All About Protein Treatments for Natural Hair

Protein –namely whether or not we should add it to our hair — is a hot topic among naturals. Jc of the Natural Haven is here to guide us through this topic.

By Jc of The Natural Haven

There is a lot of buzzing about protein treatments and what they can do for hair. To summarise it, protein treatments are known to temporarily repair and strengthen hair. They do this by filling up gaps in the cuticle and if of a sufficiently small size can also penetrate to the cortex.(Journal of Cosmetic Science, pg69-87, 1993).

For natural hair damage tends to come from normal weathering – washing, drying, combing, heat use etc.  Color treated natural hair and relaxed hair can suffer from more cuticle damage.



1. Does coconut oil contain protein

No it does not.  I repeat, no coconut oil does not contain protein. Oils are pressed out of seeds, in the case of coconut oil, heating up the flesh and straining it out. The oil is very easily separated from the flesh once heated using a sieve.

The straw like feel some people find with coconut oil is usually related to using too much product because coconut oil is not as viscous as other oils . Hardening of the hair is related usually to temperature because coconut oil solidifies at a fairly low temperature so a cold winter breeze can stiffen hair very fast.

Some people (like me) love coconut oil, other people just do not. It is a bit like marmite, if you find that even using less does not help ( see the fingertip tip ), just leave it!

2. Does coconut milk contain protein?

Yes coconut milk does contain protein. Coconut milk is made from suspending the flesh in water and may contain bits of the flesh. However this protein is usually not hydrolysed (yep hydrolysed again). Pretty much like eggs, it is unlikely to be as effective as a hydrolysed protein.

It is the marmite story for coconut milk – if you like its effect use it, if you don’t just leave it!

3. Do protein treatments stop hair shedding?

No, there is a difference between hair shedding (i.e hair with a bulb coming out of the follicle) and breakage (i.e hair breaking off  due to handling). At times you can confuse the two but looking for a bulb is always the way to tell the difference. Hair shedding is a programmed event it is not changed by protein treatments. Breakage on the other hand can be stopped temporarily.

4. Does natural hair require protein treatment?

There is no harm in trying it out if you want to. The worst thing that can happen is that you hate it and have to wash your hair all over again.

If you use heat frequently, regularly wear your hair in styles that require combing or colour treat your hair, a protein treatment may be quite useful.

5. Is a plant based protein source lighter than an animal based source?

No. It is more important to assess how the conditioner makes your hair feel. Many bloggers, vloggers etc warn people on how to spot protein but forget to mention that you should really look for where it is on the list. If if is after the first five ingredients there is probably not much in the bottle.

Additionally there are no products that tell you how hydrolysed the protein is (read this post to find out why protein has to be broken up – or hydrolysed to be useful). In short , pun intended, if the protein is not of the right small size (and it does vary according to protein) it may not give your hair the desired effect.

Therefore, comparing Aphogee with its keratin protein in the first 5 ingredients to Giovanni with its soy protein listed as the 17th ingredient is just unrealistic. Use the product and if you don’t like it either on its own or in combination (For example a follow up conditioner or leave in or oil) then just try something else.

Ladies, do you use protein treatments? What’s your protein treatment regimen, and how does it benefit your hair?
For more hair science check out The Natural Haven.

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The Natural Haven

The Natural Haven

Scientist on a hairy mission!

  • I love, love, love the ApHogee Protein Treatment and I have been using it since I was a little girl. It stinks but it is amazing!

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  • Ken Nooe

    Soy protein refers to the protein that is found in soybeans that is often used to replace animal proteins in an individual’s diet. The soybean is a legume that contains no cholesterol and is low in saturated fat.^^;*

    See all of the most up-to-date post at our personal web portal <

  • Bena

    I have a question whats the difference between a light protein treatment and a deep protein treatment?

    • marietta

      Yes, I want to know! Someone please answer or refer us to a link! Thank you!!

    • Vezzika

      I saw a Youtube video that explained this topic in detail. It helped me. The link is:

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  • Hillz

    Informative article

    I use protein feed shampoo and conditioner( blue bottle), it works wonders but just like any other protein product it can cause breakage. I used to use it on every wash but noticed breakage then I started using it once a month then now I rarely use it. I eat more of protein these days so I don’t really see the need of using protein treatments at a specific time.

    Can you replace the protein treatment with a rich protein diet? This is what I did and my hair is fine but I would just like to here someone else s opinion..

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  • Danielle

    You mentioned shedding (hair coming out with the bulb at the end)–what can be used to stop that? I want to check my iron levels because I’m anemic and believe that may have something to do with it but I’ve just started using the Palmer’s Protein pack, hoping that it would help but you stated that protein is not related to shedding.

  • Rashonda

    Protein Treatments really make a BIG difference in your hair!! I can definitely speak from experience. Nutress Hair Protein Pack treatment has made my hair much stronger and I started noticing less breakage immediately. I love this stuff:)

  • Rashonda

    Great Article! I would like to suggest Nutress Hair Protein Pack Conditioner. It works really great on my hair and its not too harsh. I use this once every two weeks to keep my hair strong. I love it :)

  • Shellie

    Do not listen to this article if you want your hair. There is protein in nearly every black hair care product which eventually causes the hair to break. Do your homework, White hair care products for the most part do not contain protein unless some sort of damage has occurred or they want volume, etc.: otherwise it is not present in their regular shampoos and conditioners. The hair care industry is well aware that too much protein on any type of hair will lead to breakage whether it’s subtle breakage or major. And it does not matter whether it’s the 5th or the 17th ingredient. If it’s the 5th ingredient the breakage shows up sooner. If it’s the 17th ingredient all that means is that it will take a longer period of time to become protein overload while in the meantime you will be under the false impression that the product is working then suddenly it does not seem to work anymore. Why?…protein overload, yes breakage. Protein is only to be used as a deep conditioning treatment on an as needed basis, and only once a month if needed, or twice a month at the most.

    • arianna17

      Shellie, I agree with you so much. I’ve been natural for 3 years and have been doing my homework on hair care products. Protein is in just about every conditioner and styling product on the market. I often hear women say they are protein sensitive. First question I ask them is what products they are using and if protein is in the products. They have no idea if protein is in the conditioners or styling products. They are probably not protein sensitive; maybe their hair is suffering from protein overload. This is why I read the ingredients very carefully. I color treat my hair and do a protein treatment once a month or every other week-depending on if my hair needs one. My regimen is: A protein treatment, conditioner (no protein) and then my styling products (no protein). It’s that simple!