The equation for healthy hair is simple: Protein + Moisture = Healthy Hair. When there is a proper balance between moisture and protein, the protein structure of the hair remains intact and water molecules can easily bind to the protein structure – enabling maximum moisture absorption, which improves elasticity and prevents breakage. The key to maintaining a proper balance is understanding your hair and being able to quickly identify when it is lacking moisture or in need of protein.
Understanding the Variables: Protein & Moisture
The most basic and purest form of moisture is WATER. There are many great water-based hair products, but WATER is the best moisturizer by far. Water enables our hair to maintain its elasticity, which combats dryness, minimizes breakage, and helps with length retention.
From the moment you step out of the house in the morning until the moment you re-moisturize your hair (usually in the evening), your hair is constantly losing moisture. To make matters worse, your hair is exposed to the elements throughout the day and constantly in contact with your clothes making it more prone to breakage.
If you have type 4 hair textures, a good way to combat moisture loss is by moisturizing your hair with water, sealing the water in with oil, and topping it off with a cream moisturizer (i.e. the LOC Method). If you have type 3 hair textures, often water plus a light water-based cream moisturizer will do the trick or a leave-in/water mixture will do the trick. Type 1 and 2 hair textures, will do just fine with instant conditioners after shampooing and deep conditioning treatments as needed.
Approximately 70% of hair is Keratin (a protein). That being said, it is very important to use protein-based products to preserve the structure of the hair strand. Protein-based products minimize breakage, strengthen the hair shaft, fill in and rebuild areas weakened by chemical processes, and enhance or reduce elasticity.
Women with chemically processed hair (i.e. relaxed and color treated) require protein treatments because these chemical processes breakdown protein bonds, making hair more prone to breakage. It is also important to assess natural hair (i.e. hair that has not been chemically processed) from time to time because it is easy to overlook a protein deficiency as a natural. Sometimes, naturals (individuals with unprocessed hair) avoid proteins claiming to be protein sensitive, but the truth is there’s no such thing as being protein sensitive (remember, your hair is protein). If you are experiencing adverse affects from using protein treatments, it probably because you are not following up with a good moisturizing conditioner after using a protein treatment, the protein treatment you used was too strong for what your hair required, or you did not need a protein treatment to begin with.
As mentioned above, the key to balance is understanding your hair and recognizing its needs.
The Wet Assessment: How to determine what your hair needs?
Your hair is BALANCED!
- Scenario: If your hair stretches slightly and returns to its normal length without breaking when it’s wet or dry, then your hair is balanced!
- Solution: Keep doing what you do! Your current regimen works, so all you need to do is maintain.
Your hair NEEDS PROTEIN!
- Scenario 1: If your hair stretches a little more than normal when wet or dry and then breaks, then your hair needs a little more protein.
- Solution 1: Add a light protein treatment to your regimen. A few good ones are:
- Product Suggestions 1:
- Affordable: Aubrey Organics GPB, ORS Hair Mayonnaise, Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Mask, Mane N Tail Conditioner, and DIY Mixtures: Greek Yogurt + Honey or Mayonnaise + an egg + olive oil (optional)
- Expensive: Mane Choice Green Tea & Carrot Deep Conditioning Mask, Macadamia Deep Repair Mask, and
- Scenario 2: If your hair stretches, stretches, and stretches with no significant breakage when wet or dry, your hair some more protein.
- Solution 2: Add a light protein treatment to your regimen. If your hair is still too elastic (i.e. it stretches too much) after using a light protein treatment, then use a heavier protein treatment and follow up with a moisturizing conditioner.
- Product Suggestions 2: (See product suggestion 1 and 3)
- Affordable: ORS Olive Oil Replenishing Conditioner, Palmers’s Coconut Oil Formula Deep Conditioning Protein Pack
- Expensive: Moroccan Oil Restorative Mask See product suggestion 1 and 3.
- Scenario 3: If your hair feels weak, gummy, mushy, or limp when wet, your hair needs a serious dose of protein.
- Solution 3: Use a heavy protein treatment and follow up with a moisturizing conditioner. Please note: once you use a heavy protein treatment, wait at least 6 – 8 weeks before using it again because overuse can cause serious brittleness and breakage. If you are still experiencing too much elasticity after a heavy protein treatment (I doubt you will), use a light protein treatment until your hair strands feel restored and strong again.
- Product Suggestions 3:
- Affordable: ApHogee Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor and ApHogee 2 Step Protein Treatment (this is incredibly heavy make sure to follow up with a moisturizing conditioner that does not contain protein, otherwise you’ll experience the “snap, crackle, and pop.”)
- Expensive: Joico K-Pak Deep Penetrating Reconstructor and Redken Extreme Strength Builder Plus
Your hair NEEDS MOISTURE!
- Scenario 1: If you experience minimal to no stretching, and your hair snaps or breaks easily when wet or dry, your hair need moisture.
- Solution 1: Add a moisturizing conditioner to your regimen. You can avoid this scenario altogether by deep conditioning regularly.
- Product Suggestions 1:
- Affordable: SheaMoisture Organic Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque, Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner, and Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Deep Conditioner,
- Expensive: Elucence Moisture Balancing Conditioner, Mane Choice Green Tea & Carrot Deep Conditioning Mask, Moroccan Oil Intense Hydrating Mask, As I Am Hydrating Elation Intensive Conditioner, and Joico Intense Hydrator.
- Scenario 2: If your hair feels rough, hard, dry, tangles easily, or feels like a combination of these characteristics, then your hair needs moisture.
- Solution 2: Add an intense moisturizing conditioner to your regimen. Deep condition your hair with heat using a plastic cap or use a hair steamer. Depending on your hair type, consider moisturizing and sealing your hair a few times a weak until moisture levels are restore and your hair becomes more elastic.
- Product Suggestions 2: See product suggestions 1