Spreading Clean Beauty

Conscious consumers want vegan keratin – but is this possible?

Cruelty-free beauty is a long-standing trend that’s gaining pace, particularly amongst young people. Now, 67% of Gen Z would stop using brands that used unethical practices and a further 55% only use cruelty-free products (Mintel, 2020). In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this prioritization of cruelty-free products is set to be further emphasized. As connections emerge between the spread of the virus and wet markets and meat processing plants, consumers are increasingly concerned with animal welfare as it pertains to the wider environment.

This trend is relevant to the entire beauty and personal care segment, and hair care is no exception. Consumers are looking for cruelty-free, vegan products free of animal-derived ingredients. This tendency is reflected in the market: last year, ‘vegan’ was amongst the top five claims within the natural/organic BPC market (Mintel, 2019). Therefore, formulating vegan alternatives to traditionally animal-derived ingredients like keratin is of particular concern to the industry.

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How does keratin strengthen hair?

An equally ubiquitous hair care trend is keratin – and this isn’t without good reason. Keratin is a protein that already occurs naturally in the hair, forming a protective shield around the hair shaft that helps it stay elastic, soft, and shiny. Unfortunately, keratin can be depleted due to heat, styling, chemicals, and other environmental stressors.

As a result, most consumers are looking to boost their keratin to strengthen their hair. You can increase keratin production in the body by consuming more proteins like lean meat, beans, eggs, hemp, or nuts. Alternatively, you can also apply keratin directly to the hair through shampoos, conditioners, and other treatments: this year, 45% of American consumers said that when they are buying conditioner, strengthening hair is an important purchase driver (Mintel, 2020).

Can you synthesize vegan keratin?

In light of the vegan beauty trend, there is a key obstacle here: in the past, applied keratin has been animal-derived. Like human hair and nails, hooves, feathers, and horns are made of keratin. In fact, many hair products with keratin claims contain ground animal parts to make the product. Technically, there is no synthetic keratin and it can’t be extracted from plants in quite the same way. Naturally, this is an issue if you are looking for a vegan keratin product.

However, this isn’t to say that the properties of keratin can’t be mimicked in plant-based formulas. For instance, the synthesis of amino acids extracted from grains like rice or wheat creates hydrolyzed proteins that act as an alternative. As a result, products with ‘vegan keratin’ claims are emerging, which chimes with the rising popularity of vegan claims.

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Plus, hydrolyzed proteins have rich, nourishing properties that complement African hair textures particularly well, presenting a gentler alternative to keratin hair straightening treatments. Right now, 64% of millennials want to see beauty brands showcase more diversity (Mintel, 2020). Therefore, vegan keratin products enable brands to take a two-pronged approach to young consumers’ demands: it’s haircare that’s both vegan and inclusive.

The keratin-preserving properties of Kerarice™

In response to the demand for a vegan keratin alternative, Provital developed Kerarice™. This active ingredient is obtained from the grain of Oryza sativa L., commonly known as Asian rice. Its chemical composition is characterized by the presence of biofunctional peptides and amino acids, polysaccharides, and phytic acid. These compounds support the hair’s keratin levels, aiding in the protection and regeneration of keratin in the face of external aggressors. The results are shiny, brighter, and stronger hair – all derived from the power of plants.

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