orange beaker.

Chemical mixture.

The awareness of the importance of avoiding chemicals in our beauty products is becoming increasingly popular. And rightly so. Chemical-based shampoo’s have the potential to do more harm than good in the long run. What we put onto our skin is eventually absorbed into our bodies, at least to some degree. This means that all those chemicals with names we can’t pronounce can do real harm to our bodies.

The problem is that some of us don’t even know what we’re supposed to be looking out for. Becoming a conscious consumer means getting comfortable with reading ingredients labels. Ingredients to be particularly cautious of are sulfates, sodium chloride, and parabens. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Besides for these, you should also be on the lookout for triclosan, PEG, and, my all-time favorite, “fragrance”. I think it pretty much goes without saying that fragrance is not a stand-alone ingredient. It’s often a loophole for a company to hide their ‘secret formula’. At the same time, it also allows for the inclusion of a whole host of other hidden ingredients that you might not want to expose your skin to on a regular basis, if at all.

That being said, it’s not enough to just know how to read ingredients labels. There is very little regulation in the cosmetics industry about what goes into products. This means that companies are free to do what’s become known as greenwashing. Greenwashing is when a product claims to be “clean”, organic” or “natural” but is decidedly not so. The truth is that a good scan of the ingredients label will prove it. Personally, this means that going all-natural is the only solution to truly nourish my hair from within.

It’s also important to know your body to know what to avoid. Although it’s true that chemicals, in general, aren’t the best solution for your skin, natural methods are rarely a one-size-fits-all. That’s where holistic health comes in and steals the show. Understanding your body as one system allows you to make the best ingredient choices for your body – so you can look and feel your best!

Conclusion

If you struggle with dry skin or hair, silk amino acids could be your saving grace. The “princess of fibers” contains quality proteins to strengthen and moisturize your hair from the inside out. The best part is that there’s no need to go to the forest looking for these little cocoons. The silkworms’ little nests are more accessible than a chance discovery in a tree. There are so many cosmetics and shampoos on the market with this magical ingredient.

Although cruelty-free options are available, I think there’s something to be said for the fact that this is an ingredient that doesn’t (or might not) sit well with vegans. As a lover of animals and their environment, I hear the dilemma. There are other silk sources besides for silkworms, but these are the richest producers of the popular protein. It doesn’t necessarily validate their use, but if you’re vegan it’s good to know that you don’t have to miss out entirely.

Check out the best cruelty-free options to give your skin and hair the hydration and nourishment that they deserve. Treat yourself to a shampoo or lotion with silk amino acids to bring a little silky smoothness into your life. But don’t forget to avoid those added harmful chemicals wherever possible. My general rule of thumb is that if I can’t pronounce it, I skip it. Either way, silk amino acids are the ingredient to look out for in the endeavor for silky-smooth, nourished locks. If you’re not sure where to start, Maple Holistics Silk18 could be the shampoo for you! Whichever way you look at it, your hair needs protein, and silk sounds like a pretty luxurious way to provide it if you ask me. As long as it’s natural, you can sign me up.