Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Finding a Middle Ground - Moisture:Protein Balance

Upon starting our hair journeys we hear that chemically treated heads are the most in need of protein, so we stock up on our protein-containing products to give our hair that much needed boost, only to end up in a situation where it turns out you didn't actually need that much and now your hair is hard and dry. womp!

Now that I have overcome my protein overload, I suppose it is time to speak on the moisture/protein balance. This is the area of any hair 'journey' which is perhaps the most fundamental and yet probably the most difficult to grasp. It certainly was for me. 

The Basics
Protein is the most prominent material of which your hair is made. Each strand is about 70% keratin. It gives the shaft it's structure and strength. Along with protein, the strand is made up of  about 15% water. Water makes the hair elastic and pliable.

Why the Balance is Necessary
The balance of the two is necessary as leaning too far on either side can and will cause breakage. When the hair has too much protein and too little moisture, the hair isn't pliable and breaks off easily. This is a simple concept really, think of dough (a balance of flour and water) and how pliable it is prior to baking as opposed to after. Baking removes the water leaving it less flexible. Same with the hair. On the contrary, when the hair is loaded with moisture but not enough protein it becomes too elastic and will stretch until it snaps, since there isn't any structure to it.

Detecting the Status of your Hair
There is a pretty simple test one can do to find out where her hair lies on the continuum. For this test, you take a (shed) strand and place it in water. Remove it and take the ends between your index fingers and thumbs, gently pull on it, and if it:
stretches and stretches then snaps - too little protein
barely stretches then breaks - too little moisture
stretches a little then returns to its original state - balanced

Some argue that the above test is a little unnatural, as any strand subjected to that amount of pressure will break. If you agree, then there is another purported means which you may like a little better:

simply comb your hair while wet, use the above to gauge your hair's state.

Quite simple right? Not so much!

Before, when I did the test I was always confused. I didn't know how much tension to use when tugging, how much stretching was normal, or at which point a snap was acceptable. If you are still at a loss, check out this video by Prettywitty (again! lol) demonstrating how she executes this test.

Still not sure? I'll tell you how I figured out my hair had too much protein:
  • My hair was always dry! No amount of moisturizing gave me that supple feeling I was looking for
  • A straw-like almost brittle feeling
  • Breakage!
  • Take a look at the ingredients in your hair products, do all of the contain some form of protein? If yes, you may well be heading down the road to an overload.

Still don't know where you stand? In the words of Audrey Sivasothy 'Err on the side of moisture'.

Achieving the Balance
This is another tricky part of the equation. How much protein is too much? What is the correct ratio of protein to moisture? How often is a moisturizing DC required? Do I have to deep condition? Can't I just co-wash? Maybe! It comes down to your hair. There really isn't any cut and dry way to achieve the balance, trial and error is all you can go by, and trust me when it's balanced you will know. With that said this is how I overcame my dry hair/ protein overload situation. click here to read.

A word on "protein sensitivity"
I don't believe in protein sensitivity. You either have enough protein in your hair or you don't. If you do a protein treatment and your hair ends up feeling dry or brittle, you either a) didn't follow up with a moisturizing treatment, b) used the 'wrong' type of protein for your hair or c) weren't in need of the treatment in the first place. You're thinking 'How can I not need a protein treatment when I haven't had one in so long?' Well, your hair gets nutrients from your diet so if you are consuming a balanced diet you may be alright.

What about a Moisture Overload?
I spent a lot of time on the 'too much protein' side of things because a moisture overload is less common and more easily fixed. A simple protein treatment will get you back on track.

This is just my two cents on the issue. If you have anything to add (or subtract lol), go ahead and comment below.



  1. I'm so glad that you're step closer to achieving a balanced and healthy hair!
    My experience was completely different from yours because my hair was more prone to moisture overload. It was breaking often, I did light protein treatments every 4-6 weeks and even did weekly AVC rinses to combat hard water (cuz I couldn't afford a filter). It was still a weak, stretchy mess.

    Long story, short, I tried something different in my routine and now my hair strives once I do weekly light protein treatments after the 6 week mark of my stretch. Keep up the good work on your website!

    1. Thanks Chari! I'm glad too.

      Wow your story is really interesting! It's great that you have found the remedy. By the way have you ever tried a hard protein treatment like Aphogee 2 Step? I think persons with your issue would really benefit. Just a thought*

      Thank you so much luv!

  2. this was all very enlightening.
    i literally have every link you mentioned opened in subsequent tabs to be read as well.

    1. Awesome! It's such a tricky topic, so I'm glad I could help


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