Your guide to protein & moisture balance
Confused about protein and moisture balance? Don't worry. We gotchu.
What is protein and moisture balance?
Protein and moisture balance is about feeding our hair the right foods. Just like a healthy diet, we need to have a healthy routine for our hair too. If we constantly keep eating the same food group over and over again, we’ll begin to lack other essential nutrients. The same goes for our hair.
Most curly girls, when starting out with their hair journey, tend to focus too much on moisture since that is the logical thing to do - we’re told that curly hair is dry and lacks moisture. If we just hydrate and moisturize our hair correctly, we will get perfectly defined and frizz- free curls. And so a very essential nutrient gets left behind - protein. It is what our hair is made of and what gives our hair strength and structure
It's important to include BOTH.
In short, protein and moisture balance is a healthy state of hair when it is nourished, hydrated, strong and moisturized from properly treating it with the right products.
Balanced curls are shiny, bouncy, defined, frizz-free while maintaining moisture and length. If this is your hair, well done! You’ve figured out your routine and you’re a curlspiration.
But WHY do I need protein and moisture?
To break it down…
Protein repairs and strengthens the hair. Because of activities such as styling, heat, coloring, and even using water, protein in hair begins to break down. Products with protein help to repair hair from said damage and restore the hair’s health.
Moisture keeps hair lush, shiny, and, well, moisturized. If we do not hydrate hair enough, it results in hair that is dry, frizzy, and breakable.
How do I determine what my hair needs?
Here is where things get a little scientific. If you do not want to hear the scientific bit, skip to the next section where we explain in simple words.
For those of you who stayed, here goes:
Whether your hair needs moisture or protein depends on many factors, one of them being the texture of your hair. Hair texture is the circumference of your hair (fine, medium or thick). All textures require a balance.
There are two important factors in determining what your hair needs:
- Elasticity: How much the strand will stretch or the bounce level of the curls. Elasticity is determined by the moisture level in the hair.
- Porosity: Hair’s ability to absorb and retain moisture. How much moisture is allowed through the strand.
How to check elasticity:
Do an elasticity test. Hold a single strand of your hair in your hand and gently stretch it. There are 3 possible results:
Low elasticity: If the strand doesn’t stretch and instead breaks/snaps, the elasticity is low, hence there are low levels of moisture in your hair. You need more moisture in this case!
Good elasticity: If the strand stretches and bounces back, it has good elasticity, hence good levels of moisture. This is the ideal result.
Poor elasticity: If the strand stretches and keeps stretching with no bounce back or eventually breaks off, it has moisture overload and poor elasticity. You need protein in this case.
How to check porosity:
Take a chunk of your hair and spray it with water. Make sure this strand is dry and does not have too much product on it already. Spray water and watch how the absorption happens.
There are 3 possible results:
Low porosity: If the water beads cling to your hair, you have low porosity hair.
- This means your hair cuticle is tight and doesn’t let moisture pass through.
- It is usually a trait of healthy and undamaged hair but can also result in dryness as the hair doesn’t let moisture in.
- Low porosity hair is hard to moisturize and can be easily weighted down.
- Low porosity hair doesn’t need much repairing and so does not need too much protein.
- It is also prone to build-up because product tends to sit on top of the hair strand.
Medium porosity: If the water gets absorbed pretty well, it is medium porosity.
- Indicates looser cuticle layer than low porosity hair.
- Medium (or normal) porosity hair allow a steady but moderate flow of moisture in and out of the hair.
- This is usually (but not always) a trait of virgin and uncoloured hair.
- A moderate dose of protein and moisture is good for medium porosity hair
High porosity: If the water is sucked into your hair and quickly dries up, it is high porosity.
- High porosity hair has gaps and holes in the cuticle which lets too much moisture into your hair.
- Most commonly caused by hair color, bleach, and heat damage (BUT virgin hair can also be high porosity simply because of its texture)
- These hair are quick to absorb moisture but also quick to release it. They can easily become overly moisturized and limp.
- High porosity hair need protein.
(You can also check porosity using the water glass test.)
To sum it up, here's a chart of what your hair needs depending on elasticity and moisture levels:
TELL ME IN SIMPLE WORDS!
Your hair needs more moisture if any of the below is true...
- Hair feels dry and rough to the touch
- Hair is frizzy
- May have pieces sticking into the air
- May have lost some of its curl pattern and definition
- It will look frizzy-straight.
- Will lack shine and look almost matte
- In extreme cases (like when the hair is damaged from heat and chemicals) it will break or lose its curl pattern entirely so that it cannot be restored with water.
Your hair needs more protein if any of the below is true…
- If your curls are spongy and soft
- If your curls lack definition
- Hair is substantially over-elastic (in extreme cases). It will stretch significantly before breaking.
- Hair sticks together and be difficult to comb through.
- Breaks easily, sometimes at the root.
Now that you know what your hair needs, it’s time to find products.
How to identify protein & moisture products?
Look out for words such as:
Look our for ingredients such as:
- Amino acids
- Collagen protein
- Wheat protein
- Oat protein
- Milk protein
- Rice protein
- Soy protein
- Silk protein
- Keratin protein
- Quinoa seed extract
- Blue green algae
- Hydrolyzed keratin
- Hydrolyzed oat flour
- Hydrolyzed silk
- Hydrolyzed wheat
- Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed collagen
- Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed casein
- Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed keratin
- Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed rice protein
- Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed silk
- Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed soy protein
- Cocodimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed silk amino acids
- Cocoyl hydrolyzed keratin
- Potassium coccyx hydrolyzed collaged
You can't remember all these complicated names so here are the key words to focus on:
Protein, amino acids, hydrolyzed, collagen, keratin
Look out for words such as:
- deep conditioning
- fights frizz
Look out for ingredients such as:
- Coconut oil
- Mineral oils
- Cetearyl alcohol
- Cetyl alcohol
- Behentrimonium chloride
- Cetrimonium chloride
- Stearamidopropyl dimethylamin
- Film formers
- Panthenyl Hydroxypropyl Steardimonium chloride
Main moisturizing ingredient is ALWAYS water.
What to do if there is a protein or moisture overload?
Your hair is suffering from protein overload if it is:
- stiff and crunchy
- snapping off
How to fix it?
Instead of a protein-heavy conditioner, go for one that is moisturizing. Look for words like hydrating and moisturizing on the label. Avoid strengthening conditioners and ones that contain a lot of the protein rich ingredients mentioned above.
Your hair is suffering from moisture overload if it's:
- weighted down
- little hold
- feels extra soft.
How to fix it?
Frequently co-washing, deep conditioning, and using butters and balms can cause a sudden moisture overload. Clarify at least once or twice a month. Try a gentle cleansing shampoo instead of co-washes. Make sure that any conditioner you use contains some form of hydrolyzed protein.
So there you have it! If you like this blog post, you'll definitely find some curlspiration here.