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By Audrey Siva­sothy, author of Hair Care Rehab

Do you find ran­dom hairs in your comb, on your shirt, on your sinks and on your bath­room floors? Are you find­ing hair every­where but secure­ly upon your head? What is going on? You may have a prob­lem with hair break­age. For black hair in par­tic­u­lar, hair break­age is typ­i­cal­ly a result of an imbal­ance of impor­tant forces with­in the hair strand: mois­ture and pro­tein lev­els.

Mois­ture

Hair needs water to main­tain its elas­tic­i­ty, or abil­i­ty to stretch. Since water is the ulti­mate mois­tur­iz­er, water-based prod­ucts are best for real­ly get­ting the great­est mois­ture ben­e­fit.

Mois­tur­iz­ers are sim­ply prod­ucts that are water-based and nour­ish your hair deep with­in the strand. Prod­ucts with mois­tur­iz­ing prop­er­ties tend to be your con­di­tion­ers and oth­er speci­fic mois­tur­iz­er sprays or creams. Mois­tur­iz­ers may also con­tain large amounts of pro­tein, but the­se pro­tein based mois­tur­iz­ers do not have the mois­tur­iz­ing ben­e­fit that mois­ture-based mois­tur­iz­ers have. Check labels to gauge pro­tein con­tent. Good mois­tur­iz­ers will not con­tain cheap, filler ingre­di­ents like petro­la­tum, min­er­al oil, or lano­lin. Avoid prod­ucts that claim mois­tur­iz­ing ben­e­fits and con­tain the­se ingre­di­ents. There is noth­ing mois­tur­iz­ing about them! Petro­la­tum and min­er­al oil are sealants that seal out the pre­cious mois­ture our hair needs.

Seal­ing in your Mois­tur­iz­ers:

Our hair nat­u­ral­ly con­tains mois­ture, but because our hair is also nat­u­ral­ly porous, keep­ing the mois­ture inside is a dif­fi­cult task. Pro­vid­ing addi­tion­al sources of out­side mois­ture, or exter­nal mois­ture sup­ple­men­ta­tion, is a must for black hair care. Water mol­e­cules and mois­ture from the­se sup­ple­men­tal mois­tur­iz­ing prod­ucts eas­i­ly pass into the hair shaft, but they pass out just as eas­i­ly. The mois­ture you apply needs to held in by some­thing. Oil.

Nat­u­ral oils like jojoba, olive, car­rot, or coconut oil seem to work best.

A light coat­ing of oil after your dai­ly mois­tur­iz­er will help seal the mois­ture inside. Oils are made of large mol­e­cules. The­se mol­e­cules are too large to absorbed by the hair strand. Apply­ing oils to the hair and scalp will coat them and trap the mois­ture that is inside on the inside and the mois­ture that is out­side on the out­side. The key is to use the oil to “lock in the mois­ture.” If you use oils with­out a mois­tur­iz­er or before one, the oil will seal the mois­ture out of the hair strand and lead to a coat­ed feel and even­tu­al dry­ness. This tech­nique of mois­tur­iz­ing and seal­ing has real­ly been help­ful to me and is a res­onat­ing hall­mark of my reg­i­men. Fight­ing hair break­age and achiev­ing mois­tur­iz­ing suc­cess is all in the order in which you apply your prod­ucts.

REMEMBER! Oils DO NOT Mois­tur­ize

Per­haps a words like “nour­ish” would be bet­ter than mois­tur­ize. Oil alone will not and can­not mois­tur­ize with­in the hair shaft. An oil (grease) can only coat the out­side of the strand, and give it shine- the illu­sion of mois­ture. Oil mol­e­cules are hydropho­bic which means they repel and do not read­i­ly mix with water. Remem­ber, if you apply an oil pro­duct to your hair before you have added a mois­tur­iz­ing pro­duct, you have cre­at­ed a seal on your hair strand that water and mois­ture can­not pen­e­trate.

Pro­tein

Pro­tein is what gives the hair its strength and struc­ture. Hair is about 70% ker­at­in pro­tein by nature. There are a wide vari­ety of pro­teins that serve dif­fer­ent func­tions and roles in hair care. Some enhance elas­tic­i­ty, while oth­ers reduce it. The­se pro­teins bind to the hair cuti­cle and help tem­porar­i­ly rebuild any weak­ened areas. Pro­tein-based prod­ucts rein­force the hair shaft, and help it remain strong enough to fight break­age.

Some pro­teins are stronger than oth­ers, but dai­ly or even week­ly use of even the milder pro­tein treat­ments may result in an imbal­ance between the pro­tein and mois­ture lev­els with­in the hair strands in some peo­ple. This is where pro­duct per­cent com­po­si­tion real­ly plays an impor­tant role. For exam­ple, every pro­duct that con­tains ker­at­in pro­tein is not going to feel the same way across the board, and every pro­duct that con­tains glyc­er­in or water is not going to feel the same either! The pro­tein in ques­tion could make up 30% of the pro­duct or 0.3%! Who knows! You have to play around with dif­fer­ent prod­ucts to know how strong they are on your par­tic­u­lar hair. Your hair pro­tein tol­er­ance will vary from pro­duct to pro­duct, not nec­es­sar­i­ly pro­tein to pro­tein.

Pro­tein is found most preva­lent­ly in prod­ucts like instant con­di­tion­ers (bar­gain brands like Suave and V05), leave-in con­di­tion­ers, pro­tein recon­struc­tor con­di­tion­er treat­ments, and even some mois­tur­iz­ers.

Wom­en with relaxed or col­or treat­ed hair need more pro­tein than oth­ers. If you are relaxed or col­or treat­ed, those process­es have com­pro­mised the pro­tein struc­ture of your hair. Relax­ing and col­or­ing breaks pro­tein bonds, and depend­ing on the type and strength of the relax­er, and lev­el of bond break­age you incur, you will need more or less pro­tein than some­one else. There are also some peo­ple whose hair is more pro­tein defi­cient by nature (genet­ics, low pro­tein dietary intake), so they require more reg­u­lar pro­tein than oth­ers to keep the bal­ance intact. At the end of the day, you must exper­i­ment and get to know your own head of hair.

You Can’t Have one With­out the oth­er!

The unique rela­tion­ship that exists between the pro­tein and mois­ture bal­ances with­in the hair strand is not sim­ply a case of bal­anc­ing oppos­ing forces one over the oth­er to pre­vent hair break­age. The­se two com­po­nents work togeth­er syn­er­gis­ti­cal­ly to pro­duce a healthy head of hair, and nei­ther can work well with­out the oth­er. Keep­ing the hair bal­anced between the­se two enti­ties is very impor­tant. Pro­tein loss from chem­i­cal treat­ments is almost always fol­lowed by a mois­ture loss of some degree. Hair that is prop­er­ly pro­teinat­ed absorbs mois­ture more effi­cient­ly because water mol­e­cules bind eas­i­ly to a sound pro­tein struc­ture with­in the hair. Achiev­ing the prop­er bal­ance involves using the right com­bi­na­tions of pro­tein and mois­ture based prod­ucts for your hair type. Con­sid­er the fol­low­ing sce­nar­ios:

Sce­nar­io 1: Kim’s hair is break­ing like crazy and feels like a bril­lo pad. It is just plain crunchy and dry! Every time she touch­es it, pieces seem to just pop right off. Snap, crack­le, pop. Comb­ing is impos­si­ble with­out tons of lit­tle hairs cov­er­ing her sink and back. Her hair feels hard and rough even when wet. She’s given it pro­tein treat­ments because the pro­duct says it is sup­posed to stop break­age in its tracks and rebuild the hair. But so far, noth­ing is work­ing and her prob­lem is get­ting worse.

Sce­nar­io 2: Trina’s hair is break­ing like crazy as well. Her hair feels dry, looks dull, and is very weak. Her hair is too weak to with­stand sim­ple comb­ing. It feels extra stretchy when wet and almost fol­lows the comb as she pulls through to detan­gle. Her hair is just limp and has no life. She’s deep con­di­tioned and done hot oil treat­ments on her hair once a week. Since her break­age began, she has stepped up the con­di­tion­ing but her prob­lem has got­ten worse.

Same Prob­lem- Dif­fer­ent Solu­tions

Both of the­se wom­en have issues with hair break­age, but the solu­tions to their indi­vid­u­al prob­lems require two very dif­fer­ent approach­es. The two sce­nar­ios above per­fect­ly illus­trate what hap­pens when the bal­ance between pro­tein and mois­ture is tipped too far in either direc­tion. This arti­cle will teach you to effec­tive­ly rec­og­nize the dif­fer­ence between pro­tein based and mois­ture based hair prob­lems and help you can orga­nize your hair reg­i­men to effec­tive­ly com­bat the­se issues as they arise.

We will bring you part 2 very soon! In the mean­while, let us know: Do you active­ly try to bal­ance pro­tein and mois­ture in your hair? How do you do this?

Audrey Davis-Siva­sothy is a Hous­ton-based free­lance writer, pub­lish­er and long­time, healthy hair care advo­cate and enthu­si­ast. Siva­sothy holds a degree in health sci­ence and has writ­ten exten­sive­ly on the sci­ence of car­ing for hair at home. She is the author of “Hair Care Rehab,” (www.haircarerehab.com)

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­lis­te, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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16 Comments on "How to Balance Protein and Moisture in Natural Hair, Part 1"

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Renee Frechette

Weird, this arti­cle is strange­ly sim­i­lar to this one… http://www.blackhairscience.com/hair-breakage-101-protein-and-moisture/
lol

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18650????

Rat­tling good visu­al appeal on this web site , I’d price it 10 10.

Gwen Woodall

I use aloe vera gel 2–3 x a week to give my hair mois­ture, a leave in con­di­tion­er 1x bi- week­ly but my hair lacks shine and lus­ter. How can I solve this prob­lem?

Nicole

I’m still learn­ing on how to prop­er­ly take care of my nat­u­ral hair. There is soo much infor­ma­tion out there! How often should one do a Pro­tein treat­ment? At least once a mon­th?

BabyBoo

Thank you for all this great infor­ma­tion.

Is it too much to apply Megatek (pro­tein) then water base mois­tur­iz­er then coconut oil and jbco to the scalp for growth?

BOLANLE

There is so much use­ful infor­ma­tion in this arti­cle, it is the answer my hair needs. Thank u so much­h­h­hh God bless.

LAURA NOGUEIRA

This is an excel­lent and infor­ma­tive arti­cle. Thank you very much.

KARAJW

I try to wash my hair Fri­day night or Sat­ur­day morn­ing, I pre-poo with coconut oil to detan­gle, then I sham­poo and con­di­tion my hair. I don’t nor­mal­ly deep con­di­tion every­time I wash since I cut off my col­or. I have real­ly been try­ing to keep my hair mois­tur­ized, I had to learn the hard way about how to mois­tur­ize, I use to oil then use a mois­tur­iz­er and my hair was so ruff. How­ev­er now that I have put it in the right order my hair as real­ly improved.

Caramelcurls

I wash my hair 4a/b nat­u­ral hair every two weeks, so I end up using Aubrey Organ­ics GBP once a mon­th for pro­tein. The ingre­di­ents strength­en my hair with­out dry­ing it out. I do always fol­low up with a mois­tur­iz­ing con­di­tion­er. So far, so good! 

As far as mois­ture, a spritz mix of water, aloe vera juice, and EVOO, sealed with grape­seed oil keeps my hair super soft and mois­tur­ized with­out weigh­ing it down.

AnonSince87

Inter­est­ing arti­cle.

How does mois­tur­is­ing sev­er­al times a week work? On Mon­day I put oil over my mois­turis­er, does it stop mois­ture get­ting through when I need to spir­it on Tues­day?

Also, what are people’s expe­ri­ences with hair may­on­naise as a pro­tein treat­ment?

awesome

i used may­on­naise and at first the results were brit­tle because i used too much pro­tien, but then i added mois­ture and it was sooo soft,almost like blow­dried

caribbeancurl
An excel­lent ques­tion. I would say if u plan to mois­tur­ize EVEERYDAY then seal­ing with oil will be null and void. Or at the very most one should LIGHTLY seal with light oil (if at all). My hum­ble advise is mois­tur­ize, seal and leave the hair until it needs mois­tur­iz­ing again. The hair will tell you so. I used to mois­turise every­day until I found out the hard way that hair can be over­mois­tur­ized. If you are con­fi­dent you mois­turised well and when u put your hand in your hair and you can still feel the sealant then just let it… Read more »
Ugonna Wosu

as a per­son who some­times mois­tur­izes and seals every­day, the oil does NOT block off the mois­ture for the next day. You’re sup­posed to put very lit­tle of it per day any­way.

AnonSince87

Thank you! :-)

Yvette

I deep con­di­tion every wash (which is 7 — 10/14 days), & every oth­er mon­th, I do a pro­tein treat­ment. Hope­ful­ly, I’ll learn when to rec­og­nize which type of treat­ment I need more of and when.

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