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Hydrolyzed Wheat Proteins Add Volume To Thinning Hair


Hydrolyzed wheat protein is a natural ingredient that thickens thinning hair, adds volume and body, repairs breakage and splits, and increases shine and manageability of hair.

example of wheat plant

example of wheat plant

Definition: What are hydrolyzed wheat proteins?

Hydrolyzed wheat protein is an amber-colored, non-viscous (not sticky), water soluble (capable of being dissolved in water) liquid with a faint aroma. It is extracted from the wheat germ of the wheat plant (genus Triticum from the grass family Gramineae) by the process of hydrolysis. Hydrolysis occurs through acidic, alkaline, or enzymatic processes to separate the wheat proteins (amino acids) from other compounds (including most of the gluten) found in wheat germ. Hydrolyzed wheat proteins are also referred to as hydrolyzed wheat starch and can appear on ingredient labels as wheat hydrolysate or wheat peptides.

History: What is the origin of wheat treatments to the hair?

The first known use of wheat flour for application to hair was during the 17th century (1601-1700 AD) when it was popular culture in France and England to powder wigs. However, this practice was discontinued as food shortages became more prevalent; it was viewed as being wasteful. Hair dyes in powdered form containing wheat flour and naturally occurring colorants such as henna, black walnut shells, burnt sienna, or umber were utilized up until the mid 19th century (1801-1900 AD) with the advent (introduction) of peroxide dyes for hair. Research in the 1960s determined that wheat proteins could strengthen and repair damaged hair, and hair care companies began incorporating wheat proteins into their hair care products. Consumer demand in the 1970s and again in the 1990s for “natural” (from nature) hair products prompted hair care companies to include wheat proteins in their hair product formulas. Today, treatments, shampoos, and conditioners contain hydrolyzed wheat proteins as a means to thicken, volumize, and repair thin, flat, or limp hair.

Body Elements: What effects does hydrolyzed wheat proteins have on the hair?

Hair has two principal parts: the hair follicle (bulb) embedded in the dermis (underlying layer of skin) and the hair shaft (strand) found extending outward from the epidermis (topmost layer of skin). The hair shaft is the segment of the hair that is visible to the eye. The hair shaft (strand) has three layers: the medulla, the cortex, and the cuticle. At the deepest layer (center) of the hair shaft is the medulla which is present in some stands but not others; only hairs with the largest, thickest circumference (distance around) contain a medulla. The medulla is made up of cells that are in a disorganized and open arrangement. The middle layer of the hair shaft is the cortex. The cortex makes provision for texture, color, and strength of the hair strand. It is the cortex that absorbs moisture when applied to the hair strand. The cortex is made up of cells of keratin bundles organized in a rod-like arrangement. Hydrolyzed wheat proteins readily draw into the hair’s cortex due to the wheat protein’s low molecular weight. The outermost layer of the hair shaft is the cuticle which is colorless, thin, and purposes only to protect the cortical (cortex) layer. The cuticle is arranged of several (more than two) layers of flat, thin cells that overlap each other like shingles on a roof.

The hair shaft (strand) is a filament (chain-like series of cells) constructed of approximately 97% tough, fibrous proteins (amino acids) called keratin. Inadequate protein prevents the body from replacing shed hairs and causes the texture of the hair to become dry, brittle, and weak. One cause of the appearance of thin hair is substantial breakage and split ends. Hydrolyzed wheat proteins strengthen and repair damage to keratin as the result of inadequate protein absorption reducing breakage and splits, thereby thickening hair. It can also repair damaged hair follicles (bulbs) in the dermis (underlying layer of skin) by bonding to the keratin and allowing hair strands to grow out thicker than they would without repair. Hair follicles (bulbs) can be damaged as the result of chemical treatments such as perms, coloring, straightening, etc. Of note, the hair shaft (strand) lengthens as new cells created in the follicle (bulb) push upward, die, and turn into keratin. Its, therefore, important to keep the hair follicle (bulb) and its keratin healthy to avoid thinning hair.

Hydrolyzed wheat proteins for use on hair are classified by the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) as a film-forming agent, a conditioning agent, and a moisturizing agent. As a film-forming agent, hydrolyzed wheat proteins form a thin layer on the surface of the hair which yields a glossy shine, smoothness, and manageability to the hair without weighing strands down (without flattening the hair with residues). As a conditioning agent, hydrolyzed wheat proteins nourish and repair hair strands by strengthening and fortifying hair cells with proteins, reducing porousness (minute holes in hair strands), and minimizing hair loss due to breakage. As a moisturizing agent, hydrolyzed wheat proteins attract and retain moisture in the hair. The wheat proteins swell the hair shaft with moisture increasing the thickness (circumference) of the hair stand, increasing spacing between hair strands (volumizing), and giving the hair body (fullness of appearance, shape, thickness, and texture).

Functions: How does hydrolyzed wheat proteins supplement the hair?

Hydrolyzed wheat protein is a phyto (plant) peptide containing oligosaccharides (carbohydrates) and amino acids (proteins). Peptides form a link or bond between amino acids. Amino acids are compounds (building blocks) comprised of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen atoms that join together to construct proteins. Amino acids (structural proteins) are needed (required) to keep the hair’s mostly keratin and lesser constitute of collagen in healthy condition. Hydrolyzed wheat proteins offer an additional supplement of the non-essential (can be produced by the body) amino acid of cysteine. Approximately one-quarter of a hair strand’s keratin is composed of cysteine. Cysteine supports the production collagen which may be beneficial to the hair follicle (bulb) on the regrowth of new hair. Additionally, studies suggest cysteine supplementation prevents hair loss.

example of thinning hair

example of thinning hair

example of volumized hair

example of volumized hair

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Audience: Who would benefit from a hair care product containing hydrolyzed wheat proteins?

Its normal for the average person to lose approximately 50 to 100 hairs daily. However, excessive hair loss can be caused by a number of circumstances or conditions such as

  • a protein deficiency
  • a genetic predisposition for hair loss (hereditary)
  • hormonal changes following childbirth, menopause, or due to birth control pills
  • thyroid disease of hypothyroidism (low thyroid) or hyperthyroidism (high thyroid)
  • alopecia catricial and alopecia areata in which the immune system damages the hair follicles
  • scalp infections
  • some types of lupus which can cause scarring
  • medications to treat arthritis, cancer (chemotherapy), depression, heart conditions, and hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • a sudden emotional or physical shock
  • trichotillomania, a hair pulling disorder


The benefits of using a hair care product that contains hydrolyzed wheat proteins are its ability to add volume, thickness, and body to hair by swelling the hair shaft with moisture, its ability to repair damaged hair by an infusion of amino acid proteins, and its ability to form a thin layering on the hair’s surface that provides a lustrous shine and manageability without weighing the hair down. Hydrolyzed wheat proteins are derived from a natural source, wheat, and are an excellent remedy for thinning hair.

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Author: Chrissy Candace

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