Protein and moisture in hair have a unique relationship because the forces must be balanced in order to maintain a healthy head of hair. An imbalance of the two forces can (and likely) wreak havoc on progress.
Balancing protein and moisture has challenged me through the years and occasionally challenges me present day. Sitting here attempting to write this post is even a challenge. There is no magical formula for balancing the two; it is trial and error. When I first started my healthy hair journey, I attempted using protein 101 different ways to mimic what other relaxed heads were doing. While many can use protein weekly with no ill effects, I wasn’t as lucky. I suspect having low porosity hair is partly to blame. After many months of breakage, I realized protein was not my friend.
I changed up my regimen to include protein treatments at scheduled intervals vs. weekly. My hair responded well to this change but something was still off. My hair continued breaking and just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t explain it then and still can’t explain it now but it’s just an off feeling that you have when things are just not right. My hair started feeling protein overloaded even without the use of a protein treatment. One day I had a light bulb moment — I totally failed to inspect my product stash of moisturizers, leave-ins, sealers, butters, deep conditioners, etc. for protein. As a result, my hair continued to break and feel dry and coarse. It took some months to put 2 and 2 together but I finally realized that I hadn’t fully eliminated protein from all aspects of my regimen.
The common denominator in many ingredients listing is hydrolyzed wheat protein. This little booger is everywhere and in everything. I was very afraid this ingredient was causing my issue but my newbie self opted to listen to others vs. listening to my hair. The enthusiasts advised hydrolyzed wheat protein is moisturizing vs. strengthening. Therefore, I continued using the same products with the same outcome, breakage.
I apparently was living in a fog because I continued down the same path and even loaded up on products containing hydrolyzed wheat protein (Kenra Moisturizing Conditioner). The odd thing, my hair loved many of the products at first (even with it containing hydrolyzed wheat protein) but out of nowhere, it stopped working. Hair felt hard, coarse, dry and brittle.
I’ve been protein overloaded more than I care to admit. It seems any product containing protein, no matter how strong or mild, sends my hair in major freak out mode. One day, not so long ago even, I broke through the fog to realize my hair requires very little protein exposure aside from touch up day. It’s almost a 100% guarantee that a product will not work for me if it contains hydrolyzed wheat protein. I gradually moved away from using protein altogether in any aspect of my regimen and my hair slowly but surely made a turnaround for the better.
SEE ALSO: How to Reverse Protein Overload in Hair
I started dumping moisture, moisture, moisture into my hair and it improved more, more and more. It’s to the point now where I will only protein treat the week before my touch up and touch up day. Otherwise, it’s moisture city. My hair thrives on this regimen but it took many years to fully understand the needs of my hair.
The point of this post is to say nothing more than:
- Protein/Moisture balance is easy for some and difficult for others *raises hand*
- Allow your hair to determine the protein treatment schedule
- What works for one may not (and likely won’t) work for others
- Don’t assume your hair falls into the relaxed hair norms!
- Listen to your hair and not others
- Know your ingredients or you may find yourself in a similar predicament much like mine
- Know your porosity as it plays a part in protein sensitivity
- Start out slow with mild protein and work your way up to using stronger protein if you feel it’s a must
- It’s easier to recover from moisture overload than protein overload – play it safe!
How do you balance protein/moisture?