Keratin Loss in Hair

Hair with keratin
Q: My granddaughter (6 years old) who has baby fine hair was just informed by a beauty professional that she is losing the keratin in her hair. Now I know there are treatments over the counter as well as professionally that can be done; however, my question to you is, why or how does this happen? Please respond to me ASAP.
Her sister who is 4 has beautiful hair with a different texture and color - but the same shampoo and conditioner is used on both girls' hair. What could it be? Please help us.

A: Please understand that not being able to see the child in question to physically examine her hair, and having only the information you present to me upon which to base an opinion, I feel limited in the direction my answer would take.
That being said, I have to be honest. I find it very difficult to understand how a 6-year-old would develop keratin loss in her hair, unless she is being subjected to some rather dramatic (and highly inappropriate) chemical services or extreme styling practices. The most common causes of keratin loss in the hair come as a result of chemical services to alter the wave and texture of the hair. The same chemical processes that straighten, curl and set the hair into the desired configurations through perm, relaxing, and straightening services also cause cystine damage.
The chemical processes dissolve the keratin peptides and amino acids in the hair as part of their working. Properly done, this keratin loss isn't dramatic with any single process, but the affects are cumulative. The damage grows worse with successive services, and the damage can be increased with fine-textured hair (which has less substance at the outset).
Frankly, aside from cuts, I do not professionally endorse ANY salon service for a child under the age of 12 - specifically NOT chemical services like perms, straightening, lightening or color. With younger children, their bodies are in a near-constant state of fluctuation and growth. They may develop (and lose) allergies and sensitivities to all manner of things in the course of weeks and months, and their bodies can easily respond in unpredictable ways to even the most common hair chemicals.
Rough styling techniques, such as excessive/repetitive heat styling, could lead to keratin loss, through the abrasion of the cuticle, but the use of protective products, detangling sprays and leave-in conditioners generally help to keep such abrasion to a minimum.
If your granddaughter has NOT been subjected to chemical services, or extreme styling techniques, then perhaps we should examine the motive of the "beauty professional". Is it possible that the individual was leading toward suggesting a salon keratin treatment? I mean no personal or professional insult, but I also am pragmatic enough to know that some salon professionals think nothing of making suggestions based more on their profitability than true need or practicality.
If the child has true keratin loss, there will be some notable signs: breakage of the hair, frizz and likely-increased porosity. If your granddaughter's hair appears smooth and silky (you say that it is baby fine) then that may be what the professional was speaking of, but it doesn't necessarily mean that there is a cause for action.
I would personally, like to suggest a second opinion be sought. And in the meantime, if you want to do something, try using a protein-rich conditioner (use a very gentle shampoo such as baby shampoo) such as Pantene PRO-V Fine Hair Solutions Fragile-To-StrongTM formula. Try to avoid anything more intensive until you have additional feedback from someone who can physically examine the hair.
Photo: Yanee Kittitanapakorn/Shutterstock
See also: What is hair made of and how does it grow?