Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Curl Whisperer on Protein Treatments

For porous or damaged hair, protein treatments are often prescribed. But sometimes there is some confusion about the different types and forms of protein. There is keratin, eggs, silk protein, re-constructors, etc. Some products are called "light" protein treatments, while others are labeled "intensive." Just what is the difference in terms of the effect on the hair? And how do you know exactly how much you need?

First of all, any protein that is animal-based or that has the prefix "hydrolyzed" in front of it is a stronger protein; those such as natural "wheat" or "soy" are the proteins that are lighter. "Keratin" is the natural protein from which your hair is made. Your hair's condition and texture is a great baseline to determine how much and what type of protein you need. If you want to add protein simply because you have a fine texture and you need the extra support, a light protein treatment is fine. If, however, you have damage from sun, chlorine or chemical processes, a heavier protein reconstruction will then be necessary for any real effectiveness.

Another question I've been asked in the past about protein treatments: is it true that some protein has molecules small enough to penetrate the hair and be more effective and, if so, what kind of protein is that?

Proteins with smaller molecules are not necessarily more effective than those with larger molecules. While it's true smaller molecules can penetrate into the cortex--or inner layer of the hair--more easily, this really only becomes a consideration when you are effecting a chemical change in the hair, such as with color or texturizing. Proteins with larger molecules may take a slightly longer time to penetrate into the cortex, but they will be just as effective as those with smaller molecules once they get in there.

It is also vitally important you pay attention to your hair's texture when deciding to do a protein treatment. Fine hair is a hair type that typically needs more protein on a regular basis since it is fragile and doesn't have the support and structure of other hair types. If you are fine-haired, incorporating a protein pack or daily light protein into your routine is a good idea.

Not so for coarse hair, however. Coarse hair has so much protein in it naturally, applying any product with protein on top of it can spell disaster--resulting in a strawlike, wicked dry mess. Protein-free deep treatments with a heavy emollient base, which we will address in a future article, are a far more effective treatment type for those with coarse hair!


Sarah said...

I asked my hair stylist what my porosity was and he said something about moisture? I didn't follow it but he said since I live in Louisiana it is humid here so proteins don't really help? He was very vague about it and changed the subject, so I never found out what he thought it was.

StruttsWife said...

Honestly, I have to wonder if some stylists have the same cosmetology license I do.

Protein effectiveness has nothing to do with relative or absolute humidity. Protein has everything to do with the texture of your hair: whether it is fine, medium or coarse. Fine-haired girls (and guys) with curls always need the support provided by additional protein in products.

Porosity is your hair's ability to absorb and retain moisture. You may have issues with humidity if your hair is overly porous, i.e., the cuticle is permanently raised, leaving you unable to retain moisture.

Protein actually can be helpful to highly porous fine hair in humid conditions by sealing the gaps left in the cuticle caused by high porosity. That way, your hair shaft doesn't swell and bloat as much in a high humidity atmosphere.

As always, coarse-haired curlies should avoid protein and use ACV rinses to close the cuticle instead.

Sarah said...

Thanks so much for clearing that up! He also said something about wax build up and did this thing where he ran the scissors up and down on my hair but not cutting it then showing me the blade and sure enough there was some white stuff he scraped off. Iv'e never heard of it before.

StruttsWife said...

If you use Pantene or any other kind of product that contains wax, it is indeed possible to scrap the wax build-up off the hair shaft with the shears blade. I've done it myself as a demonstration on more than one occasion!

Sarah said...

Well good thing my stylist and the curl whisperer have something in common! Thanks for your help!

MamaDawn said...

I have just starting going no-poo. I'm still looking for the best condish for my hair and wanted to try the protein treatment you have in you e-book. It says to cleanse after, can I use baking soda and follow that with an ACV rinse? Or does it need to be sulfate-free shampoo?

If I would need to use a sulfate-free shampoo how far up on the ingredents should I look for protein on a deep treatment? I think my hair is med to fine and med to low porosity.

Chrissystina said...

I am scared to do protein treatments because my hair is so fine, but maybe I will try soy or wheat, which may be more "light" as you said.

What do you think of Giovanni Protein treatment?

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