Covering the Basics | Protein Treatments for Natural Hair

The moisture-protein balance. 

Many of us have heard these words thrown around the hair community. However, it was not until very late last year when I began to understand what this balance really meant for my hair.

You see, we stress moisture, moisture, moisture for our natural hair. And don't get me wrong, our hair needs plenty of it because the natural oils (sebum) from our scalps can't travel quickly down our hair to give it an extra boast of shine and protection from the external elements (heat, cold, manipulation, etc). So to help things out, we are lectured to hydrate our hair on a regular basis to keep it in check, moisture-wise. We take steps like spritzing, co-washing, deep conditioning, baggying (greenhouse effect (ghe)), and LOCing our hair to maintain optimal hair moisture and elasticity.

However, there's this little thing called moisture overload that can gradually set in and create mushy, overly soft, and super elastic hair that is limp and holds little shape. Well at least that was my case in many instances along my natural hair journey, which unfortunately because of lack of knowledge, I thought to be the norm state for our hair. 

Using a protein treatment was something very foreign to me...even when I was relaxed way back yonder. And once I was natural, I did not think protein treatments were necessary because I was not chemically damaging my hair (although I was laying that heat on my hair like it was nobody's business the first several years of being natural). For the longest time, I shied away from protein because of (once again) my huge lack of understanding in its important role in the moisture-protein balance of my hair. Despite my this lack, I decided last November to dip my feet (or hair rather) in water and do my first protein treatment

My revelation was that I waited too long to experience what a noticable impact a protein tratment can make to my hair. The treatment did wonders to the strength and smoothness of my hair and opened my eyes on how a healthy and balanced hair should feel like on my head. Ever since then, I have been striving to incorporate protein in my regimen on a consistent basis. #teamnomoremushyhair

What is a protein treatment?
In short, it is a treatment containing very small (preferably hydrolyzed) protein that binds to the hair, temporary filling in any gaps along the shaft due to external (weather, heat, color, manipulation) and internal (diet) factors.

What are the benefits of a protein treatment?
  • strengthens hair cuticles
  • smooths hair shaft thus promoting shine
  • reduces breakage especially due to relaxers and color/heat treatments
  • helps correct moisture overload due to over-conditioning/moisturizing
What are the different types of treatments?
  • Protein pack (for slightly to really damaged hair)
  • Reconstructor (for slightly to severely damaged hair)
  • Deep penetrating treatment (for moderately damaged hair)
  • Light protein treatment (for slightly damaged hair)
  • homemade/food based (egg yolks, mayo, yogurt...products some women have claimed to have had great results despite not being hydrolyzed) #ymmv
What protein treatments are recommended?
It depends on your hair's needs. I would start with a light treatment if the hair is not severely processed/damaged. However, if that does not help with breakage or if your hair is really damaged from the start, a stronger protein treatment might be the way to go.

I have only used two protein treatments on my hair as of date. My first treatment I used the commonly known ApHogee Intensive Two Minute Keratin Reconstructor {read my experience here} and the second, the Hask Naturals Strengthening Hair Masque {read my experience here}. I had good results with both and would recommend these two products to fulfill most slight to moderate protein needs. Even on Z's hair, we have a good report with the ApHogee Reconstructor.

Things to keep in mind:
  • The frequency in which you do a protein treatment is dependant on factors such as chemical and heat use, color treatment, manipulation, protein sensitivity, and etc. If you do not use heat or color, a good rule of thumb is to start off doing light monthly treatments until you can get a better feel on your hair's moisture-protein balance.
  • Protein overload is more difficult to correct in comparison to moisture overload. If your hair is extra hard, dry, stiff, and brittle from a too strong or frequent treatment, your main focus should be moisture, moisture, moisture in order to restore elasticity and softness to your hair.
  • Read your labels! If a product does not list a hydrolyzed protein within the first 5 ingredients in the list, the product is most likely not a strong candidate for a protein treatment. However, there are conditioners containing protein that are light enough to use on a regular basis (if your hair is not protein sensitive) to help keep things balanced. My favorite protein conditioner is Aubrey Organics GPB Protein Balancing Conditioner .
  • Protein treatments do not stop shedding (a natural process denoted by strands with tiny white bulbs at one of the ends). For ways to help shedding, consider trying coffee/tea rinses.
  • Follow the directions on each treatment especially on the stronger/harder ones to prevent breakage. It is highly recommended to follow up with a moisturizing deep conditioner after a protein treatment.
I hope you have gained a better idea on what a protein treatment is and its role in the moisture-protein balance equation. I am just now exploring this realm of the equation after 10+ years of being natural and am quite sure there is more to learn about how the benefits of protein treatments on natural hair. Hopefully this information serves as a foundation to grow upon as we strive to keep our hair at its healthiest and balanced state between moisture and protein.

Do you incorporate protein treatments in your hair regimen? If so, how often? What is your favorite protein treatment for your hair?

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