We received an email from a loyal customer, which prompted us to write this post to help others who may be baffled about using protein hair products.
Customer’s query: Hope you can clear up this slight confusion for me. I have type 4, natural, kinky, low porosity hair. Upon reading from many various black hair websites, I have read avoid protein in hair products, but I have also read on these web sites, that one can incorporate protein with low porosity hair now and again, like for e.g. every 6-8 weeks, so the overall message is mixed.
- Can you tell me from your hair knowledge: If one should avoid protein in hair products all together, until one no longer has low porosity hair?
- Is it O.K to incorporate hair products with protein in the ingredient list, should the protein hair product be in a clarifying shampoo, and/or in a normal shampoo, and/or in a conditioner, and/or in a hair mask, and/or in a moisturiser?
Thank you for your time and cooperation, your advice is greatly appreciated and I hope to hear from you in your own time.
Our advice: Before addressing the customer’s main concern, it is important to know that if you genetically have low-porosity hair, it won’t suddenly change to high porosity on its own. Unfortunately, the only way to achieve such transition is via heat damage, hair bleaching/dye, relaxer/texturizer and/or prolonged exposure to UV radiation or chlorine. These external factors can distort the protein fibres which in return can cause the hair to become highly porous with holey and damaged the cuticles. Ultimately, if you want to move from low-porosity to high-porosity hair, you would have to expose your hair to chemical or environmental damage. This not advisable!
How can you tell if your hair needs protein treatment?
The average hair shaft is typically made up of 80% protein (aka keratins) and overtime it will experience some form of protein loss naturally as a result of protein deficiency diet, for example or either through one or more of the external factors mentioned above.
One way you can easily tell if your hair is experiencing protein loss or needs protein treatment is by holding a few dry strands together, stretch and then release them. If your hair shrinks or return back to its original unstretched length, then the hair protein content is stable. If this sounds like your hair, then you really do not need a protein-rich treatment. To avoid protein-build-up or protein sensitivity (crunch/rubbery feeling), settle for mask/deep conditioners or leave-in products (conditioners, moisturisers and other styling products) where the protein is listed towards the bottom of the ingredient listing.
On a second thought, if a leave-in product has standalone or derivative coconut oil/milk ingredient, you can get away with the product not containing protein. Research has shown coconut oil has a high percentage of lauric acid and closely resembles the natural proteins in the hair. Protein in shampoo usually serves as a filler and it is ineffective as you will be cleansing/clarifying the protein out. Therefore, conditioner and leave-in products with proteins are better to use.
If your hair is damaged, porous and protein-depleted due to heat damage, bleaching/dye, chemical-process and so forth, use specific protein treatment or protein-rich deep conditioners or masks at least bi-weekly to temporarily repair damaged cuticles and overall strengthen the hair. Make sure your leave-in products should contain some form of coconut oil or protein ingredient either at the top or towards the middle of the ingredient listing.
Protein ingredients in hair products:
- Amino acid
- Cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
- Cocoyl hydrolyzed keratin
- Cystine Bis-PG-Propyl Silanetriol (Derivative of keratin protein)
- Hydrolysed collagen
- Hydrolysed keratin
- Hydrolysed oat protein
- Hydrolysed soy protein
- Hydrolysed vegetable Protein
- Hydrolysed wheat protein
- Potassium cocoyl hydrolyzed collagen
- Silk amino acid
Long story short, if your hair is in good condition, you don’t need a protein treatment, vice-versa. Protein in hair products are temporarily solutions and are removed from the hair upon shampooing. Although, certain products may replenish protein in your hair, the best way to maintain your hair protein level is by ensuring your diet contains at least 45 grams of protein per day. Okurrr!