Protein and moisture go hand in hand for healthy curly and textured hair. Although most curly girls and naturalistas tend to focus on the moisture aspect of hair care, getting the right balance of both can be beneficial to increasing hair elasticity, reducing split ends, and fixing dehydrated hair. For natural hair and curly hair especially, if your hair has a protein deficiency, all the hair moisturizers in the world aren’t going to help dull, dry hair or weak and brittle strands. But there’s also such a thing as too much protein.
In this article, you’ll learn how to tell if your hair needs more protein or moisture, and how to keep an eye on protein overload to get healthy hair, and juicy, bouncy curls.
What's the difference between moisture and protein?
Hair lacking proteins loses elasticity, which increases the risk of breakage and reduces moisture retention. Although most damaged hair can only be treated through products made using proteins, some damage does actually require moisture. Moisturizing treatments usually have ingredients like fatty acids, oils, and butters, which penetrate into the scalp and restores dry hair with necessary hydration. Protein treatments, on the other hand, are usually produced from plants such as wheat, soy, rice, or silk, and contain hydrolyzing proteins, which fill in damage on the hair shaft, making it stronger and healthier.
Protein and how it affects hair
Hair is composed of chains of amino acids or proteins called keratin. Over time, over-manipulation, chemical treatments like perms, relaxers, and hair dye, heat styling, and environmental stress can cause the keratin bonds to break and the cuticle (outlayer of the hair) to raise, exposing the innermost layer. This leads to faster moisture loss, breakage, and even hair loss. If your hair is highly porous, there’s a good chance your hair’s in need of protein.
Symptoms of a protein deficiency in hair
If your hair has a protein deficiency, you’ll notice the following:
- You hair feels mushy, sticky, or gummy
- Your hair clumps together
- Your hair is limp or stringy
- The hair has low elasticity
- Your hair is broken to breakage easily
Sign of a moisture deficiency in hair
If your hair has is dehydrated, you’ll notice the following:
- Your hair feels dry, or rough
- Your hair is prone to tangling
- You get split ends easily
- Your curls or coils are weak
- Your hair doesn’t hold heat styles well
- Your hair looks dull and lacks shine
How do I know if my hair needs protein or moisture?
The easiest way to tell if your hair is dehydrated or lacks protein is to do a hair strand test. Take a wet or dry strand of hair and stretch it gently.
If it doesn’t stretch easily, snaps quickly, and feels dry, brittle or rough, it means you need more moisture. If your curl stretches but doesn’t bounce back into shape, and the hair feels gummy or musy, it means you need more protein.
Also, try brushing your hair. If you find that your hair sheds more than normal, it likely means you need protein as well.
Treating moisture loss in your hair
To treat moisture loss in your hair, you’ll need to get your hair care regimen down. This includes things like:
Pre-poo:Apply a moistuzing treatment to your hair before you wash it. This helps make it easier to detangle, as well as boost the effectiveness of your conditioner or deep conditioner when washing, to lock in moisture. Some pre-poo treatments include oils (coconut oil, avocado oil, almond oil), aloe vera, coconut milk, or butters like shea butter.
- Use theLOC method (Liquid, Cream, Oil) and apply moisturizing products from lightest to heaviest. This allows the liquid product to sink into the hair, and the oil to lock it in.
- Apply hair products while your hair is warm and wet. At this stage, your cuticles are lifted, allowing more moisture in.
- Use hair products with humectant ingredients like glycerin, honey and agave.
- Use deep conditioners regularly.These products penetrate the hair shaft more deeply than regular conditioners, giving your hair that much needed added moisture. Bonus points if you leave it in for 15-20 minutes with a shower cap or heat cap on!
Treating Protein Imbalances In Your Hair
- Look for hair products with protein ingredients like wheat, soy, silk, or rice
Watch your diet.Although products have been found to restore protein in hair, the truth is that the main cause of protein deficiencies is your food. Try dietary supplements like biotin, and be sure to track your protein intake, adding protein rich foods like beef, chicken, salmon, eggs, lentils, beans, and greek yogurt.
Pro tip: It’s important to also balance your moisture and protein treatments according to your hair’s porosity. Low porosity hair usually needs more moisture, andhigh porosity hair usually needs more protein.
How do you know if your hair has too much protein?
Although we’re touting the benefits of protein, there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing. In reality, if you have normal, balanced hair, you only really need a protein treatment 1-3 times a year. If your hair is highly porous or you have natural or textured hair, however, you’ll need a treatment more often.
Here’s how to tell if your hair has a protein overload:
- Hair feels stiff and straw-like
- The hair snaps off easily and experiences tons of shedding
- Your hair looks dull and has lost is shine and lustre
- Your hair tangles easily and is lifeless
As you can see, some of the symptoms of too much protein are similar to those of dehydrated hair or a protein deficiency. That’s why the strand test is important, to help you understand exactly what your hair needs.
Can hair need both protein and moisture?
Yes! The bottom line is hair needs both moisture and protein for good health and strength. The best hair has a balance of both protein and moisture, for bouncy, defined curls, shiny hair, and strong hair strands. Without protein, moisture will escape from the hair easily, and without moisture, even the strongest hair will be dull and lifeless.
Put the puzzle pieces together
So, where do you go from here? First, do a strand test and figure out whether your hair is dehydrated or lacks protein. Then, figure out your hair porosity. Once you know both, you can then determine the best products for your hair, and put together a hair care regimen that’s perfectly suited for your hair type. Although it may take some trial and error, trust us—your hair will thank you!
Do you have dehydrated hair or a protein deficiency? Are you still confused? Drop any questions you have in the comments below and we’ll be happy to help.