Scientists Say: Keratin

This protein makes up our hair, skin and nails


Hair is made of keratin. 

Timothy Krause/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Keratin (noun, “CARE-ah-tin”)

A protein that makes up hair, nails and skin. These long, fibrous molecules protect cells from damage.

In a sentence

Keratin is the tough fiber that makes up a whale’s baleen.

Follow Eureka! Lab on Twitter

Power Words

(for more about Power Words, click here)

baleen  A long plate made of keratin (the same material as your fingernails or hair). Baleen whales have many plates of baleen in their mouths instead of teeth. To feed, a baleen whale swims with its mouth open, collecting plankton-filled water. Then it pushes water out with its enormous tongue. Plankton in the water become trapped in the baleen, and the whale then swallows the tiny floating animals.

keratin  A protein that makes up your hair, nails and skin.

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

More Stories from Science News Explores on Chemistry