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What are Silk Amino Acids?

By Angie Johnson-Schmit
Updated May 21, 2024
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Silk amino acids, also known as silk protein or sericin, are the gelatinous proteins that bind the filaments in silk. The protein is water-soluble and is found in both liquid and powder form. These amino acids are used in a variety of cosmetic and personal-care products, including hair conditioner, hairspray, and skin creams.

The acids are obtained from a silkworm cocoon by either boiling the cocoon or piercing the cocoon with a needle. During the boiling process, the silk that makes up the cocoon unspools, thereby allowing the silk threads and the silk amino acid to be harvested. Regardless of the method used, the silkworm is killed in the process, which is the reason some animal rights groups condemn the process.

Silk protein is often used in hair care products because of its ability to penetrate and strengthen damaged hair. The amino acids bind with the keratin in the hair, thereby creating a protective layer that helps seal in moisture while adding luster. Several commercial hairsprays use these amino acids to provide extra protection and shine without weighing down the hair.

The amino acids have a low molecular weight that allows them to be easily absorbed through the skin. As with hair, silk protein binds with the keratin found in skin and creates a layer of defense against moisture loss. In addition, some studies have shown that the crystalline structure of sericin offers some protection from ultra-violet (UV) rays. Silk amino acids have some antioxidant properties and have been shown to be effective in combating wrinkles.

Other than its common use in ready-made cosmetics and beauty aids, consumer forms of liquid and powder silk amino acids are available to those interested in making their own personal-care products. A community of avid do-it-yourself home beauty product makers — with websites, blogs, and chat rooms devoted to recipes and methods — has embraced the substance’s versatility, moisture retention, and softening abilities. For example, a few drops of liquid silk amino acids can be added to commercially made mascara as a conditioning treatment for eyelashes.

While either liquid or power forms of sericin works well, hobbyists report liquid amino acids are usually easier to use in the making of lotions or creams. Powered silk amino acids can clump when added to ready-made compounds — a problem that can be neatly avoided with the use of a liquid form. There are few substances in nature that can offer the gentle moisture protection, anti-oxidant properties, and soft shine of silk protein.

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Discussion Comments

By aLFredo — On Aug 15, 2011

@bluespirit - I don't know the common brands, but I do know that frizz-reducing shampoos and conditioners are likely to have them so you might want to look for that on the label and then look further to see if it has silk proteins.

By bluespirit — On Aug 14, 2011

What are some common shampoos or conditioners that have silk proteins or do they all have them to some degree?

By ysmina — On Aug 13, 2011

I agree that silk amino acids are amazing. I use a product line that uses this in the whole line, from cleanser to moisturizer, shampoo to conditioner.

At first, I tried just one of their products, the shampoo. I have very dry frizzy hair that is impossible to comb or shape. I had heard a lot about this shampoo from my best friend and she got me a bottle of it to try.

I absolutely loved it! It moisturized my hair and I could comb through even without the conditioner.

Now I am using the whole line and my hair has never looked better. I wish I had found out about it before, it would have saved me from many bad hair days.

By turquoise — On Aug 12, 2011

@anamur-- I've stopped buying silk amino acid products for exactly this reason. But I really miss them! I haven't been able to replace them with other products. Silk amino acid was really amazing for my skin and hair. I used a hair mask and a face cream with it and the results were great. The face cream, especially, worked better than very high end and extremely expensive anti-wrinkle products I tried before that. It's definitely an affordable option for skin and hair care.

I read somewhere recently that some silk amino acid producers now wait until the silk moth hatches and leaves the cocoon before using it. I have yet to find out which brands buy from these producers. But this is great news because I can go back to my favorite products.

I recommend that you contact the manufacturer of your leave-in conditioner for more information as well. Maybe they use silk amino acids that were taken without harming silk moths. You won't have to stop using it!

By serenesurface — On Aug 12, 2011

I have a leave-in conditioner which says it has silk amino acids. It makes my hair super soft and I think it protects from the weather and split ends as well.

I had no idea though that silk worms were killed to get the silk amino acid. I feel very bad about using this product now. I generally try and buy products which are not tested on animals or cause cruelty to animals. I'm not sure if the benefits of silk amino acids for hair are worth it now.

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