What Are the Functions of Keratin?

by Tammy Kane

Keratin is a tough fibrous protein that strengthens skin, hair and nails with its tight strands and intertwined structures. There are two types of keratin, according to Bio-Medicine.org: alpha-keratin, which is abundant in humans and mammals, and beta-keratin that is primarily in birds and reptiles.

Strengthens hair

Keratin is a major component responsible for strengthening the hair, making it less likely to break.

Coats and repairs damaged hair

Keratin helps to smooth and coat frizzy and frayed hair shafts, resulting in smoother and straighter hair. It repairs damaged hair by smoothing and coating the hair shafts and helps to keep in moisture.

Maintains healthy skin

Keratin is also contained in the outer epidermis and creates the tough skin in calluses. It helps skin maintain its elasticity and firmness. Keratin controls cell growth and renewal, which helps to soften and control wrinkles.

Skin pigmentation and protection

Keratin has an influence on melanin and skin pigmentation. The protein plays a part in waterproofing skin, according to NaturalSkinHealth.com. It also creates a slight barrier against bacteria and other organisms.

Toughens nails and bony structures

Nails are made up of keratin, which causes them to become less prone to chipping and breaking. Keratin is a major part of hardened structures of animals such as horns, hoofs, beaks and even feathers.

Fun fact

Keratin is such a good coating that pharmacies use this same protein for the smooth coating on pills.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Tammy Kane is a freelance writer and photographer. She has written for "Young Mom" web-zine and Associated Content. Kane is also the alternative medicine writer for the Gainesville National Examiner. She has a Bachelor of Arts in both psychology and criminal justice from the University of Wyoming.