Restructuring, strengthening… these are words you’ll see on many hair products on the shelves, but what does that mean? Well, if you see a product with words like this on them, they tend to be products that contain protein.
We want to talk a little about what a protein treatment is, what it does to your hair and whether your hair is in need of more protein. Although this is primarily focused towards curly-haired types – thick and colour damaged hair are usually lacking in protein as well.
Firstly… What does protein do to your hair?
Your hair is made out of a protein called keratin. This protein provides structure to your hair, giving it its shape and strength. Without protein, your hair is limp, lifeless, and weak, and can fall out or fall apart very easily.
How do you know that your hair is in need of protein?
High porosity hair types and damaged hair are the ones that need these type of treatments the most. But there are some things you can look out for to see if your hair really needs to focus on protein.
- Your hair is very porous: this means there are tears and gaps in the follicles – protein treatments help strengthen the strands, nourishing the hair with vital proteins that help seal those gaps and create a stronger canvas for styling.
- Your hair has lost its natural elasticity: If you’re losing your natural curl or wave
- Your hair is droopy or limp: a protein treatment can help revitalise your strands
- Your hair feels gummy or sticky: this means the internal structure is pretty damaged, usually a result of colour damage which causes the texture damage. It may be best to speak to a stylist to seek the best treatment, but an at-home protein treatment would be good practice.
- You’ve recently coloured your hair: colouring your hair changes its texture and can break down the bonds. Using protein treatments in the run-up and after colouring your hair can help to build your hair back up
Who should avoid protein treatments?
Low-porosity hair and fine hair should avoid protein treatments. Low-porosity hair has difficulty absorbing moisture so too much protein can leave this hair type dry and brittle. You don’t want to overload your hair with protein!
Don’t mistake dry hair for hair that’s in need of protein. Weakened hair tends to need protein to strengthen it. Dry hair tends to need moisture to nourish and soften hair. But of course, your hair may need both, you just need to work out what your hair needs are in that specific time – it’s really about seeing how your hair reacts and adjusting accordingly.
How to test if your hair is protein sensitive
One way to test if your hair is protein sensitive is to section off one part of your hair, dampen it and apply a product that includes protein. Let the section dry and then compare it to the rest of your hair. It’ll be stiffer than the rest, but if it’s extremely stiff or starts breaking, your hair is protein sensitive.
If you find that you’ve tried one of these treatments and your hair ends up feeling brittle after washing it off – then you should avoid these sort of treatments. Stick to moisture masks and treatments.
How to spot if your product has protein in it. Look for some of these things:
Usually, if these are one of the first ingredients on the list, it is the ones with the highest concentration, so if you’re looking for a protein treatment, these ingredients should be at the top of the list. Of course, protein ingredients aren’t just limited to protein treatments, you’ll find these ingredients in moisture masks etc too.
- Hydrolyzed wheat protein
- Hydrolyzed keratin
- Hydrolyzed silk protein
- Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
- Keratin (this is is the hard protein that makes up the structure of the hair built by 18 amino acids)
- Variations of hydrolyzed collagen
- Variations of hydrolyzed soy protein
- Amino acids, e.g. silk amino acids
- Animal protein
- Milk protein
- Oat flour
- Rice protein
- Soy protein
- Wheat protein
This is not an extensive list but it gives you a starting point!
Here are some protein treatments that we’ve been loving recently:
Shampoo and Conditioners
I’m surely not the only person who goes through WAY more conditioner than shampoo… right? So most of the time, my shampoos and conditioners do not match as I do like to try different ones all the time. Sometimes, I even try to have a more purifying, exfoliating shampoo in order to care for my scalp and remove any build up (something like The Body Shop’s shampoo) and then I follow this up with a protein-based conditioner, which is more concentrated on the mid to ends of my hair. These are two protein-based shampoos and conditioners that I like.