How to Know when Your Hair Needs a Protein Treatment?

(Photo Credit: Glenford Nunez of TYP Photography Studio)

Hair can be a tricky thing... it can appear to be totally healthy when in actuality, it may be holding on for dear life. It's essential that we listen to the needs of our hair and determine what it best for us. When I first heard of protein treatments, my response was, "What the heck is that?" Like many of you, I had to experiment and determine through trial and error, how to listen to the needs of my hair and determine if and when a protein treatment would be beneficial to my kinky coils.

What exactly is a Protein Treatment?
A protein treatment acts like a filler for the hair. It does not permanently repair the hair but can temporarily repair and strengthen hair. They do this by filling in gaps in the cuticle and if a sufficiently small size, can also penetrate the cortex (Journal of Cosmetic Science, pg 69-87, 1993). Your hair naturally is made up of protein so of course, anyone can benefit from a protein treatment at some point.

How Can I Tell if a Protein Treatment is Necessary for my Hair?
If you are having issues with your hair breaking off, you've noticed your strands may have become a bit weaker when the hair is either wet or dry, if you color your hair often, straighten, or just want some reinforcement in the strength of your hair- then you may want to try a protein treatment. Women who relax, color or straighten their hair often would most benefit from a protein treatment due to the stress being put on the hair.

If you have any of these signs, you may want to follow a regular protein regimen:
  • Loss of elasticity: Hair in good condition can stretch under normal conditions without breaking. If you're wondering about the elasticity in your hair, try this test: stretch wet hair and see if it easily snaps back without breaking. If it does, your hair is in good shape. If you stretch it and it breaks easily, you need to increase the protein in your hair.
  • Serious damage: When hair has been over processed with chemicals, it can feel and look like seaweed when it's wet. When dry, it may feel like a rough Brillo pad. This isn't regular dryness that black hair is prone to. Although black hair may not feel exactly like silk, healthy hair is soft to the touch.
  • Severe breakage:  This isn't the average hair shedding that everyone experiences on a daily basis. Regular shedding often comes out in a comb or brush. When your hair breaks due to weakness, you'll find strands of it everywhere; on your pillow, on the back of your seat, on your shirt. It may make a snapping or popping sound when you comb it (source).

If you feel your hair is pretty strong and you are only looking for a light protein treatment
Protein-containing reconstructing treatments are products that contain small amounts of protein and can be used a couple of times a month, if needed. Keep in mind, you would want to balance your protein treatment with an ample moisturizing conditioner. Adding too much protein to the hair, especially when not needed, may result in dry, brittle hair that may began to break off. You don't want to try to fix something that isn't broken so if you're not sure if you need a protein treatment, test a small section of the hair first to determine how your hair counteracts with the treatment. Be sure to use a deep conditioner after your protein treatment!

Protein treatments for light damage:
  • ApHogee Keratin 2 Minute Reconstructor
  • Keraphix Restorative Strengthening Conditioner

If your hair is damaged and begging for a protein strengthener:
You may want to try an Intensive Repair Protein treatment. Intensive repair protein treatments should be used no more than once every 6-8 weeks. I would recommend having a stylist put one in for you however, there are at-home products you can try yourself (see below). Just be sure to consult a stylist, ask questions and do your research before starting an at-home protein treatment.

Protein treatments for severe damage:
  • Redken Extreme Deep Fuel Protein Treatment
  • Protein Rx Reparative Treatment Mask by Frederic Fekkai

 Determining if your hair is in need of a protein treatment could be highly beneficial to the overall health and longevity of your hair. Be sure to listen to your tresses and be smart!
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