I’m guilty of committing a rookie hair care mistake. I’m still experiencing a bit of postpartum shedding though it has slowed down considerably. However because I’m so used to seeing quite a few strand of hair on washdays it took a bit longer than it should have to realise I was dealing with a bit of breakage. It wasn’t until I noticed my hair tangling a lot whilst flat twisting that I stopped to examine some of the shed hair. Now I knew the breakage wasn’t due to dryness as my hair is super soft at the moment…too soft but I’ll get back to that in a moment. I immediately clarified my hair to get rid of any potential build-up on my scalp and hair but the tangling and breakage still persisted. So I did an elasticity test on wet hair and my hair just kept on stretching, till it was almost double in length before breaking and the light bulb finally went off in my head…I needed protein.
If you don’t already know, hair straddles a fine line between moisture and protein, as it needs both to be truly healthy. Protein gives hair its structure and strength but too much makes it hard, brittle and prone to breakage. Moisture on the other hand gives hair its elasticity, makes it pliable and soft, but too much is definitely a bad thing and you’ll get mushy, limp hair that’s too stretchy and that also leads to breakage.
When I had relaxed hair, protein was a staple in my regimen and product arsenal because my hair needed it. But since being natural, it’s something I’m often guilty of slacking on. I also LOVE rich moisturising conditioners and leave-ins, which really hasn’t helped matters. Once I realised the issue I immediately did an intensive protein treatment using Protein Defence + from Enitan Healthy Hair Studio. It’s basically pure hydrolysed protein that can be added to any moisturising conditioner and turns it into a one step protein treatment. Usually a protein treatment has to be followed by a moisturising conditioner in order to soften hair. I’m a busy mum so anything that cuts down my wash routine immediately gets a thumbs-up. Because my hair was super elastic I added a bit of hydrolysed Baobab Protein also to really intensify the treatment.
The results were immediate, my hair felt less mushy, springier and stronger and the breakage was reduced significantly. It took a while for my hair to become over moisturised and it will also take a little bit of time to fix it. I plan to add protein to my weekly conditioning session for the next month or so.
I’ve spoken briefly about the moisture-protein balance before, which is a really important part of preventing breakage. If you can get this part right then everything else becomes so much easier. Here are few suggestions to help you on the journey to achieving that elusive balance.
- Firstly, check out ‘The Fine Art of Protein and Moisture Balancing for Black Hair Care’ by Audrey Sivasothy. This article really gave me a good insight into the science behind the principle and was a great starting point in learning how to maintain my balance.
- Invest in some regular one on one time with your hair as the balance doesn’t remain static and fluctuates frequently. Sometimes on a daily basis so you constantly have to be listening to what your hair is saying. The quicker you become familiar with what your hair feels and looks like at its optimal level, the quicker you’ll be able to identify when things are off.
- If your hair starts breaking, don’t immediately reach for your strongest protein conditioner. Investigate the breakage and try to identify what’s causing it before you start on a course of treatment. Dry brittle hair that’s snapping off needs more moisture not protein.
- If you’ve chemically processed your hair in any way, then expect to need more protein than someone with a natural unprocessed head of hair. You have compromised the protein structure of your hair and depending on the strength and type of chemical process involved; you will need to adjust accordingly.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, read the ingredients list on your products. Many ‘moisturising’ conditioners nowadays contain some sort of protein which if your hair is protein sensitive can tip you off balance without you even being aware of it. The most popular are amino acids and hydrolysed vegetable proteins such as wheat and soy. Whilst they are quite light and mostly act on the surface of the hair, regular use can cause a build up effect which could lead to protein related breakage
- Not all protein conditioners are made equal! There are different types of proteins which have different effects on the hair, check this article out for a breakdown. Use a light to medium protein for regular maintenance and a full on heavy intensive reconstructor for those emergency situations. Mixing up the two can have dire consequences. As a general guide when choosing a protein conditioner, light protein products have their protein ingredients lower down in the ingredients list and usually only use one or two types of protein which often take the form of a Silk Amino Acid or Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein. Stronger protein treatments usually use at least two types of protein which appear very early in the ingredients list (1st, 2nd or 3rd) and there will usually be an animal protein such as Keratin or Collagen kicking about somewhere.