By Chinwe of Hair and Health

Protein conditioners.  Many naturals can do without them but some of us need them. If you are trying to determine where you fall, check out these four common reasons you may consider protein conditioners:

1. Your hair is chemically colored or bleached

Color treatments – particularly permanent ones – lift the scales of the cuticle and interact with the cortex to alter the natural pigment. Bleaches work similarly but tend to be more traumatic on the hair.  For some naturals, this process of lifting the cuticle scales may leave the hair weakened and/or prone to dryness.  Regular protein treatments can temporarily fill gaps in the cuticle, allowing for strengthened hair that retains more moisture.  If your hair is severely damaged, however, it may be best to cut.

2. You use direct heat (especially regularly)

Even with appropriate use of direct heat, the hair may still suffer some damage to the scales of the cuticle.  In this case, using a protein conditioner prior to a heat straightening session can help the hair sustain manipulation.  (Do not expect a protein conditioner to do much, if anything, for you if you misuse direct heat.)  The protein can also temporarily fill gaps in the cuticle.

3. Your hair is more than 2 years old 

When the ends of your hair have been with you for two years, it is not uncommon to see ends that are worn down to the last cuticle layer or cortex … or split.  (Imagine the amount of wear and tear that has accumulated over that time frame!)  In some cases, a trim is all that is needed while in others a trim followed by regular protein conditioning thenceforth may be what is required.  The latter case is especially true for many of those who are BSL or beyond that are struggling to grow their hair even longer.  Regular use of protein conditioners can help to reduce breakage of the ends – the oldest, most worn segment of your hair.

4. You have fine strands

Now, not every fine-haired natural needs to incorporate protein conditioners, but for some it may be very useful towards reducing breakage during manipulation (e.g., styling, detangling).  Why?  This is because, in fine strands, both the cuticle and cortex are thinner than in thicker strands.  Consequently, fine hair has less natural strength and is more prone to damage.

Ladies, do you use protein conditioners?  Share below!


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35 Comments on "4 Signs You Need a Protein Conditioner"

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I love MicMas Remix deep conditioner as a protein treatment for my hair. It has given my hair life again by helping to make it healthier. Plus, it’s growing much better also.


An Amino Acid treatment is another really good option. My hair loves it!


Please help!! I’m an italian mum and my husband is caribbean, so my kids are mixed and I have no idea how to treat my daughter’s hair!! I looove her hair but for my husband are not well cured. The thing is that I don’t really like to put on the hair, oils and other stuff, because they become dirty straight away, and is not easy to wash it. So What I usually do, is wash them normally,then I make them straight and do some hairstyle with braids. What do you girls advice me?


I know it is said a lot that heat damaged hair will not revert, but actually I had an instance of heat damage and my strands slowly reverted upon using Chi Keratin Mist on my daily wash and go! I think it now comes in a silver bottle with red nozzle but there is also one in an orange bottle that works wonders as well!
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My hair loves protein however i need moisture to go with it and i can’t stand doing extra steps on wash day so what i do is this absolutely AMAZING yet simple deep condition concoction: half an avocado, 3-4 spoons of Greek yogurt, Red Palm oil (very important), olive oil, coconut oil and honey!!! i then blend that in a processor and put it on my slightly damp hair, leave that in for a few hours (heat cap atleast 30 min), cowash it out and my hair is soooooo freakin buttery soft yet strong i love it. 🙂 🙂


Im still stuck in a rut. I dont know if I need a protein treatment or maybe I’m using to much.I have fine hair as well. I use moisturizing products when washing (i don’t wash often) and both my leave ins (John Frieda & Cantu) are protein based and my styling product is a creme gel(smooth n hold pudding). I recently trimmed my ends but I do see breakage. Ive doing braid outs for the past month or so. Everyday. I think it’s more to be done then a protein dc. Help.


It’s not Russia, at least judging from the style of cotsnruction. More like spain or latin america. Nevertheless it’s funny, and I’ve seen it done in real life. And you do need AC in some parts of Russia. Especially in the center of the continent. There are parts of Siberia for example where you might have temperatures of -40C in the winter and +40C in the summer. What interests me as a constructor though is how do they get the air in in this installation? There are no pipes running in, and there’s no hole in the wall behind.


Hey ladies=)

4abc sista here with fine strands who feels and sees results using bentonite clay mixed with full fat yogurt (0% fat works too) as a protein treatment.

Bentonite powder (brand used: Aztec secret) mixed with acv (per instructions/quantity needed depends on hair length) watch it bubble for kicks and grins and add as much yogurt as needed to produce a creamy consistency. Add oils too if you’d like =) Works wonders; give it a try as it may work for you.

Happy 2014 sistas!


I’m in need of a protein conditioner that is vegan and/or not tested on animals. Any ideas (or ideas on how to make my own)?

Are straight strands a sign of lack of protein I have noticed that some of my strands are straight no kink whatsoever. I am not sure what to do about them, have done hot oil treatment this week and DC last week my hair is low density 4c. I’m not sure if they are damaged strands from breakage, or just natural hair – the only reason I think its not my natural pattern of some strands is that I have no long straight strands they are all shorter than kinky strands. I’ve not had a chemical in my hair for… Read more »

You may just have different textures. I have a range from 4a to 4c, then I have a sections behind my ears that go from bone straight to wavy, to curly. When I first big chopped, I kept cutting because I though is was still relaxed but it turned out to be the way it grows.


Have you applied heat to hair (i.e. flat iron/ blow drying) because is sounds like you may have heat damage. In my experience the best remedy for that would be to grow out the damage or cut them because they will not revert.


3 1/2 years natural finally able to tell the difference when my hair needs a deep conditioner (moisture) & a protein conditioner. I experienced moisture over load, my hair was wayyy too soft, almost smushy, & wasn’t able to hold a curl. I deep condition with Aubrey Organics GPB on dry hair followed by Terressentials Organics.


Aphogee’s Two Step Protein Treatment has saved my life! Because I have fine strands, I use it once every 6-8 weeks and I have definitely noticed a difference in my hair. HG product for sure. And then bi-weekly, I’ll do a light protein treatment with egg and mayo or I’ll use the deep conditioner from Shea Moisture’s Yucca and Baobab line.


Mostly fine strands here….I noticed that my length retention dramatically improved once I added a weekly protein deep condition. My favorite is Shea Moisture Yucca and Baobab Anti-Breakage Mask. Aubrey Organics GPB is okay, but I like to reserve it for when my strands really need it, like after taking down a long-term protective style. Otherwise, it’s a bit strong for my picky, fragile strands.


I like Aubrey Organics GPB conditioner for a weekly protein treatment. It’s very light protein, so I don’t worry about it being too much protein on my fine strands. I got the idea from Curly Nikki.


I have fine strands and try to henna once a month. Does henna count as a protein treatment?

Ugonna Wosu

Hi, Henna doesn’t replace a protein. They both strengthen the hair, but protein binds and strengthens within the shaft, whereas Henna does it outside the shaft. You still need protein, but Henna makes you need protein less often.


I’ve read that because it mimics a protein treatment, a lot of people use it as a substitute for protein 🙂


heat and color baby! i’ll keep the protein thing in mind at the next torching session.


I use a light protein shampoo/conditioner every time I take down my braids or twists. I feel my hair always needs a good protein fix then.

Nappy4C Rocks

I have fine strands and color(2yrs) I use ORS Mayo…um don’t care for it. I do not like COCONUT, this oil does nothing for my hair. Any suggestions for a good protein treatment? don’t like Aphogee either…thanks


Some people swear by Aubrey Organics GPB as a regular light-med protein treatment. I used it but didn’t notice any difference in my hair. It may have made it stronger but I couldn’t tell as I was looking for stronger and softer. I’m 4C too and moisture is my no.1 battle and search.


I have just big chop after 9 month transitioning. My hair is dry and is it to much to protin treat your hair 1 time a week?
Greatful for help 🙂 /enjoy11 at instagram


YES, way to much this is my first year too. Please read this it’s helpful.


I mix Infusium 23 protein leave in with the water I spray on my hair. It’s just enough protein that I don’t have to do a protein treatment. I also use the Shea Moisture shampoo for fine strands that is fortified with extra protein.


yes 1x a week is too much for a real treatment. u can use a light protein conditioner. but, I think protein treatment make your hair drier. maybe u need a good moisturizing regimen.

Ugonna Wosu

do a good protein treatment, before the moisturizing one. Protein can act like a humectant, and help your hair absorb the moisture from your moisturizing treatment. Do both. Occasionally clarifying your hair will help as well. Check if you have hard water, and get a filter if you need one. Also, regular cowashes are known to help with newly natural hair dryness. Good luck!


From Audrey Sivasothy author of Science of Black Hair Care on protein/moisture balance:

Read the section on protein and how to assess what your hair needs.

It’s hard to find a true moisture only conditioner. Most natural ones contain proteins in the list of ingredients. Happy reading, hope you solve your issue.


Thank you so much!!


I just bought aphogee 2 min and philip K elasticizer to try out on my fine 4c hair. I have a hard time with protein but it is mainly because I have a hard time finding a truly moisturising DC. I’ve tried plenty and notice a lot of natural ones contain too much glycerine, too much aloe or proteins/ingredients that behave like protein on my hair I.e wheat germ, argan, coconut oil. My hair is very finicky.


I have the same problem but lately I either use Aussie 3 Minute Miracle and add olive oil and glycerine or one of the Shea Moisture deep treatments and coat my hair with it then add a mixture of honey and olive oil. Both work really really well. I leave them on, put on a plastic bag, wrap a hot moist towel around that and sit under the dryer for 30 minutes and my hair is soft and stays soft for days.


That Aussie 3 Min Miracle is the truth!!!


Yep…I started going back to protein DCs for my fine strands at around the two-year mark. If I take a shed strand and don’t hear an audible snapping sound when I break it, I know it’s time for a protein DC. I was using Sally’s version of Joico K-Pak once a month but I’m considering using a less-strong protein conditioner more frequently.